By: Natalie M. Zeigler
It is Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate the contributions of women throughout our shared past. During March I have spent a lot of time reflecting on women who have made significant contributions to our community, women who have helped advance the City of Hartsville.
I’m reminded of Mrs. David R. Coker, affectionately known as Miss May. She was a pioneer in many fields and an active leader for social, educational and cultural progress in South Carolina. She served as a member of the South Carolina Coordinating Council for Education, a member of the South Carolina Advisory Committee for Adult Education, and was a trustee on the executive committee of Coker College. Perhaps most notable to our area, Miss May developed Kalmia Gardens, opening the grounds to the public for free.
Miss May received several awards for her service to her city, state and country. She was once selected as South Carolina Woman of the Year, and also received a Certificate of Merit for Distinguished Service to Agriculture from Clemson University. Miss May was even named American Mother of the Year in 1958.
Much like Miss May, Mrs. T.B. Thomas, widely known as Lovis Thomas, has been a unifying and supportive presence in our community. Thomas has served as president of the Carolina Pines Auxiliary, volunteering her time and talents to the hospital to help assist in patient care. She is the first African American president of Hart Cottage at Kalmia Gardens. She served the community as a Board Member of the Hartsville Museum for twenty-eight years. Thomas has aided Christmas in April, served on the search committee for Coker College’s president. She has also helped bring celebrity entertainment to the Center Theater to raise scholarship funds.
Thomas’ daughter, Brandolyn Thomas Pinkston, continues the legacy of public commitment. As an Administrator of the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs, Pinkston improved the quality of life for citizens in Hartsville and beyond, leading legislation against predatory lending and implementing successful consumer programs. Pinkston also partnered with the state Attorney General to launch the Mortgage Fraud Hotline. Her efforts have been recognized with honors from the SC NAACP and induction into the South Carolina Black Hall of Fame.
There is also, of course, Hartsville’s first female mayor, Flossie Hopkins. In 1994, under Hopkins’ leadership, Hartsville won the distinction of All-America City. Even after her term as mayor, Hopkins continues to aid Hartsville in our efforts to improve. We earned All-America city again in 2016 thanks to the foundations built by Hopkins, Pinkston, Thomas, Miss May and other female citizens working with local government.
Through their service and civic engagement, all of these women have left indelible marks. Each contributed to the progress of our municipality. They are all crucial figures in shaping our city into one of the most recognized rural communities in South Carolina. I, personally, am very grateful for all they have done for the City of Hartsville.
If you would like to learn about more inspiring women in Hartsville’s history, make time to visit the Hartsville Museum, 222 N. Fifth St. You can also schedule a tour by visiting hartsvillemuseum.org.