MANNING - Loving family man, devout church leader, mentor, cherished friend, icon, role model, successful businessman, entrepreneur and lifelong ambassador for Clarendon County are just a few monikers used to describe the late Hayes F. Samuels Jr., who passed away Wednesday at the age of 74.
Samuels is a second-generation mortician following in the footsteps of his father, the late Hayes F. Samuels Sr. Samuels was also in the second year of his fourth term as Clarendon County coroner.
Samuels' colleagues in the Clarendon County Coroner's Office remembered him as a mentor, friend and the ultimate professional who showed immense compassion in dealing with victims' families and friends.
"Hayes handled every situation with dignity and caring," said Deputy Coroner Bucky Mock. "He will be sorely missed by everyone in the Coroner's Office."
Sixth District Congressman James Clyburn reminisced Wednesday afternoon about his lifelong friendship with Samuels.
"Our families are very close," Clyburn shared. "His mother and my mother were friends. He was a couple of years behind me in school. He and my brother, John, were classmates. I consider Hayes one of my closest and dearest friends, both personally and politically."
Clyburn said his friend was in a "better place with no suffering."
Clyburn said he knew he could always count on Samuels' support.
"In one run for Congress, a mutual friend went to Hayes on behalf of another candidate," Clyburn said. "I remember Hayes telling me that he told that gentleman that I would be the next congressman for the sixth district. They remained friends, but Hayes felt that I deserved to be congressman. He was that way. He was always there with his support and friendship."
Clyburn described Wednesday as an emotional day as he remembered his close friend.
"We were close," he said. "I miss him already. My votes on the floor are important to me, but I will be there for his funeral and to support the family even if I miss a vote."
Clyburn shared memories of his visit with Samuels in Manning.
"I came over from Santee," he said. "He took me into his office and gave me a picture and booklet on African Americans who have served in the Legislature and Congress in the 19th century. It was on their backgrounds and legacies. It was truly a great gift that I will always cherish."
Sen. Kevin L. Johnson called Samuels a "very hardworking and successful businessman."
"The passing of Hayes Samuels is a huge loss to our community," Johnson said Wednesday morning after learning of Samuels' death. "His humanity, his generosity and his humble spirit will be sorely missed throughout our community and state."
"On a more personal note," Johnson said, "my family and I will miss all of his encouragement and the close friendship that we have shared over the years. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and to his staff at the funeral home and in the coroner's office."
Another one of Samuels' lifelong friends remembers the days when the two of them would run barefooted down Church Street past Samuels Funeral Home and the home Samuels shared with his family.
"Hayes Samuels and I grew up on Church Street at the same time," shared John Land, former senator and currently attorney in Manning. "I've known him since we were little boys running barefooted down Church Street."
"We've been good friends throughout the years," Land said. "We've been political friends and personal friends over the years. Hayes contributed greatly to this community through his business and his work as coroner. I'm heartbroken to know that he has died."
Ranny Stephens, one of Samuels' closest friends and colleagues, died in 2011. They shared more than just their love for Clarendon County. Both were morticians at their own family owned and operated funeral homes that were located just down the street from each other, and they both served Clarendon County as coroner. They were successful businessmen who humbly and often times anonymously gave back to their beloved community.
"I have a heavy heart today at the passing of Hayes Samuels," said Shayne Stephens, who owns Stephens Funeral Home and Crematory, the business his parents, Ranny and Pam Stephens, founded. "Hayes and his family have been friends to our family for as long as I can remember. He and my Daddy had the unique camaraderie of being funeral director/funeral home owners and coroners of Clarendon County. They had a very deep love and respect for one another that only comes from the experience of walking in each other's shoes. Those two always had one another's back, and they were known to get together and ride around the county, swapping stories, visiting people, sharing situations they had encountered, relishing a good joke or bouncing ideas off of one another."
"Hayes was a true professional in every sense of the word," Stephens shared. "He brought great honor to and performed the duties of the Clarendon County Coroner's Office excellently."
"It is a sad day for me personally, having to say goodbye to the devoted, dynamic, hardworking, loyal friend and contemporary," Stephens added. "Our working relationship was second to none. He will sorely be missed by everyone who had the privilege of working with him and being considered 'friend.'"
In a post on Facebook honoring his friend, Johnson shared words he'd heard Samuels use many times. "It's alright to go home, Hayes, when your work is done Servant of God, well done!"
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