Florence Area Famous

Aziz Ansari

Aziz Ansari

Born in Columbia, South Carolina, but growing up in Bennettsville, Aziz Ansari (Tamil: அஜிஸ் அன்சாரி) is an internationally renowned actor and comedian.

His career began in earnest in 2005 and 2006, when Rolling Stone included him in their Hot List, and he won the US Comedy Arts Festival in Colorado. 

He was hired by NBC to star in the TV show Parks and Recreation and was an instant hit among critics.

He's done multiple movies over the years, including Get Him to the Greek, I Love You, Man, 30 Minutes or Less, and Observe and Report. He also tours and gives stand up comedies around the US.

Find more info at his personal website:

Image Source: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported. Photo taken by David Shankbone. 

Elzie Wylie "Buddy" Baker, Jr.

Elzie Wylie "Buddy" Baker, Jr.

Born on January 25, 1941 in Florence, as the son of accomplished NASCAR Hall of Famer Buck Baker, and began racing in NASCAR before he was out of his teens in 1959. He went on to break multiple records, including:

*First driver to exceed 200 Miles per hour on a closed course (1970) using Chrysler Engineering Blue #88 Charger Daytona.

*His win of the most prestigious Daytona 500 in 1980 is still, as of 2016, the fastest Daytona 500 run ever, with an average speed of 177.6 MPH

*He is one of nine people to ever have won a Career Grand Slam, meaning he's won all of NASCAR's major races at least once - the Daytona 500, Aaron's 499, Coca-Cola 600, and Southern 500 (held here in South Carolina at the Darlington Raceway)

* He is a member of the National Motorsports Hall of Fame, and was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.

Later in his life, he became a commentator on various car and racing themed TV and radio shows. He died August 10, 2015 in his home in North Carolina after coping with lung cancer. He leaves his fans with an inspiring quote:"Do not shed a tear. Give a smile when you say my name."

For more information see his official site:

Buddy Baker 1985 at Pocono Raceway Image Source: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic. Photo taken by Ted Van Pelt.

Harry Carson

Harry Carson

Born in Florence, South Carolina, on Nov. 26, 1953, Harry Carson played football at Wilson High School and McClenaghan High School. He later played for South Carolina State University's team, The Bulldogs, distinguishing himself by not missing a single game in his four years of college. He also became the first player in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference to win consecutive defender of the year awards, as well as helping his team win consecutive conference championships. He was honored in 2002, when he was admitted to the College Football Hall of Fame.

After graduating from SC State, he was drafted in the fourth round of the 1976 NFL draft by the New York Giants, where he would stay for his entire professional career and serve as captain for 10 years. He was a member of the Crunch Bunch, Big Blue Wrecking Crew, and made nine pro Bowl appearances. He retired in 1988, two years after leading the Giants to victory in Super Bowl XXI in 1986. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006 and the New York Giants Ring of Honor in 2010. Carson lives in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey.

More information may be found at harrycarson.com

Image Source: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic. Photo taken by Jerry Pinkus.


Joseph Leonard Goldstein, M.D.

Joseph Leonard Goldstein, M.D.

Born in Kingstree, South Carolina, on April 18, 1940, Goldstein received his Bachelor of Science degree from Washington and Lee University, before receiving an MD doctorate from Southwestern Medical School.

After completing his medical residency, he was hired by the US federal government's National Institute for Health (NIH) for a few years, before accepting a post at his alma mater and becoming the Head of the Medical Genetics division at Southwestern. There he worked with his colleague, Michael Brown, conducting research on sterol regulatory element binding proteins, SREBPs for short, a protein that both helps the human body create and retain cholesterol, a vital nutrient. The Nobel Prize Foundation awarded the 1985 Prize for Physiology or Medicine to both Brown and Goldstein "for their discoveries concerning the regulation of cholesterol metabolism."

Goldstein and Brown coninued their work on SREBPs, helping doctors everywhere understand how cholesterol interacts with human cells on a molecular level. 

Other prestigious awards Goldstein has recieved include: 
*US National Medal of Science (1988)
*Foreign Memeber of the British Royal Society (1991)
*Warren Alpert Foundation Prize by Harvard Medical School (1999)
*Kober Medal by Association of American Physicians (2002)
*Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service (2005)

The seminal scientific paper that won Goldstein and Brown their Nobel Prize can be found here for those interested:
Binding and Degradation of Low Density Lipoproteins by Cultured Human Fibroblasts

The Nobel Foundation has more information about Goldstein here:

Image Source: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported. Photo taken by eLife Sciences Publications, Ltd.

Marian Wright Edelman, J.D.

Marian Wright Edelman, J.D.

Born June 6, 1939 in Bennetsville, South Carolina, Marian Wright Edelman, J.D., graduated from Yale Law School with a Juris Doctor in 1963, all the while being involved with the Civil Rights movement.

She was the second African-American woman admitted to The Mississippi Bar and helped the NAACP fight racial injustices in 1964. In 1973, she founded the Children's Defense Fund (of which she is still president in 2016), whose stated purpose is “to ensure every child a healthy start, a head start, a fair start, a safe start, and a moral start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.” She's used the organization to lobby the US Congress for improvements in child care and treatment of disadvantaged children.

She continues to invest her energy into the organization to help children today, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President Bill Clinton in early 2000.

More info at the Children's Defense Fund site:

Image Source: cdc.gov/Public Domain

Melvin Horace Purvis II

Melvin Horace Purvis II

Born in Timmonsville, South Carolina, on October 24, 1903, Melvin Purvis was a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent renowned for putting early 20th century mobsters such as Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, and John Dillinger behind bars. He also was a US Army Colonel (Ret.) that served during World War II, and he was a pivotal laywer during the Nuremburg Trials against many former Nazi party officials. He died in his home in Florence of an apparent suicide in 1960, though later investigations deduced his death was the result of a misfire from his personal sidearm as he was attempting to unjam a round.

Image Source: FBI.gov/Public Domain

Orlando Hudson

Orlando Hudson

Orlando Hudson Portrait

Born in Darlington, South Carolina, on December 12, 1977, Orlando Hudson was a sports standout in baseball, football, and basketball in high school. Ultimately, he chose baseball, which he pursued at Spartanburg Methodist College.

He was drafted into into the Toronto Blue Jays in 1997 in the 43rd round of the MLB draft. In 2001, he was a Southern League All-Star and a Baseball America 1st team Minor League All-Star at second base. That year, he also won Silver in the Baseball World Cup in Taipei, Taiwan. He continued his career in the MLB with the following teams: Arizona Diamondbacks,Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins, San Diego Padres, and Chicago White Sox.

He also founded the C.A.T.C.H. Foundation, an organization that seeks to support autistic children.

Image source: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic. Photographer: Joe Bielawa

Pearl Fryar

Pearl Fryar


Currently living in Bishopville, South Carolina, Pearl Fryar was born in Clinton, North Carolina to a sharecropper family. While he was working at a canning factory in 1988, he began to trim plants in his yard into interesting shapes. He then began rescuing plants from compost piles around the area to create new horticultural sculptures.

He now owns the internationally acclaimed Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden, and he is the topic of the 2006 documentary, A Man Named Pearl.

For more information visit Fryar's official site, as well as the documentary listing on IMDB:

Ronald E. McNair, Ph.D.

Ronald E. McNair, Ph.D.

Ronald McNair was a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Physicist and NASA astronaut born in Lake City, South Carolina, on October 21, 1950. He experienced racial discrimination from a very young age, including being threatened with police action to prevent him from checking books out of the Lake City Public Library, a library later renamed in his honor. Despite discrimation, he was able to graduate valedictorian, top of his class, at Carver High School in 1967, as well as recieve a PhD from MIT in physics. In addition, he recieved three honorary doctorates from other universities. McNair also was a saxophonist and a black belt in karate.

NASA selected him as an astronaut candidate in 1978. After several years of training, he flew a sucessful mission on the Space Shuttle Challenger on the mission STS-41-B in 1984 as Mission Specialist 3, meant to test the Manned Maneuvering Unit (which is fictionalized in the 2013 movie Gravity as the "jetpack" of George Clooney's character Matt Kowalsky). He was then subsequently selected for another mission on Challenger, STS-51-L, which was intended to put a NASA satellite into orbit around the Earth. Unfortunately, on the launch day of January 26, 1986, a seal on one of the space shuttle's rocket boosters failed because of cold weather, and caused the shuttle to explode 73 seconds after launch, killing all aboard, including McNair and Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher in space.

Today, there are many locations named in McNair's honor, including a crater on the moon, the McNair Building at MIT, multiple public schools throughout the United States, and the aforementioned library in his hometown Lake City, which was superseded by a new public library. The former library was then dedicated as a museum: The Ronald McNair Life History Center. McNair also was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor posthumously in 2004, the highest of any award given by NASA to its astronauts.

For more information see below:
Our own page about the Ronald McNair Life History Center: http://visitflo.com/dr-ronald-e-mcnair-memorial-and-life-history-center
His NASA Biography:http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/mcnair.html

 Image Source: NASA.gov/Public Domain


William H. Johnson

William H. Johnson

A selection of Johnson's work. From left to right: A self portrait, African American farmers sow seeds in a field, the famous Flowers featured on a USPS stamp in 2012.
Source: Public Domain. All Painted by William H. Johnson

Born on March 18, 1901 in Florence, SC, where William H. Johnson spent most of his formative years, he attended one of the first public schools in the city, the all-Black Wilson School on Athens Street (which has since been renamed Wilson High School, integrated, and relocated).

At age 17, Johnson moved to New York City and worked odd jobs until he could afford to pay the tuition for classes at the National Academy of Design. There, he worked with another famous painter, Charles Webster Hawthorne, who enabled Johnson to study abroad in France. There, in the aftermath of World War I, Johnson was influenced by modernist French painters, and also met his future wife, Helga Krake.

When he returned to the United States, his friends encouraged him to submit his paintings to the Harmon Foundation Distinguished Achievements Among Negros in the Fine Arts Field, where he won a Gold Medal. He then travelled back to hometown of Florence to reunite with family. His paintings were exhibited twice during his homecoming - once at a meeting of the Florence County Teachers' Institute, as well as the local YMCA.

He crossed back to Europe later in 1930 to marry Krake, and the newly wed couple spent the next decade in Scandinavia, but they decided to move back to the United States in 1938 after Nazi Germany became increasingly aggressive. The troubles for the couple would not end there. Though Johnson's work was already widely exhibited in the 1940's and 50's, such as in Alma Reed Galleries, a fire destroyed his studio and supplies in 1942, and to make matters worse, his wife Helga died of breast cancer in 1944.

Johnson fell into deep depression, and moved to be with his wife's family in Denmark in 1946 after the war was over. Unfortunately, he himself was struck with paralytic dementia caused by syphillis in 1947, a condition that causes a general deterioration of all brain functions. He again moved back to the States for treatment in New York in 1947 at the Central Islip State Hospital, where he would stay for the rest of his life. He forswore painting in 1956, and died in 1970.

His work was perhaps even more appreciated after his death. The Smithsonian American Art Museum exhibited galleries solely comprised of his work twice: once in 1991 in Homecoming: The Art and Life of William H. Johnson, and once in 2006 with William H. Johnson's World on Paper. His work has also travelled around the United States to various museums including the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Pennsylvannia, the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in Alabama, and the Amon Carter Museum in Texas. In addition, the US Postal Service issued a stamp in Johnson's honor in 2012 in their Treasure stamp series, with Johnson's painting Flowers as Number 11.

See more of Johnson's art at the Smithsonian:

Visitor Information

Toll Free: (800) 325-9005
Phone: (843) 664-0330

Visitor Information Center

3290 W. Radio Drive
Florence Civic Center Upper Level
Florence, SC 29501

Daily 9am - 5pm



Apple App Store icon



Google Play Store Icon



South Carolina Just Right Logo

Official Guide

flo2016 17guide


Go to top