Greenville’s Big Chicken Finds Final Roosting Place
By Caleb Hicks
When Greenville native Beth Chapman heard her home church was auctioning off an iconic 10-foot-tall fiberglass chicken to benefit its food pantry ministry, she knew she’d win.
Chapman, a political and public relations consultant and former Alabama secretary of state, said she didn’t have a place for the giant bird, but she had a plan. She would offer it to the second-highest bidder if he or she also paid their bid.
That bidder turned out to be her lifelong friend and fellow Greenville native Kathy Murphy.
“I feel truly blessed to give to the church I was raised in,” Chapman said. “Not only did Kathy pay her bid, but she matched my bid. The past year has been difficult for most everyone, and the giant chicken gave people something to laugh about and have fun with.”
According to Chapman and Murphy, who attended church together as young girls, they’ve challenged each other nearly their entire lives but competing for a 10-foot-tall chicken statue was definitely different.
“We grew up together,” Chapman said. “She’s three years older than I am, but she’s always been a role model to me.”
“Oh, you just had to throw that in there,” said Murphy, joking about the age difference. “Beth always made me up my ante throughout my life, in a good way — whether we were playing sports, in our careers or a bid war for a 10-foot-tall fiberglass chicken. What better way to support such a good cause while having fun at the same time?”
Murphy has enjoyed a successful career in higher education and currently serves as Gadsden State Community College president. The two women have remained life-long friends.
Sparked by an idea when Southside Baptist Church purchased the old Dairy Dream building the chicken sat atop, the auction, held in late April, garnered $10,000 toward the church’s Shepard’s Table food pantry ministry.
Southside’s Senior Pastor Herbert Brown said folks were crowing about the avian auction once the event was publicized on the internet.
“We had no idea there would be so many people interested in it,” Brown said. “When we opened the bidding, I was blown away. The money will benefit our ministry tremendously and will continue to allow our mission to prosper by providing more resources, including freezers, shelves and other important items.”
Brown said the food pantry ministry serves about 300 bags of food items to the community twice a month. Chapman said donating to the ministry comes full circle.
“As sentimental as it sounds, my grandmother actually worked at the Dairy Dream for a brief time, and she and my second cousin started this church in the early ’50s,” Chapman said. “Two generations later, it means a lot to me to be able to have the means to work with my good friend to benefit our home church. I know my grandmother would be proud.”
The big bird, which fell from its perch during a storm last year, was considered a Butler County landmark in the county seat.
“There is no telling how many times I have passed that chicken, but I never would’ve thought I’d own it one day,” Murphy said. “I’m going to get it restored and prepare his final roosting place on my (Greenville) farm.”
For Murphy, the bid war brought back memories with Chapman as well as an appreciation for God and relationships.
“Beth and I were always pretty mischievous growing up,” she said. “What she couldn’t figure out how to get into, I could. We’ve both been blessed by God and to be able to give back to the church we grew up in is really cool.
“To realize this gift has the opportunity to help so many and knowing you can’t outgive God is simply humbling,” Murphy said. “I wouldn’t give anything for having been reared at Southside, and I wouldn’t give anything for the relationships I was able to cultivate and develop here in Greenville.”
“It’s a foundation of faith that’s never left me, even though I haven’t stayed here,” she said. “I’ve taken a lot of friendships, a lot of lessons learned and a lot of faith with me throughout my life. What we’ve really done is give back something that’s not even ours to begin with.”