“Larger than life” is one way that Ken Harmon is remembered by the many friends he left behind in the community he called home for more than 50 years.
He was tall in stature, with a great, booming voice, and the size of his personality was rivaled only by the size of his heart, according to those who knew him best.
Harmon, 82, died Wednesday, January 24, at his home in Bennettsville. He was laid to rest Saturday, January 27, in the cemetery of his beloved First United Methodist Church.
He leaves behind a legacy of service to his community. At the time of his death, he was executive director of the Bennettsville Downtown Development Association, a position he held for about 30 years.
Among his proudest accomplishments with BDDA were the creation of a flag committee, whose efforts resulted in 158 American flags being flown in downtown Bennettsville on holidays, and the Leadership Bennettsville and Junior Leadership Bennettsville classes, which teach leadership skills and community pride to adults and teenagers.
“He was the main spokesman for BDDA, and he gave his full devotion and loyalty to it,” said Bill Kinney Jr. of the BDDA board. “He was very well known and loved in the statewide organization (Main Street South Carolina) and by other managers across the state.”
Harmon was originally from Quincy, Florida. He attended the University of Florida and then joined the U.S. Army, serving in Germany.
He came to Bennettsville more than 50 years ago to serve as manager/operator of WBSC Radio, of which he would later be co-owner.
Through WBSC, he became known as “The Voice of Marlboro County.”
That is also how he came to know Ivy McLaurin, to whom he gave her first job “fresh out of college” in 1978. She recalled his tender heart was on display when, three years after hiring her, he had to let her go when business declined.
“HE cried,” McLaurin said. “Then he got busy and found another job for me. I never missed a paycheck. And a year later, he hired me back.”
The two would later become business partners, and their friendship spanned nearly four decades.
“He has been woven into the fabric of my life since 1978,” McLaurin said. “If I needed to know who, what, when, how or why, I called Ken. He was the Marlboro County equivalent of Google. If he wanted to know how to spell things correctly, he called me. We went back and forth like that. He has taken a wealth of knowledge with him, but he tried his best to share that knowledge with anyone who would listen. Every time I pause to ponder if ‘sheriff’ has one ‘r’ or two, I’ll think of him.”
Harmon was active in many community organizations over the years, including the Rotary Club of Bennettsville, the Marlboro Area Arts Council, and the Bennettsville Jaycees. An animal lover, he helped organize the Humane Society of Marlboro County in 1998. He also served on both the Marlboro County School Board and the South Carolina Board of Education.
He was an active member of First United Methodist Church, where he sang in the choir for more than 40 years and was a member of the Pledger Hodges Sunday school class. He had recently been elected to a three-year term as chair of the church’s administrative council.