Florence, SC - FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) – South Carolina Highway Patrol is investigating the death of a 55-year-old Florence man after he fell off of a motorcycle.
James Lawrence Smith was riding a motorcycle Saturday morning when friends say he lost control and fell off the bike. He was riding in a parking lot near the Florence Darlington Technical College campus where he was taking a course to learn how to ride motorcycles.
Smith was wearing a helmet when he fell off and was sent to a local hospital. The Florence County Coroner's office said he died shortly after he arrived.
The manner in which Smith died was a shock to those who knew him.
"I said, 'That must be another James Lawrence because James doesn't have a motorcycle,'" said Carrie Lawrence, who lives across the street from Smith's home.
She saw Smith hours before he died when she while retrieving the newspaper from her front yard Saturday morning.
"I started crying," she said, adding the news of Smith's death left her virtually paralyzed. "I couldn't do anything. I didn't do anything yesterday."
Friends and family visited his family's home after Sunday services to pay their respects. Councilman Ed Robinson was among those who visited.
"He was a part of the leadership of Florence," Robinson said, who has known Smith since they were young boys.
He said Smith was an active member in the community who sought to improve the well-being of his peers.
"We have lost a pillar in the community," he said.
Smith was raised in Florence, where he attended public school and raised his family. His father was a mortician, and he eventually followed in his footsteps when he started and managed his own funeral home. Those who were close to him say the impact he had on the community went far beyond his role as a funeral home director.
"He was very very accommodating, and would strive to do things that were meaning for people," said William D. Diggs, pastor at Trinity Baptist Church where Smith served on the Board of Trustees. "He's one of the most dutiful individuals that we've had in the church. We'll just have to pray that we are strengthened to get along without his being with us."
Robinson added, "I don't know what to say except that we've lost a jewel in our community."
Smith's is survived by his wife and son. His family has not yet finalized the funeral arrangements.