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Kirk described as 'honest, fair'

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By Jesef Williams

The plaques and awards that adorn the walls in James Kirk's home speak volumes about what he meant to Lancaster County.

His daughter, Kathy Douglass, shed many tears Wednesday night while she read some of those accolades. The list is extensive.

Kirk died Wednesday at age 92. He was a former Lancaster city councilman, a member of the Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce and the Lancaster Soil and Water Conservation District.

For several years, he operated Lancaster Feed and Farm Supply, Inc. and Buford Milling Co. He was a member of the Lancaster Farm Bureau as well as the Lancaster Civitan Club.

"He was very active in the community," Douglass said. "He was very civic-minded. He thought a lot of Lancaster County and the people here."

A Lancaster native, Kirk graduated from Clemson College in 1939. He taught vocational agriculture at Pageland High School for three years.

After serving in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1946, Kirk and his wife, Ruth, bought a feed and seed business that would later be known as Lancaster Feed and Farm Supply, Inc. Kirk took over the Buford Milling Co. in the 1960s, according to Charles Blankenship, his longtime business parter.

Blankenship said Kirk's honesty and fairness allowed him to be a great businessman. He treated his customers and employees fairly, Blankenship said.

"He was straight by the book," he said. "He was just a man of good character."

Lancaster Mayor Joe Shaw remembers when Kirk sat on City Council. He served two stints – from 1954 to 1959 and from 1964 to 1974.

Shaw doesn't know if Kirk ever lost a political race.

"Every time he ran, I voted for him," Shaw said. "He was an outstanding leader."

Like Blankenship, Shaw said Kirk treated people fairly and was a generous man. Shaw said he learned a great deal from him.

"He told me to be yourself and be honest with your fellow man," Shaw said. "He demonstrated that."

Kirk's plaques read that he was director of the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce from 1979 to 1981.

He worked with the conservation district for 23 years and served as a civitan for at least 40 years. He was named the Civitan of the Year in 1981.

In 1984, Kirk retired as president of the feed and farm supply company.

In his later years, Douglass said her dad could be seen on most Saturday mornings having breakfast at Bojangles with longtime pals. He also liked to eat during the weekdays at the Kanawha cafeteria.

Douglass said Kirk was still good with numbers well into his 80s. However, dementia over the last four years had noticable effects on his health.

As Douglass stared at her father's awards on Wednesday night, it was with bittersweet emotions. She's simply proud to be able to call him dad.

"I'm celebrating that he's going to heaven and I praise God that I've had him as a father," she said.

Kirk's funeral is Friday, July 25, at First Baptist Church.

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1152