Warren Bolton

Bolton: These Midlands residents may be gone, but their legacies live on

Bishop William Lee Bonner Sr.
Bishop William Lee Bonner Sr.

BISHOP WILLIAM Lee Bonner Sr. worked to save souls, build churches and grow people. Doris White Hildebrand fought to improve her community, her city and the lives of fellow residents. Roy Junior Frick devoted decades of public service in local government and in improving citizens’ quality of life.

Although they’ve passed on, each leaves a legacy of serving others. The work they did speaks for them.

And the same can be said about so many of our neighbors, friends and family who have helped build our community in their own way — whether on a large or small scale. Those Midlands citizens who have passed away in recent months each contributed to the fabric of our community, whether in their own household, through their church or neighborhood organization or at some other level of service. And they will be missed.

A national presence

Bishop Bonner helped breathe life into a blighted area of north Columbia when he began construction of Refuge Temple Church in 1992, turning it into a multi-million-dollar complex. The 12-acre site now includes Refuge Temple Family Life Center, The Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ Retirement Center, Lake Refuge, the William L. Bonner College, R.C. Lawson Library and housing for students, faculty and staff.

He purchased 33 acres near Fairfield Road with a vision of building apartments and homes for low- and moderate-income families, but struggled to get zoning approval from Richland County.

Bishop Bonner’s influence extended well beyond Columbia. In addition to Refuge Temple in north Columbia, he pastored at four other churches in other states: Solomon’s Temple in Detroit, Michigan; Greater Refuge Temple, New York; Refuge Temple, Jackson, Mississippi; and Refuge Temple, Washington.

Born and raised in Georgia, he served as presiding prelate for the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ for more than 27 years. Bishop Bonner died April 3 at age 93, after leading more than 500 pastors and churches throughout the Americas, Europe, the Caribbean and Africa. He was known as a master builder, teacher and leader. He held a doctorate of divinity degree and wrote more than 14 books.

A community activist

Mrs. Hildebrand leaves an indelible mark on Columbia’s Waverly community. She first began serving in the community as president of the Waverly Neighborhood Improvement Association. She was so passionate in her service that she was affectionately referred to as the mayor of Waverly.

Mrs. Hildebrand, who died Jan. 31 at age 73, was heavily involved in the Columbia Council of Neighborhoods, an umbrella organization encompassing more than 100 neighborhoods. She played a key role in helping bring revitalization to the Historic Waverly neighborhood, which was one of the first in the Midlands to have signs placed at key entrances. It also became an historical designed area.

Over the years, she served on the KOBAN Columbia board, the Benedict-Allen Community Development Corporation, the Columbia Housing Development Corporation, the East Central City Consortium, the United Black Fund board, the Design and Development Review Commission and many other community and city boards and organizations.

She was a member of Jones Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church on Barhamville Road, where she served in a number of capacities, including as president of the Sanctuary Choir for many years, chair of the Board of Stewards, assistant preacher’s steward and secretary of the Board of Stewards.

Mrs. Hildebrand, who was inducted into the Columbia Council of Neighborhoods Hall of Fame in 2011, was always reaching out to make others’ lives better. She lived by the creed: “Do what you can while you can.”

A down-home politician

Roy Junior Frick, owner of Frick’s Track and Welding, served on the Lexington County Council for 22 years, before stepping down in 1992. As a councilman, Mr. Frick was known for his witty analogies. He often compared running the government with how he got the job done on his farm: with hard work and no frills.

The down-home politician, who dropped out of school in the ninth grade and used to compose campaign speeches while riding his tractor, proved an able public servant. “I tell them I may have no looks, no education and no money, but I’ve got common sense,” Mr. Frick once said.

Mr. Frick, who died Feb. 9 at age 88, served on the Mid-Carolina Electric Co-op Board of Trustees for 26 years. He was awarded the Order of the Palmetto in 1998. He was a lifetime member of St. James Lutheran Church, where he taught Sunday school and sang in the choir.

And so many more

Here are some others of our friends and neighbors who lived, worked, volunteered and worshiped among us and who are now gone.

▪ Roland Fisher Smith Jr. died Jan. 15 at age 85. After graduating from Dreher High School, he immediately enlisted in the Marine Corps. He was employed by the S.C. Department of Social Services for 48 years and retired as the agency’s director of information services.

▪ Rodney Berna Taylor, a former A.C. Flora High School basketball standout, died Jan. 24 at age 46. He played college basketball at Villanova University from 1986 through 1990, helping the Wildcats to 75 wins and four consecutive post-season appearances, including two NCAA Tournament berths and two trips to the NIT.

Mr. Taylor, who graduated from Villanova with a degree in political science, also played professional basketball for The Group Azur Vie in Luxemburg, Germany. At the time of his death, he was employed by OmniSource Southeast in Greenville. His career included work in logistics management and with the Winston-Salem, N.C., Police Department and the N.C. Department of Probation, Pardon, and Parole.

▪ Edward Carlyle Coker died Jan. 27 at age 78. Mr. Coker retired from the Navy as a machinist mate chief petty officer with 20 years of service. After his retirement, he worked as a facility plant operator for Fort Jackson. He received his bachelor’s degree from USC. He was a member of Shandon Baptist Church.

▪ Anne Ashton Pendleton Garrison Kelly died Feb. 28 at age 58. She graduated from the University of the South at Sewanee with a bachelor’s degree in English. She also studied at Oxford University in England. A graduate of the National Center for Paralegal Training, she was employed as a corporate paralegal at Coca-Cola Worldwide headquarters in Atlanta as well as with several Atlanta-area firms. She moved to Columbia to begin a lengthy career at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough. In 2009, she became chief deputy to Richland County Clerk of Court Jeanette McBride, where she served until her death. She was the first woman to serve on the Jim Hamilton-L.B. Owens Airport Commission.

▪ Vanessa Wilkins Brown died March 24 at age 65. A graduate of Midlands Technical College and Benedict College, she pursued theological studies at Bishop Dana Holmes’ Full Gospel School of Ministry. She served faithfully as first lady of Family Outreach Word and Worship Center, where she chaired the “Heart to Heart” women’s ministry designed to promote love and fellowship in women.

Reach Mr. Bolton at (803) 771-8631 or wbolton@thestate.com.