Lawson honored by Clemson Extension

During an event April 18, a curtain is removed to reveal the newly installed name of the lobby at the Clemson Extension.
Photos by Samantha Lyles

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer,

Clemson Extension’s Pee Dee Research and Education Center recognized Darlington native and Clemson University graduate Laurie Coke Lawson last week for his lifelong dedication to South Carolina agriculture by naming their lobby in his honor.

At the Tuesday, April 18 dedication ceremony, speakers Matt Smith (Pee Dee REC director) and George Askew (Dean of Clemson’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences) hailed Lawson for his decades of farming knowledge and his deep love for Pee Dee agriculture.

Laurie Coke Lawson is congratulated during the surprise ceremony.

Askew also read the following from a letter written by Dr. John Kelly, current president of Florida Atlantic University and former vice president for Public Service and Agriculture with Clemson:

“During my 28 years at Clemson, I frequently heard people across the state of South Carolina say that Laurie Lawson was the finest southern gentleman they had ever met. Nobody they ever knew loved agriculture more than Laurie Lawson. He would always greet people with a big smile, a generous heart, and true kindness. His demeanor was genuine and authentic. He treated me like he had known me his entire life. For those who have had the privilege of knowing him, he has been a role model of honesty, integrity, and statesmanship. We have all been blessed to have the privilege of being influenced by men of such wisdom. His name being enshrined at the Pee Dee REC is a wonderful way to welcome every future visitor to the Pee Dee.”

Askew spoke of the gracious welcome “Mr. Laurie” provided when he first joined Clemson, recalling that Lawson took him on a farm-by-farm tour to acquaint him with local producers and personally introduced him to members of the legislative delegation.

Lawson’s peerless familiarity with Pee Dee farming results from a long and distinguished career spent in the fields of Lawson Farms, established in 1834 and operated by his family for six generations, and serving the needs of farmers as head of South Carolina’s Farm Services Agency. Lawson also served as the state executive officer for United States Department of Agriculture Farm Services, a job that required him to oversee the USDA’s 33 South Carolina offices and the state office in Columbia.

He was chairman of the S. C. Agriculture Commission for eight years (from the late 1970s to early 1980s), served as state director to the National S.C. Farm Bureau Federation for two years, and has received the Order of the Palmetto (South Carolina’s highest civilian honor), and Clemson’s Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award.

Lawson’s work with Clemson Extension’s Pee Dee REC (as assistant to the vice president of agriculture) required him to be “a troubleshooter” for the station.

“When there was a hot spot out in the state and somebody didn’t like something Clemson was doing or didn’t understand it, Mr. Laurie would come and talk to them. When Mr. Laurie spoke, people listened,” said Askew.

Now retired, Lawson spends much of his time at his family’s 2, 500 acre spread in the Oates community of Darlington County, which is run by his sons William and Jim and grandson Fields Norwood.

After the ceremony, Lawson told the News and Press that he believes the Pee Dee REC will continue to play an important role in the future of local agriculture.

“The REC means so much to the Pee Dee because the crops grown here (at the research station) are grown on the same type of soil that we have in the Pee Dee. So if you try something here and it works, it more than likely will work everywhere in the Pee Dee, and that means so much to the farming community,” said Lawson.

The Laurie Coke Lawson Lobby at the Pee Dee Research and Education Center on Pocket Road was funded by tax-deductible contributions from donors, and by members of the Lawson family. Mr. Laurie said he was very touched by their generosity and by this particularly meaningful gesture.

“This is just wonderful. I’m crazy about my family,” he said.

Author: Duane Childers

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