Happy Birthday Mary Shivers: Pope Francis would’ve been proud.

mary classic

The Papal Conclave Day Two

They say as long as you are spoken of, you never really die. If that’s true, Mary Shivers warrants immortality. Though she left this Earth while Pope Francis was still known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the then-Archbishop of Buenos Aries would surely be smiling if he had known the life lived by this selfless South Carolinian of the highest order. In fact, this lifelong Baptist’s life story could be ripped from the pages of Saint Francis of Assisi ‘s “Guide To A Better World”,had he ever paused long enough to pen one.st-francis-of-assisi-ws Mary Shivers was preceded in death by another notable Franciscan-follower: Mother Teresa. Three years ago, I wrote an op-ed piece for The State Newspaper in an attempt to pay tribute to Mary Shivers– the South Carolina Saint– by comparing her to Teresa of Calcutta–the Saint-In-Progress. I hope an updated re-publication this piece is warranted today. Happy Birthday Mary Shivers: Pope Francis would’ve been proud.



Lower Richland County, S.C. is a far cry from Calcutta, India; however, they share an extraordinary commonality: Each has lost an Icon who personified altruism. Both Icons were ladies from poor upbringings yet self-motivated. Both women testified to have specifically felt the call of God at age twelve. The obvious half of this equation is Mother Teresa. The less obvious, Mary Shivers, would have turned 86 today.

Like the early Mother Teresa, Mary Shivers was unconventional. She rose to action without prompt. Took the initiative. Stepped boldly before the Throne in an effort to help those less fortunate. Unlike the established Teresa of Calcutta, Mary Shivers did not receive her orders from The Holy See; rather, she created, from scratch, an intricate network and an innate sense of “Community” in Lower Richland County, South Carolina that could – at a moment’s notice – console a new widow, clothe a needy child, feed a hungry family, open up a shut-in, fund a lifesaving operation or, in my experience, elect a public official.

Twenty-six years ago, I faced an uphill battle as an unknown, inexperienced, unconnected, anti-establishment write-in candidate for House District 80. Blowing in to my makeshift campaign headquarters after an unproductive morning of fundraising, I was delighted to see the message light flashing on my machine. “This is Mary. I have a Beauty Salon. You don’t know me. We don’t know you. I got your letter. It’s O.K., but we’re pretty upset out here and you might want to stop by the shop to talk about it.” “Oh yea, it’s on Terry Street. You’ll find it.”

mary workingBefore the answering machine reset, I was out the door. Within five minutes, I was sitting in a single-wide, amongst six animated, big-haired women convening for their weekly “wash-and-sets.” The only thing more pungent than the chemicals in the air was the realization that I had stumbled into what can only be described as a “central nervous system” of public opinion. In over two decades that have followed that first meeting at Mary’s Beauty Salon, I have faced some tough times and rough audiences, but none surpasses this fundamental initiation into politics. Five hours later, I emerged from the single-wide, a little dizzier and LOT savvier than when I had entered it.

At Mary Shivers’ visitation and funeral on January 10, 2011, you only needed to look around the crowd to see that my political rite of passage was just the first of many to follow for Richland County politicians:Darrell Jackson, Gary Watts, Jimmy Bales, Leon Lott, Joe Neal, Tony Mizzell, Bernice Scott and many more elected and non-elected politicos punctuated the standing room-only celebration of a life well-lived.

But to describe Mary Shivers as a mere political influence should be classified as a Class-A Felony!

I truly think it fair to say that no person breathing air on this Earth could live a MORE God-centered life than Mary Shivers. Race, creed, color, national origin, orientation (party or sexual) were of no consequence to her. A charter member of Temple Baptist Church and the proud mother of renowned Evangelist Frank “Brother” Shivers, Mary had a strict moral code, which, incidentally, would never include casting judgment on others: “I hate the Sin, but love the Sinner.” She was also quick to admit her own weaknesses: “Don’t judge a book by its cover; don’t judge a Preacher by his mother!” I can close my eyes and see her saying it to this day.


Mary Shivers was blessed with an energy that few mortals share. She was impossible to keep up with. The Capital View Homeowners’ Association, Order of the Eastern Star, Richland County Sheriff’s Department, Lower Richland Ruritan Club, Red Hat Society and Camp Longridge were just a few of the organizations whose lifeblood pulsed through her veins. Additionally, Mary was a near full-time caterer who assigned every dime of revenue to charity. All this while working full-time as a licensed beautician since 1963.

Albeit not by her design, Mary received accolades during her lifetime from her community, her church, the Richland County Council and Sheriff, the South Carolina House and Senate and the Office of the Governor. But, it was SERVICE, not honors or accolades that drove this Lady.

mary classic

Nearly everyone whom I have come across in life selfishly houses some want in return for his efforts. I am no different. I worked hard for my District when elected, but I selfishly wanted my constituent’s vote in return. At my law office, I work hard for my clients, but I selfishly want to get paid for my services. This is where Mary Shivers stands alone. With the unparalleled, gargantuan workload this one woman consistently maintained throughout her 83 years, she never held a selfish want for a single thing. Ever. It was always about others.

There’s no doubt that Mary Shivers was a second mother to me. Just like two weeks ago, back on January 10,2011 Columbia was blanketed with a beautiful cover of snow. As I sat in my Florida Room enjoying this novelty with my own Mother, I suddenly noticed that my brand new Christmas wristwatch had stopped at 3:30 pm. As had the clock in my living room. As had the clock on my bedroom wall. All stopped at exactly 3:30 pm. I knew Mary Shivers was ill; I was just not allowing myself to accept how ill.

As I drove Mom home, I feared what I was to learn an hour later. Mary’s daughter Linda called to tell me she had died. At precisely 3:30 pm.

In her own way, Mary was telling me goodbye. I hope that this forum, while unconventional, is an appropriate place for me do the same. God bless you, Mary Shivers. Mother Teresa, Welcome your Sister.

James “Bubba” Cromer

Former Richland County House Representative, District #80

Reading Clerk, S.C. House of Representatives

Attorney, Cromer Law Offices, LLC

Originally Published in The State Newspaper, March 1, 2011

20 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Mary Shivers: Pope Francis would’ve been proud.

  1. John on said:

    Sad that such a wonderful woman is now absent your life. We need so many more like her. The air in our population is so thick these days with negativity, outrage and malaise. More of us should follow her example in life.

  2. Wonderwoman on said:

    I believe it – there are things in this universe that we do not understand.

  3. Pat Chisum on said:

    Such a great story about the life of a great woman. Although I never met Ms. Shivers, I have run across people who have and they all have glowing reviews of her. I am glad that I was reminded of her life and it has given me a chance to think about my own life.

  4. Thomas on said:

    I never had the pleasure of meeting her, which I am sorry for. She must have been an amazing person to go through life with so little thought of herself. I don’t necesarily believe that exprecting something in return for your hard work is wrong or selfish, because that is how some people can truly appreciate and take pride in their work. But for a person to expect nothing in return except the joy and happiness of others is amazing, and a little too rare in the world today. If more people in our society had the same self-less mind-set as Ms. Shivers, this world would be a much better place to live in.

  5. Worker Bee on said:

    One of God’s angels amongst us…and how great that you recognized her. I was discussing the recent and unexpected passing of Mr. Bardin of the Legislative Audit Council, and a lifelong friend of his was telling me wonderful tales about him…and then I read this article. Well, it certainly makes one pause to reflect, “What would the people who know me say about me when I’ve gone?” And wouldn’t you like it if they could honestly come anywhere close to your tribute here? It’s nice to know that generous, kind, and loving people are still appreciated!

  6. Mary on said:

    Condolences to you Bubba,for your loss of someone who touched your life and made it better because of it. You paid great tribute to a great lady. I moved to her area about 8 years ago and that’s one of the first persons I heard about, what a wonderful life legacy she left and hopefully all those who were touch in their life succeed as well as you have. I’m sure she says thanks for the wonderful kind words.

  7. Barbara Whitmire on said:

    Such a touching story. I didn’t know her personally but she sounds like the kind of person we all wish to be. God works in mysterious ways and this is just one example of many. She ask for nothing in return but her life was filled with more than she could have expected. You were so blessed to have met such a person in your life. She may be gone in life but her presence will be with you forever. I know she will be greatly missed and I hope that her life’s work will be carried on in such a manner that she did. Thank you for such a kind and loving story. This has touched me greatly. Please share more because there are alot of good still left in this world .

  8. Stephanie Shivers McLawhorn on said:

    My family and I are overwelmed by your oupour of love during these difficult days without our precious MeMe. We appreciate your love expressed through cards, flowers, emails, words or just by your presence. Although we grieve her loss on this earth, we know that she is face to face with her Saviour and is no longer suffering. We long await the day to join her and other loved ones as we worship our God and King. May her life serve as a testimony of the service God has called each of us to. For I know no other person who has served people on this earth like my MeMe. So thankful for the blessing of her in my life for 29 years and that I could call her MeMe.

  9. Mary Alexander on said:

    Time to write a play…sort of like Steel Magnolias!

  10. Ellison on said:

    I truly wish I had known miss. Mary. Xo

  11. Terrie on said:

    How very fortunate you were to have such a gracious, unselfish and accepting person in your life. In these present times of so much intolerance, acrimony and judgment we can only hope that more people like this will become a force in the community of humanity.

  12. Linda Shivers Bleckley on said:

    Oh Bubba, how wonderful of you to share Mom’s life story with so many people. I just cry everytime I read it because I miss her so. She was an amazing woman, only if I can be a portion of the woman she was. We know she loved to serve and meet the needs of so many, so unselfess. She loved you dearly, brother. You have been such an important “brother” in our family. Thank you again for such a wonderful tribute to Mom. We know she is in heaven organizing the feast for the second coming of our Savior. Oh what an amazing feast that will be. Love you bunches, Sis

  13. Polly on said:

    The world needs more women like this, and more friends like you. Mary was a phenom in this community. Thank you for this tribute.

  14. carolyn on said:

    God gives us many gifts in our lives and Mary Shivers certainly qualifies as one of the very best. She did not simply sit and criticize she worked to make politics a better place for all of us.

  15. Andrew Williams on said:

    Normally, I have a comedic approach to commenting on your Facebook wall, or on here – not this time. Bravo! (A lot of folks feel blessed to know you, also.)

  16. Larry Reid on said:

    A brilliant post about a true gem of a person! While I never met Mary (and that is obviously my loss), it’s refreshing to read about a person who lives through her deeds and was not motivated by self. It appears that there were many from the midlands who benefitted from her works, and so long as tributes like this one are written, she will always walk among us in spirit. Oh-loved the phrase “and never judge a preacher by his mother”. Excellent!

  17. Danna Rohleder on said:

    What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful lady. Thank you, Bubba, for taking the time to recognize her and to reaffirm for all of us that real beauty comes from within. Selfless giving in our world today is a much need attribute but long gone from the media’s reporting.

  18. Danna Rohleder on said:

    What a beautiful commentary for a beautiful woman. Thank you, Bubba, for taking the time to reaffirm what we all know. Real, lasting beauty comes from within. It is truly my loss for not having the pleasure of knowing her.

  19. Bill Rabon on said:

    Everyone should be lucky enough to have the influence of a wonderfull person like her in there lives. It is very sad that she is no longer with us. Just can’t imagine the good she did, not only with those lucky enough to be directly influenced by her, but the good done by those she influenced and those they influenced and on and on. God Bless.

  20. Kim Watson on said:

    I had the pleasure of meeting Mary Shivers when I worked at Cromer and Mayberry law office along with Bubba in the mid 90’s.
    The first time I answered the phone and Mary was on the other end of the line I knew by the
    tone of her voice that she was a strong character and later on I found out that she truly was just that.
    One Christmas Mary catered a party for Bubba and his Family in Columbia and it was the first time I had ever seen an asparagus center piece, each spear of asparagus was intricately separated and placed standing straight up all over a giant mound of crushed ice.
    It was a master piece and delicious as was everything that Mary had laid out that night and it was perfect because Bubba’s mom Carolyn approved of it and that says it all.
    Bubba used to tell me that Mary could fix big hair if I wanted some help with mine.
    I’m sorry to say I never took him up on it I’m sure it would have been an adventure.
    Mary played a big part in Bubba’s life and I know how much you must miss her, I am truly sorry
    for the loss of Mary Shivers .

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