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Alester Garden Furman III Collection: Biography
Alester G. Furman III
Photo from Accession # 2008-096, Folder 1, Box 6

Alester Garden Furman III was born on January 3, 1918 and died on June 9, 2007. A native of Greenville, he was the son of Alester G. Furman, Jr. (1895-1980) and Janie Kennedy Earle Furman (1895-1993). Alester G. Furman III was also the great-great-great grandson of Richard Furman (1755-1825), the namesake of Furman University.

An Eagle Scout, young Alester distinguished himself in both college and the military. He attended Amherst College from 1935 to 1939, and he graduated cum laude with an A.B. From there, he went to Harvard Business School, where he graduated with distinction in 1941. With war clouds on the horizon, however, Alester Furman III entered the United States Marine Corps in lieu of beginning his business career. He would end up serving twenty months in the Pacific Theater of Operations and would attain the rank of Captain before his discharge in October 1945.

Before leaving the United States for war, Alester G. Furman III married Mary Simms Oliphant on April 4, 1942. The great granddaughter of noted historian and writer William Gilmore Simms, Mary Simms Oliphant and Alester G. Furman III first met when each was 12. The marriage would produce four daughters: Mary , Jane , Alexandra , and Felicia.

Alester G. Furman III returned to the United States after victory was achieved over the Axis Powers. Starting in June of 1946, young Alester worked for the family business. The grandfather of Alester G. Furman III had founded the business originally called the Alester G. Furman Company in 1888. Later known simply as the Furman Company, the business dealt with insurance, investment securities, and real estate. By 1961, Alester Furman III had become President of the company, and he held this position until 1977. In 1977, he became Chairman of the Board of the Furman Realty Co., Inc., and he held this position until 1986. He also became the head of office for Marsh & McLennan, Inc. in 1977, and he would remain there until 1981. During his career, he also held directorships in the Duke Power Company and J.P. Stevens & Co., Inc. among others.

Alester G. Furman III gave significant time and financial support to improve the city of Greenville. He was Director of the Greater Greenville Chamber of Commerce from 1964 to 1966 and the South Carolina State Chamber of Commerce from 1960 to 1961. He also spent time on the various boards and associations supporting arts in Greenville; the Greenville Symphony and the Center for the Performing Arts being two such organizations. Alester also generously supported the Rotary Club, the United Way, and other groups. In addition to those efforts, Alester G. Furman III was a chair of the board of trustees of the Greenville Hospital System, and he played an integral role in improving the facilities and services there.

Mr. Furman also provided resources in the betterment of the University named for his great-great-great grandfather. He gave his time by becoming a trustee, serving five terms in that capacity. Mr. Furman also served on the Presidential Search Committee that selected Dr. David E. Shi as University President, and he participated in the discussion regarding a number of building projects on University property. He and his wife also donated generous amounts of money for a number of University projects; the William Gilmore Simms Research Room being one such item.