|Birth: ||May 5, 1876|
|Death: ||Jun. 10, 1993|
Luke Blackwell had seen 117 birthdays, but he still had most of his teeth. His health, his doctor said, was remarkable.
But Blackwell, who farmed in Clarendon County for more than 80 years, died Thursday after a sudden bout with pneumonia. Blackwell's great-granddaughter, Bobbie Jean Frierson, said the family has been told that Blackwell was the oldest living person in South Carolina.
"He was a remarkable person," said Frierson, who had been raised by Blackwell since infancy.
"He farmed all his life, and he walked behind a mule and plow for 86 years. Another thing about him, he was a great hummer. He hummed all the time," she said.
Blackwell's wife has been dead more than 20 years; Frierson couldn't remember exactly how long. Blackwell lived with a sister until she died, then lived by himself until he moved in with the Friersons six years ago.
After his wife's parents died, Blackwell raised many of his wife's siblings, Frierson said. She estimates that Blackwell raised more than 30 children.
"He was known all over Clarendon County. He had a horse-and-buggy up until about 15 years ago, and he would drive that all over town.
"He took me to high school in that horse-and-buggy even when everybody else had cars," she said.
"I was embarrassed. But I appreciate him. He taught me to treat everybody right."
Blackwell was affectionately known as "LB" or "Uncle Luke" around the county. He had been healthy all of his life and still had all but five of his teeth, Frierson said. He never drank alcoholic beverages, chewed tobacco or smoked, she added.
Frierson was with her foster father when he died at 5 p.m. Thursday in Clarendon Memorial Hospital. He had been admitted to the hospital on Sunday, after Frierson became worried about his lack of appetite and shortness of breath.
The family has no documents to prove that Blackwell was 117, but his age was generally known, Frierson said. His doctor, George Jones of Manning, agreed that that age was realistic.
"I asked him what his secret was, but he never would tell me," Jones said.
Blackwell, who never learned to read or write, received a "Centenarian Certificate" from the South Carolina Commission on Aging in 1991. Ruth Seigler, the commission's executive director, said people are living longer these days, but it's still unusual for someone to make it to 117. Unusual but definitely possible.
"Some researchers are saying they think the human body has a potential longevity of 125," Seigler said.
Born in Clarendon County in 1876, Blackwell was a son of the late Ned and Leddie Johnson Blackwell. He was a member of Goodwill Freewill Baptist Church for more than 90 years and served as a deacon for 75 years.
Sudie Riggins Blackwell (1898 - 1943)
Pauline Blackwell Servance (1918 - 1943)*
Freewill Goodwill Baptist Church Cemetery
South Carolina, USA
Created by: Deborah Baker Metzger
Record added: May 11, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 36984635