Harry's Styles: Ann Hicks Murrah
Do you know your favorite gift from a vacation? Can you remember the best curio or bauble you’ve taken back from a trip? Ann Hicks Murrah has trouble choosing. Which, if I’m being honest, is completely fair — she’s collected dozens on dozens of pieces of jewelry from around the globe.
“They’re all memories … they speak to me,” Hicks Murrah said.
Hicks Murrah said she’s lived many lives over the years, and she’s not kidding. She’s moved back and forth from Winter Park starting in 1964, when she took a job with Rollins College. In 1996, after a separation with her husband and with her kids busy with college, she found herself in Washington, D.C., as the executive vice president of the National Association of Independent Schools. Four years later, she made another move to New York City, where she served as assistant head of a girls school.
It’s around here that she was courted by a “Southern gentleman” by the name of Kenneth Murrah.
“He was dedicated to (Winter Park), and he wanted a live wire,” Hicks Murrah said. “He was so persuasive that after two years, I moved back. That was my third life.”
After years of philanthropy in Winter Park, Kenneth died in 2014 from cancer. Hicks Murrah moved to a top-floor condo overlooking Lake Maitland and the Kraft Azalea garden last October. With the decades of books and photo albums lining the shelves, it has more history and personality than homes three (maybe four) times its size ever will.
But honestly, those are just the broad strokes. During all of those life changes and power moves, Hicks Murrah was traveling. A lot.
“I can’t tell you how many countries I’ve been to,” she said. “But I can tell you it’s not enough.”
Thailand. Czech Republic. Russia. Large swaths of South America and Africa. I’d tell you all the others, but it’s probably easier to just throw a dart at a map (try to avoid Australia — that one she’s yet to see).
What’s just as impressive is what’s she’s brought back with her.
Hicks Murrah’s bedroom has something she calls her “finishing gallery,” but you could easily call it a trophy room. The walls are lined with every sort of jewelry, necklace, scarf and body wear you can think of, each from a different part of the globe.
“When I get dressed, I can figure out, ‘OK, do I wear this that I bought from the woman who made it on the porch of the Indian craft museum in New Delhi, or should I wear this from Thailand, or this from Japan?’” Hicks Murrah said. As she touches each piece, she has a quick aside about its background.
“This was from a Moroccan riverman.”
“This is a sterling-silver dung beetle necklace from South Africa.”
“Kenneth and I found these during a St. Petersburg honeymoon.”
She tries to wear a different one every day.
One could imagine she’s acquired these valuables just for fun, and that wouldn’t be wrong. It’s certainly fun, but it’s also a lot more.
“I was really grateful for the years Kenneth and I did trips together,” she said. “I feel like I taught him how to have fun and be more adventurous. This is sort of the legacy that he left me.”
By Hicks Murrah’s count, she’s now living her fourth life. But she’s just getting started.
“You know, every trip could be your last one,” Hicks Murrah said. “But every time I wear one of these, I’m reliving them.”
Harry’s Styles is an ongoing feature that showcases the elegant and extravagant fashions in the Black Tie community.