Marjorie Harriett Tyson

Published 9:51 am Monday, June 25, 2018

With the passing of Harriett Tyson, Holly Springs loses one of the great eccentrics for which the town has long been noted. Many remember her driving a riding lawn mower around the square and a few recall her being brought lunch by chauffeur-driven limousine in grammar school.

At various times, she has been known by different names.  She was born in 1944 to Marjorie King and Robert Alexander Tyson and named Marjorie Harriett Tyson. Her parents divorced when she was five; the next year her father married Ruth McSwain of Memphis; and the year after he died, her was then changed to Roberta Alexander, to honor her father.  She was called Bobbie.

She attended Rhodes College for a year and pledged Chi Omega Fraternity.  She attended Memphis State University where she met, married Christopher T. Rawlins and moved to New York.  The union ended in divorce, and she took the name Tyson Rawlins.   After many years, she wed Robert Palmer, noted music critic at The New York Times.  When divorce ended that marriage, she returned to Holly Springs, broke her stepmother’s will, moved back into the family home and had her name changed legally to Marjorie Harriett Tyson.

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Many remember those years and particularly her flock of peacocks.  When a number of townspeople complained about the birds, the mayor was forced to take action.  She lost the birds, and slowly after much litigation, lost what had been a large fortune.

Fifteen years ago, she was forced to move from what was then called “Fleur de Lis” to Laws Hill.  There she enjoyed country life adding to her already large family of bassett hounds.  Eventually her neighbor, Cherrie Shaw, became her caretaker along with her attorney, Goodloe Lewis of Oxford.

She died at Methodist Hospital in Memphis on June 2 following complications from a stroke.  Services were conducted by the Reverend Bruce D. McMillan at the Tyson family gravesite at Hill Crest Cemetery in Holly Springs on June 16.

Memorials may be made to the Oxford-Lafayette Humane Society, 413 McElroy Drive, Oxford, MS 38655.