REDFIELD – Francis Hardin Byrd made the most of her gifts, utilizing her many talents in an assortment of roles to benefit her family, neighbors, friends and students, loved ones said.

REDFIELD – Francis Hardin Byrd made the most of her gifts, utilizing her many talents in an assortment of roles to benefit her family, neighbors, friends and students, loved ones said.

She worked as a school teacher, chemist, farmer and newspaper editor, and even pinch hit for her husband when he was ill with tuberculosis and unable to fulfill his duties as a reporter for the Arkansas State Supreme Court. Meanwhile, she ran her family’s household and helped in raising her four children.

Byrd – born near Conway on Dec. 21, 1926 – died Aug. 22, at Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock at the age of 85. Funeral services will be conducted at 10 a.m. today at Sheridan’s Church of Christ. Burial, by Memorial Gardens Funeral Home of Sheridan, will follow at Redfield Cemetery.

The youngest of seven children born to the late Marley Alfred and Susan Muriel Hardin, Byrd moved to Redfield with her parents and siblings when she was 6 years old. She had plenty of chores to keep her busy as the family operated a farm, but managed to find time to hone her skills as a standout basketball player. At Redfield High School, she was a champion free-throw shooter.

She was just as serious about her classroom studies and wound up enrolling at Arkansas State Teachers College, now the University of Central Arkansas, in Conway. She met her future husband, Conley F. Byrd Sr., at ASTC, but the two didn’t begin a relationship until after they had transferred to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. The couple married, and she graduated with an education degree. She taught at several schools within the state, including three in Pulaski County, and worked briefly as a chemist at the U.S. Army’s Pine Bluff Arsenal.

She then put her managerial skills to work in directing a successful political campaign as her husband, who survives her, was elected to the state supreme court. The couple bought their own farm in Redfield, but she longed to return to a favorite activity – writing. She retired from farming to become editor of the monthly Redfield Update newspaper, remaining in the post for a decade.

One of her sisters, Nola Hardin Anderson, authored a popular column in the Update for a number of years and also two books and a Hardin family history. Anderson, who settled in Pine Bluff, died July 16 at the age of 94. She and Byrd were close throughout their lives.

One of Byrd’s two sons, Redfield veterinarian Dr. Conley F. Byrd Jr., is a member of the Jefferson County Quorum Court. Her other son, Paul Byrd, is a Little Rock trial lawyer. One of her two daughters, Margaret Dobson of Sheridan, is Redfield’s city attorney. Her other daughter, Susan Holmes of Little Rock, is a recognized community volunteer and the wife of federal Judge Leon Holmes.