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Mary Simms Furman

1918 - 2013 Obituary Condolences
Mary Simms Furman Obituary
Mary Simms Furman


Mary Simms Oliphant Furman, the daughter of Mary C. Simms Oliphant and Albert Drane Oliphant and widow of Alester G. Furman III, died on Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at her home on McDaniel Avenue in Greenville. She was born on February 14, 1918, in Columbia, South Carolina.

Mrs. Furman graduated from Greenville High School and attended The Greenville Women's College. She spent a year at the Sorbonne in Paris before earning a Bachelor's degree from the University of South Carolina. She was conferred a Master's degree in French Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While there, she performed with the internationally-acclaimed Martha Graham Dance Company.

The great-granddaughter of William Gilmore Simms, the South's most prominent antebellum poet, novelist and historian, Mrs. Furman co-authored, with her mother, several editions of The History of South Carolina and South Carolina: From the Mountains to the Sea, which served as primary textbooks for generations of South Carolina students.

Mrs. Furman was also a leader in civic and cultural affairs. She was influential in the creation and preservation of the Reedy River Historic District, the restoration of the Reedy River Falls Park, and the Huguenot Mill and office. She was a lifelong member and president of the Junior League of Greenville from 1955 to 1957. She was an active member of the Carolina Foothills Garden Club, serving as its president from 1978 to 1980.

Along with her husband, she was also a supporter of Furman University, the Governor's School for the Arts, the Upcountry History Museum at Heritage Green, the South Carolina Nature Conservancy, and the Peace Center for the Performing Arts. She was a member of the Tuesday Study Club, the Cercle Franco Américain, the Debutante Club of Greenville, the Assembly, and the Quadrille. Mrs. Furman was a lifelong communicant of Christ Church Episcopal and served on the Altar Guild for many years.

On April 4, 1942, she married Alester G. Furman III, a descendant of Richard Furman for whom Furman University was named. Through their 65 years together, they provided their time, talent and resources toward the advancement of the University. They were both active in the planning and design of several buildings on campus, including the Daniel Chapel and the Earle Infirmary. In 2007, Mrs. Furman received a Doctor of Humanities from Furman University. The Furman Mall, between McAlister Auditorium and the Lay Physical Activities Center, was named for her and her husband.

Mrs. Furman is survived by her four daughters, Mary Simms Furman Gregory, Jane Earle Furman Pressly, Alexandra Garden Furman Whitley, Felicia DeSaussure Furman and one son-in-law, Philip Waff Whitley; her five grandchildren, Alester Furman Gregory, Francis Cogswell Gregory, Jr. and his wife, Joy Cook Gregory, Dr. Mary Earle Pressly Garrison and her husband, Kevin Patrick Garrison, Alexandra Simms Toomey and her husband, Paul Lester Robertson, and James Boyce Pressly III; two step grandchildren, Elisabeth Whitley Johnson and her husband, Edwin Roberts Johnson and Jason Harp Whitley and his wife Linda Archer Whitley; four great-grandchildren, Francis Cogswell Gregory III, Chloe Cook Gregory, Henry Boyce Garrison and Andrew Earle Garrison; one step great-grandchild, Ava Rawlins Whitley; and many beloved nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her two brothers, Albert Drane Oliphant, Jr. and William Gilmore Simms Oliphant.

The family will receive visitors at Mrs. Furman's home on Friday, January 25 from 4 pm until 6 pm. Services will be held on Saturday, January 26 at 2:00 pm at Christ Church Episcopal. Burial will follow in the churchyard.

Memorials may be made to The Mary Simms Oliphant and Alester Garden Furman III Scholarship at Furman University, 3300 Poinsett Highway, Greenville, SC 29613, Christ Church Episcopal, 10 North Church Street, Greenville, SC 29601, or to a .

The family wishes to thank Mrs. Furman's caregivers for their loving care and devotion to her during her long illness.

The Mackey Mortuary, Century Drive

Published in The Greenville News from Jan. 24 to Jan. 25, 2013
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