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The Short Life of Gay Pratt Markham

Updated: Jan 27, 2020

Gay Pratt Markham was the only child of D. H. and Joy Pratt Markham. He was born in March 1928, grew up on Markham Hill (Hilltop), and died in May 1950 when he was 22. In his memory, Mrs. Joy Markham named the Girls Scout day camp held on Markham Hill during the 1950s and 60s after him: “Gay Day Camp”. Because of Gay’s death, Fayetteville has benefited from Mrs. Joy Markham’s philanthropy during her life and the University of Arkansas has benefited from her generosity after her death in 1976. She willed all her assets to the U of A: $400,000 cash and securities and her land in Fayetteville and Tulsa. So, I believe it is only right to learn about Gay’s short life on this earth. Following are excerpts from archived newspapers about Gay Pratt Markham. They give us a picture of what his life was like as a child, teenager, and young adult.

Fayetteville (Ark.) Daily Democrat, Sept 23, 1935: Jolly Horsemen Meet at Hilltop - The Jolly Horseman club held its first meeting of the year Saturday afternoon, Sept 21, at Hilltop, home of Mrs. Joy Pratt Markham. Members of the club are Betty Ruth Nix, Betty Lou Cypert, Jo-Ethel Bryan, Bill Heerwagen, Allan Gilbert, Ann Lawson and Mary Marjorie McDaniels, with Mrs. Markham as sponsor. A horseback ride was followed by a swim in Mrs. Markham’s pool after which the boys and girls ate a picnic supper and went to the “big house” for a home picture show. Jimmie McDaniels and [7-year-old] Gay Pratt Markham were guests at the Saturday meeting.

Fayetteville (Ark.) Daily Democrat, March 29, 1937: Easter Party Saturday Held at Hilltop Home - Mrs. Joy Pratt Markham entertained at Hilltop Saturday afternoon from 3 to 5 with an Easter party in honor of her son, [9-year-old] Gay Pratt Markham. Games were played and an Easter egg hunt enjoyed. Refreshments were served around a big bonfire. Guests were joined by children who attended the birthday party of David Nichols held at 2 o’clock at the home of his parents, Dr. and Mrs. G.D. Nichols. He was celebrating his 10th birthday and brought over his birthday cake to the Hilltop party.

Fayetteville (Ark.) Daily Democrat, April 12, 1937: Junior Horsemen Have Outdoor Lunch - The Junior Horsemen Riding Club met at Hilltop Saturday morning at 11 o’clock, rode over the mountain to a place where they ate their lunch by an outdoor fire, then back again after 1 o’clock to spend the afternoon in kite flying and games. Members of the club are Robert Lane, Palmer Hotz, Susie Tuck, Janice Adams, Charles Crockett, [9-year-old] Gay Pratt Markham, Helen Holt, Kenneth Roy, Martha Ellen Dellinger.

Northwest Arkansas Times, Fayetteville, Arkansas, October 14, 1938 (Price Two Cents): Horse Show ‘Highlight of the Fair’ - With more than 80 animals entered, the horseshow of the Washington County Fair yesterday displayed horses of unusual excellence, according to the judges. With the parade the show was heralded as “highlight of the Fair’. Among the prizes: Boy Under 12: One-half gallon Fulbright Ice Cream, [10-year-old] Gay Markham riding horse from Hilltop stables.

Northwest Arkansas Times, Fayetteville, Arkansas, March 20, 1939: Classified Advertisements – For Sale - Spring flowers, daffodils now, lovely tulips later. Phone [11-year-old] Gay Pratt Markham, 373J. 20-3t-c

Northwest Arkansas Times, Fayetteville, Arkansas, April 17, 1939: Miss Ellis’ Students to Give Operetta - Miss Elizabeth Ellis is presenting a group of music students in an operetta Tuesday evening at Washington school auditorium at 7:30. The operetta is based on the Nutcracker Suite of Tchaikovsky. Miss Mary Jane Angus will be accompanist. In the cast for the operetta, [11-year-old] Gay Pratt Markham plays a member of The Mouse Brigade and one of the Elves.

Northwest Arkansas Times, Fayetteville, Arkansas, June 28, 1939: Hive of 75,000 Bees Found at Blanchard’s Is Taken to “Hilltop” - What was said to be a ten-year-old bee-hive containing an estimated 50,000 to 75,000 tame (or domestic) bees of unusual large variety discovered in a large oak tree in the yard of the home of Miss Belle Blanchard has been given by Miss Blanchard to [11-year-old] Gay Pratt Markham and was transferred last night by him and his assistants to Hilltop Camp on Pratt Heights. The bees were discovered when a dead limb from a tree fell upon a telephone wire and was removed by workmen. The usual method of causing the bees to swarm was employed by young Markham and his helper, Will Withnell. The bee harvesters wore veils and smoked the tree-hive, after they had placed on the ground a new home for the honey-makers who obediently occupied it after the customary encouragement. Considerable interest of neighbors was aroused in the project. The honey taken from the former hive was of a sweet variety and high quality. Miss Blanchard today recalled lines from Maeterlinck’s “The Bee”: “Man has not achieved in his sphere what the bee has achieved in hers, and were someone from another world to descend to ask of the earth the most perfect creation of the logic of life, we should needs have to offer the humble comb of honey.”

Northwest Arkansas Times, Fayetteville, Arkansas, July 19, 1941: 'Baby Opossum Pet of Gay Pratt Markham' by Lessie S. Read - Sometimes the little creatures get lost from their mother, as did the one shown above in the hands of [13-year-old] Gay Pratt Markham, and die of hunger unless rescued as this one was, by a dog. The dog did not intend to play hero and was merely playing with the little creature it found in the woods. Hardly a bite-mark appeared upon it, however, and it soon was greedily eating milk fed drop by drop from a doll’s nursing bottle. It may or may not be the first baby opossum reared on a bottle. It definitely is the first and only opossum ever attending a local motion picture, and spent last Saturday afternoon blissfully sleeping throughout the showing of “Caught in the Draft” (hilarious comedy that convulsed children and most grownups of the audience) where it accompanied “the family” after having its picture taken [for this article]. “Booger” lives in a small cardboard box on the Markham-Pratt back porch on Markham Heights where he has the run of several acres. When he disappears – as he does periodically – the family always expect him back about 6 p.m. of the same day, when he may be seen climbing up into the lap of whoever is looking after the milk about that time, ready for supper. According to local zoologists “you can’t tame a ‘possum” and the Markham-Pratt family hope to achieve the impossible.

Northwest Arkansas Times, Fayetteville, Arkansas, May 24, 1940: Ellis’ Pupils Program Saturday at 3:30 p.m. - A group of young music students of Miss Elizabeth Ellis will present a miniature version of Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel” at the Women’s Civic club Saturday afternoon at 3:30 o’clock. Characters are Gretel, Sammy Jean Yancey; Hansel, Jimmy Waters; the sandman, [12-year-old] Gay Pratt Markham; the father, David Nichols, and the mother, Carolyn Hommond. Miss Helen Johnson will assist as the witch.

Northwest Arkansas Times, Fayetteville, Arkansas, May 5, 1941: Junior Club Rifle Team Finishes 14th - Curtis Bynum, coach of Fayetteville’s Junior Gun club rifle team, announced today that his sharpshooting young charges placed 14th in the seventh corps area in 1941’s William Randolph Hearst junior rifle competition. Notification came from New York headquarters. St. Louis’ Cleveland high school team, with a score of 1412, was adjudged winner in seventh corps area competition. Fayetteville’s total for the match, fired late in March, was 1181. Members of the team are: Madge Martin, Gretchen Stockford, James Mashburn, [13-year-old] Gay Pratt Markham, and Billy Long.

Northwest Arkansas Times, Fayetteville, Arkansas, Sept 8, 1941: Delts Pledge Twelve Sunday Afternoon - [Delta Sigma was a high school fraternity founded in 1897 at Lewis Institute in Chicago, Illinois. It was an athletic fraternity fostering clean athletics, loyalty and high ideas.] Twelve new members were pledged to Delta Sigma at a meeting Sunday afternoon at the Washington hotel. Pledging followed a week of rushing activities by the fraternity. Pledges are: [13-year-old] Gay Markham, …

Northwest Arkansas Times, Fayetteville, Arkansas, June 21, 1943 [Price 5 cents]: Youngsters Organize ‘Victory Workers’ - A group of boys and girls met at Hilltop Thursday and organized the VWC, Victory Workers’ club, with Bobby Joe Drake as president, Shirley Wills, vice president, Virgil Heckathorn, secretary, Violet Center, treasurer, and Mrs. Joy Pratt Markham, [15-year-old] Gay Pratt Markham and Leo Heckathorn as sponsors. This is a club for self-reliant boys and girls who like to swim and who enjoy vigorous outdoor life in the country. The first meeting will be held at Mrs. Markham’s country home, Hilltop, Tuesday at 1 p.m. Dues are 5 cents, with which children’s books will be bought for the Fayetteville library. Those interested in joining the club may contact any of the above-named officers or sponsors, or come to the meeting at Hilltop at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Northwest Arkansas Times, Fayetteville, Arkansas, February 27, 1945, The Junior Times - A Weekly Department Edited by the Fayetteville High School Journalism Class: Seniors Select Class Motto, Flower, Color – Committees Appointed for Spring Activities - “Upward and onward” was chosen as the motto of the FHS senior class of 1945 at the senior class meeting February 21. The colors are to be purple and white, and the carnation, the flower. After the report of committees, Bob Bowen, president, appointed committees for activities. The committee for the junior-senior dance to be held May 17, following the banquet is … Committee for Class Day, May 23, is composed of Nadine Ray, chairman, Billie Joe Howard and Gay Pratt Markham. Orders for invitations which must be mailed by May 10 were taken during study hall periods. The twenty-five cent dues for each senior are being collected in each home room …Bethel Harrell is planning the time in which each student’s picture will be taken. Marilyn Wilkinson, chairman of the play committee, reported that the play, “A Little Honey”, is on reserve in the library and tryouts will be this week if additional copies of the play arrive in time.

Northwest Arkansas Times, Fayetteville, Arkansas, April 3, 1945, The Junior Times - A Weekly Department Edited by the Fayetteville High School Journalism Class: Spotlight Focuses on Students Of Room 22 - Gay Pratt Markham, another denizen of Room 22, likes shop class and banana pie. Gay’s hobby is aviation, but most of his time is spent on his motorcycle. His ideal is Vitamin Flintheart, and he likes the color blue. Gay is a firm believer in the old axiom, “Women are the root of all evil.” Some day he hopes to graduate from Fayetteville High.

Northwest Arkansas Times, Fayetteville, Arkansas, April 10, 1945, The Junior Times - A Weekly Department Edited by the Fayetteville High School Journalism Class: Play Committee Selected - Gay Pratt Markham will be stage manager for the senior play, “A Little Honey”, which is to be given on April 27. Ruth Evans and Jim Stice are assistants.

Northwest Arkansas Times, Fayetteville, Arkansas, April 17, 1945, The Junior Times - A Weekly Department Edited by the Fayetteville High School Journalism Class: ASTRP Qualifying Test Given to Nine April 12 - Seven Fayetteville High School boys and two University students took the Army Specialized Training Reserve Program qualifying test Thursday morning in room 24. The FHS students were Bob Bartholomew, Jack Dunegan, Aldridge Humphries, Gay Pratt Markham, Max Powell, Bobby Renner, and Roy Roberts. Walter Bollen and Meril Rice were the U of A students.

Northwest Arkansas Times, Fayetteville, Arkansas, May 7, 1948: Social and Personal - Personals - Mrs. Joy Pratt Markham has returned from a trip to Williams, Ariz., where she met her son, Gay Pratt Markham, who was recently discharged from the Navy. He returned with her.

Northwest Arkansas Times, Fayetteville, Arkansas, Feb 21, 1949: Students Pledged by U.A. Fraternities Following Mid-Year Rush Week - Forty-three men students at the University have been pledged by the various social fraternities on the University campus following the mid-year rush week. Pi Kappa Alpha – Gay Markham, Fayetteville

Northwest Arkansas Time, Fayetteville, Arkansas, May 15, 1950: Airplane Crash Takes Lives of Two Students – Light Craft Falls in Field At Greenland – Bursts Into Flames After Hitting Ground; Services Planned - An airplane crash and fire at Greenland yesterday afternoon claimed the lives of two University students only a few minutes after they left a Mother’s Day party at the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house. The pilot, Gay Pratt Markham, 22, Fayetteville, died in the crash of the two-place light plane in an open field at Greenland. His passenger, Regan E. Bowman, 22, Elmhurst, Ill., died at 10:20 last night of burns suffered when the plane caught fire. The privately-owned monoplane had just taken off from Drake Field when the accident occurred. Mitchell Crider of Greenland said that his 10-year-old son called his attention to the plane shortly after it paused overhead. Crider said that when he saw the craft it was in a tight spin at an altitude of between 150 and 200 feet. It exploded into flames when it crashed less than a mile from the airport. Markham, in the front seat, apparently died instantly. Bowman, however, escaped from the wreckage and ran to a small stream about 300 feet away, where he extinguished the flames on his body. He was taken to City Hospital in a Nelson ambulance but died later that night. The plane, an old model Taylor craft, was owned jointly by four students who made up a flying club called “The Flying Pikes”. All were members of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. Markham was one of the four owners. Markham is survived by his mother Mrs. Joy Pratt Markham; his grandmother, Mrs. C. L. Pratt of Fayetteville; an aunt [Evangeline Pratt Waterman Archer] and four uncles. He was a junior in the College of Business Administration, and a member of the Christian Science Church. During World War II he served two years in the Navy. Bowman was a native of Oak Park, Ill., and a junior in the College of Engineering. He had been a student at the University for three years. He was a talented amateur magician and a member of the Church of Christ. Joint funeral services will be conducted at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the Nelson Funeral Home by Louie Walters, first reader of the Christian Science Church. Markham will be buried in Fairview cemetery. Bowman’s body will be returned to Elmhurst for burial in Chapel Hills Gardens.

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