Samford University The BelltowerApril 2004

Campus Discovery Recalls Student Days of Murdered Missionary

“…‘What you have here is a basic student collection from that time period--and not a bad one,’ he said. ‘Of course, the real interest is in who did it…’”

For decades, Samford faculty and student botanists have collected, pressed, dried and labeled plant specimens for the reference of future generations. Biology professor Larry Davenport worked this year to organize, clean up and clean out the resulting collection.

Among thousands of specimens in Samford’s herbarium, Davenport found a student collection of interest for reasons having little to do with botany. One recent afternoon, opening the pages of a yellowed Samford Crimson dated May 7, 1965, Davenport withdrew a sheet of paper containing plant specimens and their labels. “What you have here is a basic student collection from that time period--and not a bad one,” he said. “Of course, the real interest is in who did it.”

The student botanist, Martha Crystal Myers ’67, became a distinguished Baptist medical missionary whose decades of service in Yemen ended violently in 2002. But on May 1, 1965, Myers was at work in a Montgomery yard, collecting plant specimens and still only dreaming of becoming a missionary doctor. The next week, pressing her specimens in surplus issues of the Crimson, she accidentally preserved some sense of her aspirations as well.

Davenport said most of Myers’ collection, over 100 specimens from Samford’s campus and North Carolina as well as Montgomery, will be archivally preserved and remain in Samford’s herbarium.

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