Alester Garden Furman, Jr. (April 26, 1895 - December 3, 1980) was born into the prosperous and influential Furman family to Alester Garden and Nellie Hoyt Furman in Greenville, S.C., and in many respects, the outline of his life follows in the steps of his venerable and successful predecessors. His father was a prominent business and civic leader who was often called "a builder of Greenville;" his great-great grandfather, Richard Furman was a Revolutionary War hero and leader in the organization of the American Baptist Convention and Furman University was named after him; his great-grandfather, James C. Furman was the first president of Furman University.
Alester G. Furman, Jr. was a graduate of Greenville City schools and the Furman Fitting School; he graduated from Furman University with a bachelor's degree in 1914 and received honorary LL.D degrees from both Furman and Clemson universities; he served in the Army as a commissioned second lieutenant during World War I. He married Janie Kennedy Earle in November 1916 and had two sons, Alester Garden III and Joseph Earle.
Alester G. Furman, Jr. was himself an important business and civic leader in Greenville as well as an influential South Carolina Baptist. His endeavors in the Upstate of South Carolina in the 1940s and 1950s led to dynamic economic growth and development in the Greenville area and helped transform Furman University from a small, struggling liberal arts school into a modern post-war institution with revitalized facilities.
Business and Civic Life
Furman's entire business career was spent with the Alester G. Furman Company, a Greenville real estate company founded by his father in 1888. Through real estate, investment, and insurance business activities, Furman developed the Upstate's textile industry. Furman fostered the development of Burlington Industries, J.P. Stevens & Co. Inc., and Dan River, and the area textile industry in general through the selling of stocks, procuring sites, and serving as director. In addition, Furman helped form Southeastern Broadcasting Co., which eventually become a part of Multimedia, Inc.; he served as a director of Carolina Pipeline Co., the Liberty Corp., Liberty Life Insurance Co., Piedmont and Northern Railway Co., Southeastern Broadcasting Co., J.P. Stevens, Spindale Mills, Southern Bleachery & Printworks Inc., Ross Builders Supplies Inc., Woodside Mills, Ottaray Textiles, Inc., Greenville Hotel Co., and Greenville Community Hotel Corp.
Alester Garden Furman, Jr. served as a trustee for Furman University for 20 years and a trustee chairman for 11 years from 1947-1953 and 1955-1959. He was chairman when the decision was made to move the school from its downtown Greenville location to the present site seven miles northwest of Greenville near Travelers Rest. In addition, he was chairman of two committees to recommend a new president for Furman University in 1939 and 1964.
Southern Baptist Denomination
Furman was an active member of First Baptist Church in Greenville, SC and, more, generally, of the Southern Baptist Convention. He served on several committees of the convention. He was a life-long forceful presence in the denomination, monitoring many of its activities, acting as an advocate for those with which he agreed, and as an outspoken critic for those of which he disapproved. In addition, he was an original founder an trustee for the Baptist Foundation of South Carolina.
Huff, Archie Vernon, Jr. Greenville: The History of the City and County in the South Carolina Piedmont. Columbia, SC: USC Press, 1995.
Reid, Alfred Sandlin. Furman University: Toward a New Identity, 1925-1975. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1976.
"Greenville's Growth the Legacy of Furman." Greenville News. December 4, 1980: 1A.
"The Furman University Hall of Fame." The Furman Magazine. Fall 1970. vol. XVIII, No. 3: 14.