NEW ZION - Mr. Americanism, mentor, patriot, Christian leader, decorated veteran and friend were just a few of the monikers the folks of New Zion and Sardinia used Wednesday to remember William C. Plowden Jr., who died that morning at the age of 99.
The folks in New Zion didn't know him as William C. Plowden Jr. He was "Mr. Billy," a leader in the community and at his church, Sardinia Presbyterian Church, Steve Gamble said.
Gamble served with Plowden at Black River American Legion Post 149 as well as at their church.
"We had prayer meeting at his house a couple of weeks ago," Gamble said Wednesday afternoon. "He was talking about the old times. We're going to miss these guys who knew our history, and he was a history buff."
Gamble said Plowden lived an extraordinary life.
"He was proud to serve his country," Gamble added. "He served as the assistant secretary of labor for Veteran Employment and Training under President Reagan, and he was also the past national commander of the American Legion. He went all over the nation giving speeches on patriotism and Americanism."
Plowden will be solely missed, Gamble said.
"He was a great mentor to the young men in our church and our community," he said. "He was someone who was looked up to. He was a thoughtful guy. He was someone you could go to and ask a question, and the information he'd give you was enlightening. He was a leader with the highest integrity."
Robert Gibbons called his long-time friend Mr. Americanism.
"We will never forget Commander Plowden, who not only served his community, but also his county, state and his nation," Gibbons added. "He helped so many veterans. He helped with their medical needs, and he helped place veterans in jobs throughout our state."
Gibbons said his fellow vet didn't want recognition for his good deeds.
According to Gibbons, Plowden held numerous positions with Black River American Legion Post 149.
"He served as our past post commander," Gibbons added. "He also served the American Legion at the state and national levels. He was a wonderful leader."
In his youth, Plowden grew up in his father's Ford dealership earning the grade of master mechanic while in his teens. Plowden graduated from The Citadel before joining the U.S. Army in 1941. In 1943, Plowden was the youngest lieutenant colonel to serve his country in the China-Burma-India Theater of World War II. He retired from the Army in 1965 with the rank of colonel.
Plowden continued to serve his country after his retirement by working with veterans and disabled veterans. In 1992, his commitment to veterans earned him the Order of the Palmetto from then-Gov. Carroll Campbell. In 1998, Plowden received The Strom Thurmond Founders Award for his dedicated work with veterans.
In 2009, Plowden said he didn't want to focus on exploits but on "the next veteran he can serve."
Eight years ago, at the age of 91, Plowden would make the 130-mile trek to Columbia to help his follow veterans.
"I'm going to work as long as I can help a veteran," he said then. "If I get where I can't help a veteran, then I'll quit. I just enjoy helping veterans. I like people. If I retired, I wouldn't be able to help."
A funeral service for Plowden will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at Sardinia Presbyterian Church with the Revs. Robert M. Jolly Jr. and Dr. Gordon K. Reed officiating. Burial with full military honors will follow in New Zion United Methodist Church Cemetery.
- Sharron Haley