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          James L. Coker, LL. D., manufacturer and financier, was born at Society Hill, Darlington County, South Carolina, January 3, 1837. He was the son of Caleb and Hannah (Lide) Coker. His father was a merchant and planter, whose business was extensive. He held no public office except that of magistrate for his district. He was distinguished for integrity, close attention to business and for sound judgment. His family, and that of Mrs. Coker, were representatives of the highest type of character. On his paternal side, James Coker was a descent from Thomas Coker, who came to South Carolina from Virginia about 1740. On his maternal side, his early ancestors in this country were John Holloway, who was born in Virginia in 1719, and whose parents are supposed to have come from England; and Robert Lide, who was born in Virginia in 1734 and was of Welsh descent. These all settled on the Pee Dee River, and their descendants are still numerous in that locality. Robert Lide was a Major in Marion’s celebrated brigade in the Revolutionary War, was commissioner for the Cheraws in 1784, and the following year he was a justice in Darlington county.

          James Coker had no difficulties in obtaining an education, and schools which he attended were of the best. He studied at Saint David’s Academy, Society Hill; the Arsenal Academy; and at South Carolina Military Academy, known as the Citadel, 1853-1857, but did not graduate. Later he attended the Harvard University Scientific School, in which he studied chemistry and botany and attended lectures on zoology, in 1858, but did not take a degree.

          The active work of life was commenced in 1858, as a planter at Hartsville, South Carolina. He own personal preference determined the choice of his occupation. With his work of planting he, after the war, united that of merchant and carried on affairs until 1905. From 1874-1881 he was a member of the firm of cotton factors known as Norwoods & Coker, at Charleston, South Carolina. He also entered the banking business and engaged in manufacturing. He became president of the National Bank of Darlington, of the Bank of Darlington, and also president of the Bank of Hartsville. In the manufacturing line he was president of the Carolina Fiber Company, making paper from wood fiber, since 1890. He was the president of the Southern Novelty Company, Director of the Darlington Manufacturing Company and Director of the Hartsville Cotton mill.

          On the opening of the Civil War, he entered the Confederate Service as a Captain in Company G, Ninth South Carolina Infantry. In 1862 thru 1864 he was Captain of Company E, of the Sixth South Carolina Volunteer Infantry, and in 1864 thru 1865 he was a Major of that same regiment. In 1863 he was severely wounded as to be disabled for active military service, and was elected a member of the legislature, in which he served for two years. He published in 1899, “The History of Company E, Sixth South Carolina Volunteer Infantry,” which is interesting to the surviving members of that company, and to their families. It is a valuable historic account today. Mr. Coker was deeply interest in education and it was his desire that the facilities for study keep pace with the demands of our public.

          Mr. Coker married Susan Armstrong Stout, on March 28, 1860. They had ten children.


Men Of Mark in South Carolina, Volume I


James Calvin Hemphill



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