Former Darlington Fire Chief Jim Stone dies
DARLINGTON, S.C. - Former Darlington Fire Chief James Casper “Jim” Stone Jr. is being remembered as a man who was devoted to his family, his hometown and his chosen profession - firefighting.
Stone, who joined the Darlington Fire Department as a volunteer in 1962 and served as its chief from 1984 until his retirement in 2012, died Thursday surrounded by family. He was 78.
Stone had recently hd health problems.
In addition to his service as fire chief, Stone also served three terms on the Darlington County Council beginning in 1989. He served a year as the council vice chairman and six years as chairman.
“Former Chief Stone will be greatly missed in the city of Darlington; he loved his hometown,” said Darlington Mayor Gloria C. Hines. “He was a great joke teller. He always had a joke for you. And he had the prettiest white hair.”
Hines served 14 years on the Darlington City Council and narrowly defeated Stone in the 2015 election for mayor. “Even in that campaign and after, we still remained friends,” Hines said. “We respected each other. We never trashed each other, and that’s the way a campaign ought to be. We’ll miss him.”
“I can tell you that he lived, breathed, ate and slept the Darlington Fire Department,” said Darlington City Manager Howard Garland, who worked with Stone.
“He had a great love for the people of the fire department,” Garland said.
He said Stone led the effort to restore the city’s first fire engine, the horse-drawn “Our Pat,” which is on public display at the old fire department building on Cashua Street.
“He worked with so many different people. He trained a lot of people all over the Pee Dee. A lot of people in the fire service learned their craft from him, whether it was managing a department or firefighting. He was very much steeped in the traditions of the fire department and the fire service.”
Former Darlington Mayor Ronnie Ward, who served as mayor from 1984 to 2004, said Stone was assistant fire chief when Ward first came to office. Ward promoted Stone to chief that year after the previous chief retired. “He was a great fire chief. The fire department was his life,” Ward said.
“He had a great frame of mind to get the job done and do it right. I could not have asked for a better fire chief,” Ward said.
“He and I coached ball when our kids were playing. He was a great family man, a good father. He was a good athlete back in the St. John’s Blue Devils days,” he said. “We’ve certainly lost a citizen who truly loved Darlington and who loved the fire department.”
Former Mayor Tony Watkins said Stone was “a larger than life kind of guy.” Watkins served 26 years on the Darlington City Council and 12 years as mayor. He noted that Stone followed his father into the fire service.
“He was one of a kind, and he had a very strong personality,” Watkins said. “If there was someone you can say was a legend, it was Jimmy Stone.”
“They (his family) are a remarkable family, and he was the bedrock of that family,” he said.
Watkins called it ironic that the house on Pearl Street that houses the city’s administrative offices, known as the Stone house, is the house that Stone grew up in. He also noted that Stone played a key role in the establishment of Darlington’s Veterans Memorial downtown.
“He had a group of people in that fire department that he was like a father to. They were fast friends. He had a group of hardworking, dedicated firemen that would work hard to protect this city, and that’s part of his legacy,” Watkins said.
“I had the privilege of not only knowing Jimmy Stone but being his friend,” said Darlington County Coroner J. Todd Hardee. “Jimmy was a true southern gentleman. He was a credit to our community, and he left an indelible mark on everything he involved himself with. Darlington will miss him as will his family, his church, his friends, the fire service and this old coroner. Jimmy Stone touched many people and made their lives better. I’m living proof.”
Funeral services will be held on Sunday at 3 p.m. at First Baptist Church in Darlington. A viewing and visitation will be held at the Darlington County Courthouse on Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m., according to Kistler-Hardee Funeral Home.
Stone was born in Darlington on Dec. 22, 1940, to James Casper Stone and Ray Rhodes Stone.
He was preceded in death by his parents, a sister, Carolyn Stone Godwin, and a son, James C. (Jay) Stone III. He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Dot Autry Stone; his children, Angie (Ken) Godbold, Jacey Stone (Jeff Burr), and Jason (Jen) Stone; his grandson, Stone Godbold; and three granddaughters, Raychel, Leah and Jenna Stone.