‘You can’t make another Winfred Flowers’
By Samantha Lyles
When Winfred Lewis Flowers passed away April 19 at the age of 76, all of Darlington County lost a good friend.
Born in Darlington to E.J. Flowers and Mary Jordan Flowers, Winfred spent his life trying to help the community he loved. After graduating from St. John’s High School in 1962, Flowers served the Navy. He followed up his military service with an 18-year term as Chief Magistrate of Darlington County, where he earned a reputation for fairness and even-handed treatment of all who appeared in his courtroom.
Winfred kept friends and neighbors comfortable by selling furnishings through his Flowers Furniture business, entertained by hosting bluegrass and gospel concerts at The Music Hall venue, and heartened by helping build the Friends Mission Church. Though Flowers was a friend to all, those who knew him personally will miss him with a special fondness.
“He was like a grandfather to me, and he was certainly a mentor,” said Darlington County Treasurer Jeff Robinson, who was just 6 years old when he first met Flowers. Throughout their long friendship, Flowers provided guidance – both personal and professional – that eventually led Robinson to a successful campaign for his current office. While Flowers was very active in the Republican Party and local elections, he always maintained a gentleman’s comportment and avoided partisan rancor.
“The partisan politics that’s going on today, that’s not how Winfred ever operated. … Whether someone is a Democrat or Republican, public offices are about serving the people, and that’s something Winfred really instilled in me,” Robinson says.
Darlington County director of Elections and Registrations Hoyt Campbell said that Flowers’ encyclopedic knowledge of the county’s electorate and voter habits led them to many conversations where they handicapped certain contests or speculated on turnout numbers. Flowers was frequently right on the button with his predictions.
“He knew a lot about the political atmosphere in Darlington County,” said Campbell. He added that while Winfred’s wife Loris volunteered at voting precincts, this left Winfred free to do what he loved: striking up conversations with literally everyone within smiling distance.
Robinson says that while he always respected Flowers’ political acumen, he really admired the man’s unfailing kindness and genuine interest in helping people.
“Even after he had been retired for 20 years, people would come up to him and remember things that Winfred had done for them (as Chief Magistrate) 30 years ago,” Robinson said. “And even if it was so long ago that he didn’t remember them from Adam, if someone needed his direction or advice or help, he’d always provide it.”
Campbell echoed this sentiment and shared a memory of how Flowers described his temperament on the bench.
“When he was magistrate, if a defendant was working at McDonald’s, he’d fine them according to what they could afford. If they had a big job, he’d charge them a little more money, but if the person didn’t have much, Winfred would look out for them,” Campbell said.
At times, such compassion can seem like a rare commodity. Those who knew Flowers have hope that his kindness will prove not only memorable, but contagious.
“You can’t make another Winfred Flowers, but he touched more lives than I would have thought possible,” Robinson said. “And if just a little bit of Winfred lives on in each of us, it’s going to be a better Darlington County for everyone.”
Winfred was preceded in death by his parents, and brother Eli Flowers and sister Katie Weaver.
Surviving are his loving wife Loris, son Le (Martha) Flowers of Darlington, Grandson Jordan (Niki) Flowers and Great-Granddaughter Sophia of Hartsville, and Granddaughter Julia Flowers of Columbia. Within his extended family are siblings Pearl (Tommy) Jeffords and Donnie Flowers of Darlington, and Eloise Sims of Georgetown. He also leaves behind several much loved nieces and nephews. In addition to biological family, Winfred’s “children in Christ” include Jeff Robinson, McIver Suggs, Andy Locklair, and Teresa Weatherford-Gillham.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Friends Mission Church.