Dr. Richard Kearley was first Covington County veterinarian

Published 3:31 pm Saturday, October 21, 2017

Richard Irving Kearley was a prominent citizen and reputable veterinarian in the Andalusia community of Covington County during the early 1900s through the late 1970s. Although he was born in the Franklin community of Monroe County on a plantation, he settled in Andalusia following his being graduated from college. His parents were born in Monroe County where his ancestors had migrated during the early 1800s.

Richard grew up on the family’s plantation near Monroeville, Ala., and loved animals from an early age. As a lad, he had his own horse, which he thoroughly enjoyed. He had an outgoing personality and loved having fun. He was also very strong physically. To demonstrate his strength, he actually lifted a horse for his brothers. This strength obviously led to him being given the nickname of “Bull” Kearley.

Upon finishing high school, he traveled by train to enroll at Auburn University, which at the time was called Alabama Polytechnic Institute. On one occasion, he was playing sandlot football behind Samford Hall. A spectator to the game, who happened to be Coach Mike Donahue, observed Richard and approached him and said. “Anyone who could tackle that hard should be on the Auburn Football team.” Of course, he immediately began attending Auburn football practice.

Upon graduating in 1914, Richard came to Andalusia to open his veterinary practice, which was the first one in Covington County. His college dean, Dr. Cary, recommended the Andalusia location. Within the year Auburn’s coach came to Andalusia and persuaded “Bull” Kearley to return to Auburn and play football during the 1914 season. He returned to Andalusia in 1915 to continue establishing his practice. He secured lodging at a boarding house on South Three Notch Street at the top of Bay Branch hill. It may be significant that he would build his family home a couple of blocks nearer the Andalusia Square.

Dr. Kearley’s practice went well, and he became popular especially from his Auburn football fame. His son wrote, “In 1917 he was inducted in the U.S. Army and served as Captain in the Cavalry supervising the care of the horses until the war was over in 1918.” Afterwards he returned to his veterinary practice in Andalusia and established a football program at Andalusia High School. He served as the first coach and continued in that role until the sport was successfully built. In fact, Andalusia’s mascot, the Bulldog, came from “Bull” Kearley’s nickname. In 1921, he was a charter member of the Andalusia Rotary Club and remained active until he was the only surviving charter member.

Even though Dr. Kearley was a rather physical person, he was attracted to the refined Annie Leigh Dean. They were married in 1921, and he became her greatest booster of her interests, which included teaching piano. She also supported him in his interests such as attending Andalusia and Auburn football games. He was reared to be a Presbyterian, but Annie Leigh was a Baptist. He eventually joined her in the First Baptist Church of Andalusia. They both contributed much to the community and proudly reared two children: Richard and Anne. Richard honored his dad by writing, “He was recognized as having the highest integrity, honesty and truthfulness. He was never heard to utter any profanity, a curse word or a slang word.”

His wife, Annie Leigh Dean, the daughter of Jessie Thomas and Beulah Dean, was born in 1898 in Kinston, Ala. She was an outstanding student at Huntingdon College from which she earned a B.A. degree in piano in 1918. She continued graduate work at the Conservatory of Music in Ohio. She also attended some summer sessions studying music in North Carolina. After graduating, she came to Andalusia where she taught piano in the public schools. She had played the piano at the Baptist Church in Kinston and later served as substitute pianist at The First Baptist Church of Andalusia.

Annie Leigh soon met the eligible young veterinarian, Dr. Richard Kearley. They were married in 1921 in Headland, Ala., and following a honeymoon, they settled in their home at 516 South Three-Notch Street in Andalusia. As they began their family, she left teaching to care for her two children. Some years later, Dr. Kearley bought her a new grand piano, and she returned to teaching piano in the schools. She was always supporting her community and was a charter member of the Mentor Club.

The earliest Kearley ancestor found on Ancestry.com for Richard Irvin Kearley was George Kearley, but no other information on him was provided. George had a son named Josiah Kearley who was born in 1765 in the Camden area of Kershaw County, S.C. Josiah was married in 1813 to Sarah Cannon, daughter of John Cannon (1751-1807) and Jemima Broughton (1765-1864). This couple brought the family to Monroe County, Ala., soon after they married.

Josiah and Sarah had a son named John A. Kearley who was born in 1815 in Camden, S.C. He was first married in 1839 to Susan Faulkenberry who was born in 1821 and died before 1851. He was next married to Mary Powell (1825-1968) in 1852. They migrated to Monroe County and reared a large family. John A. and Susan were the parents of the following three children who were born before her early death: Thomas Jonathan, b. 1844, d. 1889, m. 1865 Louisiana Powell (1842-1916); Andrew, b. 1845, d. 1864, probably single; and Joshua Josiah, b. 1849, may have died young. Thomas J. and Andrew both served in the Confederate Army—Thomas as a private in Company H, 2nd Alabama Cavalry Regiment, and Andrew, in Company H., 17th Alabama Infantry Regiment.

John A. and Mary Kearley were the parents of the following six children: Quinney P., b. 1852; Sarah E., b. 1853, d. 1883, m. Jasper Powell (1849-1903); Alice G., b. 1856, d. 1891, m. 1883 Jasper Powell; John Miller, b. 1859, d. 1927, m. Belle Simmons (1860-1923); Irvin James, b. 1861, d. 1950, m. Frances E. “Fannie” Gaines; and William Manesseh, b. 1863, d. 1896. John and Mary both died and were buried in the Peterman Cemetery in Monroe County, Ala.

Irvin James Kearley is the son whose lineage is being traced. He was married to Frances “Fannie” E. or Belle Gaines, daughter of David J. Gaines (1830-1869) and Mary Frances E. ?. They were the parents of the following nine children: Ida Mae, b. 1887, d. 1989, m. G Boyd Sellers; John Leslie, b. 1889, d. 1967, m. Alice Melton (1897-1986); Richard Irvin, b. 1890, d. 1977, m. Annie Leigh Dean; Almira Fannie “Alma,” b. 1892, d. 1960, m. Owen Luther Parrish (1879-1968); Archie Monroe, b. 1895, d. 1954, m. Edna ?; Bell M., b. 1896, d. 1910, single; Neal Bruce, b. 1898, d. 1959, m. Doris ?; William Manasseh Sr., b. 1902, d. 1979, m. Thelma Mae Sledge (1906-1969); and Harry Eugene, b. 1905, d. 1999, m. Bernice Irene Thomas (1912-1971).

The son, Richard Irvin Kearley, is the subject being featured in the beginning of this narrative. He and his wife made their home in Andalusia and reared their two children. They contributed much to the community and were well-respected citizens.

Appreciation is expressed to their son, Richard Irvin Kearley Jr., for writing family stories, which he had published in The Heritage of Covington County, Alabama. These were the primary source along with the early genealogy found in family trees listed on Ancestry.com.

Anyone who might find an error in the above is requested to contact the writer, Curtis Thomasson, at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-804-1442; or Email: cthomasson@centurytel.net.


The Covington Historical Society will be meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 26, in the Dixon Memorial Room of the Andalusia Public Library. Guests and prospective members are encouraged to attend.