Coping with Grief
We would like to offer our sincere support to anyone coping with grief. Enter your email below for our complimentary daily grief messages. Messages run for up to one year and you can stop at any time. Your email will not be used for any other purpose.
Lester Province Branham, Jr died Sunday, October 22, 2023, at The Manor Senior Living Facility in Florence, SC. Lester was born December 14, 1933, in Camden, SC. His parents, L. P. “Doc” Branham and Roberta Hinson Branham were farmers and merchants living in Lugoff. Growing up on a farm in rural Kershaw County in the 1930s and ’40s, he spent most of his time either running a combine, dealing with cows or helping out at Lugoff Supply Company, a mercantile store operated by his grandfather and parents for more than 70 years.
Although an only child, he grew up more as a member of a large family, having over 50 first cousins living in the Lugoff community. His family were faithful members of Springvale Baptist Church, where his mother played the piano for more than 60 years, and his daddy led the singing, back when the church was too small to have a choir director. No places shaped his life more than that store and church. Lugoff Supply Company was a community gathering spot and, as he was fond of saying, “sold everything from ladies' panties to plow points.” The foundation of his love for people and interaction with them was that country store. His faith and calling to the ministry began at Springvale. He was baptized in a spring-fed baptismal pool in the woods near that church in 1940.
Lester attended Kershaw County public schools. He graduated from Camden High School in 1951, Wake Forest University in 1955, and Southeastern Theological Seminary in 1958. While attending seminary, he married the love of his life, Dorothy Ruth Hayes of Latta, SC, on August 10, 1956.
Reverend Branham was a Baptist minister in South Carolina for 67 years, beginning with four small country churches in Dillon County, alternating holding services at two every Sunday. After that, he was pastor of Parkway Baptist Church in Chester, The First Baptist Church of Loris, The First Baptist Church of Orangeburg, and for 25 years at the First Baptist Church of Lake City, where he retired in 1998. After retirement, he continued preaching at numerous churches as interim.
Standing behind a pulpit was where he was most comfortable. He enjoyed a very personal relationship with the Lord and believed we each should seek the same and to think for ourselves. As he was fond of saying, “the church door is big enough to bring your head in with you.”
Many times, his interpretation of the scriptures and his personal beliefs conflicted with traditional Southern Baptist Doctrines. He believed strongly that women should be ordained into the ministry and viewed the civil rights movement as the pressing moral question of his lifetime.
His style was his own. He never did children’s sermons, stood during hymns, nor preached over 17 minutes. Everywhere he preached, he was known for brevity, which he thought was what the congregation appreciated most.
After retirement from Lake City First Baptist, Lester served as a Democrat in the South Carolina House of Representatives representing Florence and Marion Counties for 12 years, retiring in 2014. He always enjoyed politics, as his father had served in the House during the 1950s and 60s. He served and chaired the Board of Directors of The Baptist Hospital and The Palmetto Healthcare System in Columbia for 30 years. He also served on the Board of Trustees of Furman University in Greenville, SC, Midwestern Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO, and Florence County School District Three.
He loved his family, his church, his community, his second home in Murrells Inlet, ice cream, corn bread & buttermilk and after-meal cigarettes, Clemson Tiger football, and a salty joke.
Lester is survived by his loving wife of 67 years, Dorothy Hayes Branham; son, Lester P. “Brant” (Beth) Branham, III of Murrells Inlet; daughter, Maria Branham (Robert) Matthews of Lake City; granddaughters, Katherine M. (Jared) McGee of Lake City, Lawton V. Branham and Elizabeth E. Branham, both of Murrells Inlet; grandson, Robert M. “Matt” (Evan) Matthews, III of Charlotte, NC; 2 great grandchildren.
Memorial Service will be held 2:00 PM, Friday, October 27, 2023 at Lake City First Baptist Church.
The family will receive friends from 1:00 – 2:00 PM, Friday, October 27, 2023, in the church fellowship hall.
Memorials may be made to Lake City First Baptist Church, P.O. Box 820, Lake City, SC 29560.