Remembering our friend Greg Flowers

Last week, we lost one of our regulars here on the blog: Greg Flowers, a man who personified the kind of civility and thoughtfulness that has always been the goal of this community.

I don’t know if you saw his obituary over the weekend, but here’s what ran on thestate.com:

William Flowers

COLUMBIA – William “Greg” Flowers, 52, died March 15, 2010. Born August 6, 1957, in Columbia he was a son of the late William L. and Nancy Green Flowers. He was a graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Law and the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn. Surviving are his brother, Steve Flowers of Columbia, and several cousins. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the United Way, 1800 Main St., Columbia, SC 29201. Please sign the online guestbook at www.dunbarfunerals.com.

Greg first started commenting on the old blog in the last year or so of its active existence. His very last comment was a good example of what we had come to expect from Greg. On Dec. 10, the last time we heard from him, he took me to task gently but firmly, demanding in his own reasonable way that I — who talk so much about civility — be fairer to him and others of the small-government point of view. Here is that last comment:

I think you make a mistake when you assume all small government types (and I am one) want to, as you so often quote Grover Norquist as saying, shrink government to a size where it can be drowned in the bathtub. That is a gross overgeneralization. I doubt Nikki Haley wants no government. She has been active in the governmental process. One who wants less government than you do is not an anarchist, merely one who feels that 1) in some areas we could get buy with less regulation; 2) many functions performed by government could be contracted to private firms with government acting as contract administrator; and 3) many necessary function are currently performed inefficiently as a result of the lack of a profit motive. While I know you find those who want less government than you to be tedious and nonsensical I find your broad brush mischaracterizations to be the same.
I don’t mean to be uncivil here, I just wish you would listen to what each individual is saying before you drop them under a handy label.

I smile when I read that, because whenever Greg called attention to my own failure to be sufficiently civil, he was generally right on the money. And I appreciated it, and him — even though we never met.

Greg was waked by his friends yesterday at Goatfeathers. And here the ironies abound. I learned of that wake today from Robert Ariail, who knew Greg personally rather than just in the blogosphere. I asked Robert what time Greg’s friends had gathered. He said 2 p.m. Wow. I was right across the street at that time having lunch and a couple of beers (it being Sunday, and Sunday not counting in Lent) with my wife and youngest daughter.

I pointed that out, and Robert said, “You realize the day before was our anniversary?…” And yes, I did. In the early evening of March 20, 2009, Robert and I left The State for the last time and headed for Yesterday’s. We each had a pint there, where the owner of Goatfeathers (another old friend of Robert’s) found us and insisted we go over to his place and have a few on him. So we went to Goatfeathers and, you might say, had an impromptu wake for our newspaper careers.

But my virtual friendship with Greg was not of the past, or so I would have thought. The kind of civil forum that he was instrumental in trying to build is a continuing laboratory in which we try to discover what will come after newspapers. I truly appreciate Greg’s sincere contributions to that endeavor.

He will be missed here at bradwarthen.com.

5 thoughts on “Remembering our friend Greg Flowers

  1. Doug Ross

    Greg’s three points on smaller government reflect the views of many of us.

    My condolences to his family and friends.

    Reply
  2. Brad Warthen

    Greg could dole out praise as well as civil criticism, and he could also inspire me to take some chances here on the blog. For instance, on Nov. 30 he wrote:

    Brad, you obviously don’t think Bauer is a sharp guy (neither do I). This leads to an interesting question. You have had (I believe) the opportunity to interact with all ten of the announced candidates for Governor. How would you rank them in terms of raw smarts (squishy term that that is)? Ranking in tiers will be fine. This has nothing to do with policy agreement, just mental horsepower.

    That inspired me to do a rather indiscreet thing that, as it turns out, a number of you seemed to appreciate. That was my post headlined, “Ranking the gubernatorial candidates intellectually.” Greg was among those who appreciated it (one would hope so, since it was his idea), and wrote as follows:

    Thanks for rising to the challenge. All of your caveats are well taken. This was not supposed to ascertain the best candidate.

    As someone who generally votes Republican I would agree that the top three Republican candidates are not a strong lot. I would place McMaster lower than you do. I don’t know enough about Grooms to say anything one way or the other.

    I might have Haley replace Sheheen on the top tier, however both seem to be mentally creative and to have intellectual curiosity.

    What you said about Rex is spot on, I think he will be sorry he left Education.

    Drake is super smart in a practical sense. He has a lot of negatives (lobbying clients not least among them) which I think will keep him from winning the primary.

    Yes, this is intended as a conversation starter and I hope no one takes it personally or as anything other than honest opinion.
    You are a brave man for doing it. Thanks.

    Reply
  3. Kathryn Fenner

    I thought Greg’s post that asked (I rejected “goaded” or even “nudged”–Greg had the kind of straightforward, non-passive aggressive, non-vitriolic voice that simply “asked” politely) you to rank the candidates was one of the most brilliant suggestions ever.

    He and I were hardly in the same tent politically most of the time, yet I had some of the most illuminating and satisfying exchanges with him here on the blog. He was such an intellectual gentleman.

    Ave atque vale

    Reply
  4. Steve Gordy

    Greg was the antithesis of Yeats’ observation that “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” We will miss him greatly.

    Reply

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