HORSE CAVE — Randall Curry has lived in Horse Cave his entire life and he’s proud of the fact that the racial divide in his hometown is narrow.
Schools in Hart County integrated in 1957, but even before that African-Americans held public jobs in Horse Cave.
“We had a lot of people who worked public work here when I was growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s,” he said. “A majority of the African-Americans lived on the west side, but there was also a population of white people who lived on the west side. We intermingled and to be honest there just wasn’t a lot of issues like there was in other places.”
Curry is currently serving the second year of his third term as mayor of Horse Cave. He is one of only a few African-American mayors in the state.
He recently had a conversation with Marcus Ray, who is trying to reform the local chapter of the NAACP. Ray lives in Hardin County but grew up in Bowling Green. Ray told Curry he could tell how culturally diverse Horse Cave is.
“‘I’ve met you two or three times. We’ve talked, but he said you are a black mayor (and) you’ve got a white, female police chief,’” Curry said.
Ray was speaking about Police Chief Heather Childress. Curry told him he didn’t hire Childress because she was white or because she was a woman. He hired her because she was the most qualified for the job.
“And that’s what I look at,” he said. “I don’t look at gender. I don’t look at race.”
To further note the cultural diversity in Horse Cave, Curry pointed out that there are two African-Americans currently serving on the Horse Cave City Council — Vickie Rogers and Velpha Hatchett. There are also three African-Americans serving on the Caverna Board of Education, one of which is Curry’s daughter.
Prior to becoming mayor, Curry served as a council member for the Horse Cave City Council for three terms and before that he sat on the Caverna Board of Education for 20 years.
“I was the first African-American to serve on the Caverna School Board,” he said.
Ann Matera, former city clerk for Horse Cave, says she has always admired Curry.
“When he decided to go into public life, he just took it all on,” she said. “He was an excellent school board member when I was working for the newspaper. He was a good council member and then he’s been a really good mayor. He listens to people. He can stop and stand back and wait until everybody has had a say and then make a decision, or just ask the right question. I just really admire him for that.”
Curry got his start in leadership by serving as a member of the Caverna Jaycees.
The Jaycees was a leadership organization for young men ranging in age from 18 to 36 that took on a variety of community projects, including the organizing of the Hart County Fair and helping families in need.
“I can remember back in the late 1970s and early 1980s us spending $3,000 to $4,000 a year to help families,” he said. “We worked hard as far as generating money. We were able to get a lot of things done.”
The Jaycees also sponsored a youth basketball league that played games at the Caverna Jaycees Community Center.
“It’s since been torn down. It was the old Caverna Elementary School that was up on College Street,” he said.
Curry was a member of the Jaycees from 1975 to 1985. He served as president from 1981-82.
“I was the only African-American president in the state,” he said.
He was also recognized as one of 10 outstanding presidents at the Jaycees’ State Convention in 1982.
Curry graduated from Caverna High School in 1967. Schools in Horse Cave integrated in 1957.
“Glasgow didn’t integrate until the early 1960s,” he said. “That says a lot for a community back then.”
Only one teacher, Newton Thomas, who taught math and science made the move from Horse Cave Independent School, which was the school African-American students attended, to Caverna.
“He was highly-educated,” Curry said. “He was always one to encourage us as young African-Americans to look for a bright future.”
Curry played basketball in high school.
Sandra Wilson, executive director of Horse Cave / Hart County Tourism, remember watching him play.
“I was a cheerleader and I’ve known him and worked with him in Horse Cave for decades,” she said. “I really believe Randall has always been a leader. He’s always been willing to do the right thing and stand up for the right thing. He’s a real friend.”
Curry got married right after high school. He and his wife, Hailia, have been married for 50 years.
He underwent technical training and worked in industry.
“I worked at Eaton / Dana for 30 years. I started out on the assembly line and then I was a machine operator,” he said. “My last 14 I was a supervisor.”
Throughout the years he says his wife has always been his biggest supporter.
Curry has had some ups and downs as mayor.
He cites securing grant money to build the new fire station on the east side of town as one of the high points of his career as mayor.
The city has recently been able to pay off its newest fire truck three plus years early due to managing the city’s fire dues, something which Curry was very happy to report.
“My goal is to keep us moving in a positive direction. Our finances are in good shape here in Horse Cave. I want to make sure that stays intact. I want to be able to take the money and use it progressively,” he said. “The citizens of Horse Cave deserve that.”
He continued that Horse Cave is a retirement community and most of the people who live there are like him and have lived there all of their lives.
“I want to make sure that our citizens are well taken care of,” he said.
The most negative thing that has occurred during his career as mayor are the issues surrounding the city’s police department that has resulted in its reorganization.
“That was a dark cloud over Horse Cave for some time, but now with the new police chief in place … everything is going in a positive direction,” he said.
The police department continues to be part of an ongoing federal investigation.
Curry doesn’t intend to retire.
“I want to have something to do. I’ve seen so many people go home and when they sit down they don’t last long,” he said. “I’d like to serve one more term. I’ve still got a few more long-term goals. I’m working on something that’s probably going to take me a few years.”
Curry declined to say what those projects are, but he did say it will likely take him at least one more term to get them done.