Mary Frances Lankford Free

Published 3:58 pm Monday, January 3, 2011

Entered into eternal rest on the morning of January 2, 2011, Mary Frances Lankford Free, Residence, Moncks Corner, SC. The relatives and friends of Mary Lankford Free are invited to attend her memorial service in The Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul, 126 Coming St., Charleston, Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 2:00 PM. Inurnment, Franklin, VA. Friends may call at the church one hour prior to service.

Mrs. Free was born October 5, 1926 in Franklin, VA, the daughter of Reggie Ralston Lankford and Julia Griffin Lankford. She graduated from Converse College in Spartanburg, SC in 1948 with a B.A. degree, with majors in music and sociology. She attended Richmond Professional Institute of the College of William and Mary (now Virginia Commonwealth University) in 1949-1950 and 1952-1953, graduating from the graduate School of Social Work in 1953 with a Master of Science degree in Social Work.

After graduation she stayed in the field of Social Services where her duties consisted of social work in the Emergency Room, In-patient Medical Services and Out-patient Medical Clinic. In 1954 she went to work at Greenville General Hospital as Director of Social Service Department for Robert Toomey where she set up the first Social Service Department in the hospital and directed it for eleven years.

In September 1965 she moved to Charleston and worked for eight years as Director of Planning for the United Way. She was very instrumental in working with the staff and the Community Relations Committee. This committee emerged from the Hospital Strike of 1969, and continued to work to facilitate peaceful conflict resolution between the police and the community.

In November 1974, she worked on a research project that dealt with juveniles and the juvenile justice system. In November 1976, she became a social worker at the Dialysis Clinic, Inc., Charleston, SC, for Dr. Arthur Williams. In April 1979, Mary became the Director of the Social Service Department at Mary Black Hospital in Spartanburg, SC.

In January 1981, working in partnership with the Charleston City Police Department a contract was developed to update their fingerprint files with SLED and the FBI. Mary also monitored trials of multiple offenders to help determine if any changes needed to be made in the training of their police to be good witnesses, in following procedures and learning how they might be more effective in aiding in the prosecution of multiple offenders.

In 1983, Mary graduated from the College of Charleston, with a Masters Degree, in Early Childhood Education. July 1983 she was hired by the Board of Directors of the Charleston Ronald McDonald house to open up and make operational this new facility. In April of 1984, she completed the academic requirements for certification to teach Educable Mentally Handicapped children.

Mary has traveled internationally for a Catholic bishop while working for Catholic Charities and assisted with international adoptions and she was a Charter member of the National Association of Social Workers, registered in the State of South Carolina and Accredited nationally.

Mary volunteered as a consultant to the Episcopal Church Home in their efforts to build facilities for older people. She worked closely with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and Housing and Urban Development. Mary was a member of The Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul, served on the Vestry and served as the church treasurer.

One of the most cherished moments of Mary’s life was being recognized by The Blue Ridge Institute for Southern Community Service Executives. This was a very special part of Mary’s life. This 80-plus year summer institute recognized Mary’s 50th anniversary noting that she never missed a single year in all of that time. She loved sitting on the Abbott Porch, and regaling newcomers with stories of the founders and attendees, all told with laughter and love.

She is survived by her daughters; Sharon Waites (Weldon) of Columbia, SC, Jenny Scott (Danny) of Columbia, SC and son; Mark Free (Beth) of Moncks Corner, SC, five grandchildren and seven great grandchildren, brother, Norman Lankford of Franklin, VA, many nieces and nephews. Mary was preceded in death by her brother Thurman Lankford.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Hospice of Charleston, 676 Wando Park Blvd, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464. A memorial message may be written to the family by visiting our website at