ST. GEORGE -- David Coleman Sojourner died peacefully at his home in St. George, South Carolina, on April 18, 2019. He was 91 years old and lived a long, full life. He loved his family and the South Carolina Lowcountry, particularly the Edisto River, his family farm in Denmark, and the town of St. George. He was a quiet, community-minded servant leader with a dry wit and was always ready to serve, lead, follow, fix things, cook and even say the prayer.
David was the only child of David Paul Sojourner and Ruth Strother Sojourner. He was born Nov. 19, 1927, at the home of his maternal grandparents, George and Mary Fellers, in Greenwood, South Carolina. He spent his early years in Denmark, South Carolina, before moving to St. George with his parents in 1936 to establish the family business, Sojourner Chevrolet Company. He was known to many as “Son” or “Mr. Son.”
After graduating from St. George High School, David enrolled at Clemson at the age of 16. In April of 1945, he stood in formation with the entire Corps of Cadets as President Roosevelt's funeral train passed through Clemson on its way to Washington, D.C. He graduated in 1949 with a degree in mechanical engineering and had a lifelong love for Clemson. He was a member of IPTAY for over 65 years, sitting in the same seats where his father sat before him: Lower Deck, Section H, Row QQ, Seats 10 and 12. The family routinely attended football games, making the four-hour drive from St. George to Clemson and back again in the same day. David rarely missed a class reunion and proudly wore his Golden Tiger Pin that marked the 50th anniversary of his graduation and his class ring bearing the words “Clemson A&M College.”
Following his time at Clemson, David served two years in the United States Army Chemical Corps in Nevada where he witnessed 11 atomic blasts. He always noted that it was fitting for him to be assigned to the Chemical Corps since he had taken freshman chemistry three times at Clemson.
After his discharge from service, he returned to St. George and joined his father in the family business as service manager. Although he later became the owner and president of the company, he could most often be found in the service department. To say he was handy was an understatement. He could build a picnic table, repair any lawnmower, tractor or outboard motor, weld, rebuild a carburetor and overhaul a transmission. David was mechanically gifted.
David married Betty Carolyn Durr on April 24, 1954, and for nearly 65 years, she has been by his side as his most ardent supporter, private secretary, personal cheerleader, and most recently, primary caregiver. They were the best of teams, always together attending weddings, funerals and family reunions, representing the Town of St. George at political functions, serving as Christmas Parade marshals at the Christmas Parade, and handing out candy on Halloween.
As a member of St. George United Methodist Church, David taught Sunday school for 60 years, was a former chair of the Administrative Board and served for many years as the chair of the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee. He was the church's delegate to the SC Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church for so many years that many attendees assumed he was a minister.
David was active in local politics, serving several terms as mayor of St. George and for many years as its municipal judge. He was an old-school Democrat and believed that a major role of government was to help those in need by providing education, health care and support. During his tenure as mayor, he was instrumental in the development of Dorchester Village, an affordable residential housing facility for lower income individuals. The David Sojourner Senior Center was named in his honor in 2002 in recognition of his dedicated service to the town.
David was a charter member of the Rotary Club, a former secretary and past master of Harmony Lodge #61, a Shriner, a former president of the St. George Businessmen's Club, a founding member of the Local Advisory Board for First National Bank, and a past commander of American Legion Post 105. He was a devoted supporter of the March of Dimes and the Boys Scouts of America and a former member of the Board of Trustees of The Methodist Oaks (where a building in named in his honor) and the Upper Dorchester County Historical Society.
Although David was an only child, his father was one of seven children and he had numerous Sojourner cousins. The Sojourner-Neeley-Folk Reunion has been held on July 4 at Holman's Bridge on the South Edisto River for over 100 years and it was one of David's favorite events. He was usually the one standing on a stump or picnic table announcing family news, welcoming first-time attendees, leading the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance and always, always giving the prayer. The prayer was his specialty, addressed to “our most gracious Heavenly Father” and giving thanks not only for the food but also for all the blessings of this life, for family, for fellowship, for community and asking for guidance during times of uncertainty.
His love for family traditions extended to Indian Field Campmeeting, where he and his family have gathered each year at Tent 87 with his in-laws, the Haskell and Rachael Durr family, and to Mizpah United Methodist Church in Bamberg County, where an annual reunion of the Brabham family is held each October.
David loved to cook for a crowd; catfish stew, hash, barbeque chicken, and almost anything fried were his specialties. His rectangular cast-iron pan and tobacco burner stove have fried thousands of fish and chickens and remain in service.
David was an outdoorsman. While an avid quail hunter, bream fisherman and shrimper, he was equally happy on his tractor cutting grass for hours at the farm in Denmark. Upon his retirement in the early 1990s, he and his son began the process of restoring quail habitat at the farm. He took great pride in this project and devoted many hours to making this vision a reality by locating ancient property lines marked with buggy axles, building fences, bush-hogging, disking, planting long-leaf pine, bicolor and food plots and supervising annual prescribed burning from his perch on the tractor.
He was very proud of his children, Dave and Ruthie, their spouses, Julianne and Ron, and his grandchildren, Walker, Ellis and Sojourner. Although he has been less active in recent months, he was able to attend Walker's wedding in January and to join with all of his family in late February for a Sunday lunch at his dining room table in St. George. Of course, he said the prayer.
David is survived by his wife and his children, David C. Sojourner Jr. (Julianne) of Columbia and Ruth S. Tripp (Ron) of Mount Pleasant, and grandchildren, John Walker Sojourner (Alex) of Columbia, Ellis M. Sojourner of Charleston, and Sojourner G. Tripp of Mount Pleasant and St. George.
The family will receive friends on Saturday, April 20, from 5 to 7 p.m. in their home at 605 Horne St. in St. George, and on Monday, April 22, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Bryant Funeral Home.
The funeral service will be held at St. George United Methodist Church on Monday, April 22 at 2 p.m., and a graveside burial service will follow in the family cemetery at Sykes Creek Farm, 324 Sykes Creek Road, Denmark, at 4 p.m.
Memorials may be made to the David C. Sojourner Memorial Fund at St. George United Methodist Church, 120 N. Parler Ave., St. George, SC 29477.