VIC’s View: The 5th Person To Die


** Today: 313 virus cases in Clinton, projected for 2,236; 819 virus cases in Laurens County, projected for 5,850 (July 15, 2020) - 14 deaths.


I believe that the fifth victim of COVID-19 in Laurens County was Maurice Simmons, who worked at Whitten Center. A graduate of Barber-Scotia College from Dothan, N.C., Simmons was a well-respected coach and a proud Black man, judging from his Facebook page.

His obituary says Simmons died June 26 at the Laurens Community (actually, County) Hospital; that’s about the same day as SC DHEC announced a fifth virus victim for Laurens County (June 28 news release). The state health agency’s release said this fifth victim was a “middle-age” individual; Simmons’ obituary lists him as 41. On June 30, a doctor gave the Laurens City Council a COVID-19 briefing and mentioned 21 people with the virus in the local hospital, one on a ventilator there, a report said. Since then the state announced Laurens County's 14th death with the virus.

The funeral for Maurice Simmons was July 3 in a church parking lot. People were to stay in their cars.

There was a story done about his death by a Charleston TV station (June 27), since Simmons was a coach in Colleton County (Walterboro), which is considered the gateway to the coast. A posting said Simmons felt sick, then two days later, he was dead. His passing leaves a void in a lot of lives.

He had just been in Juneteenth pictures, a post said. In mid- to late-May, he posted three photos of Malcolm X. The tributes to him have what whites would describe as “street language” - this was a man proud of who and what he was, judging from his tributes. The state has said more than 80 people affiliated with the Whitten Center Campus, an icon in the Clinton community, are confirmed COVID-19 cases. “Pray for us” is a common theme among the social media of these current and former employees -- some families have weighed in, as well.

One person who posted is pulling together a shirt for Maurice Simmons - but doesn’t even know where to start. Some people said they did not know the outbreak at Whitten Center was “this massive.” Semi-pro ball, big cuz, your possum, big homie, Pungie, Rest in Power -- all are part of the reactions to Simmons’ death. “Colleton County remembers ‘Coach Mo’ after passing” is the headline for the WCIV-TV on-line article linked to Maurice Simmons’ Facebook page. Someone reproduced this message from Maurice: June 24 at 10:16 pm: “Gotta stay focus and strong ... if I haven’t told you lately i love you all ... im beat this!!”

His family decided they could not accept visitors after his passing.

It seems Maurice had an awesome hat collection!

On June 17, Maurice Simmons updated his cover photo - with all the Black Superheroes. He posted very powerful images on May 29 and May 27. The TV station article says Big Mo started learning the coaching craft at USC-Salkehatchie. He coached at Colleton County High School and Colleton Prep. “He was a guy that genuinely cared,” a fellow coach is quoted as saying. 

I did not know Maurice Simmons. I did not seek “confirmation” that his passing was COVID. I did not allow myself to get blocked by HIPPA. I just got a message and followed a lead. 

What I found strikes me with a profound sense of loss.

If you scroll Maurice’s page, you will see this, June 15: “Rock bottom will teach you lessons that mountain tops never will.” I am sorry, everyone, for your loss.


(Vic MacDonald is editor of The Clinton Chronicle. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Chronicle. MacDonald can be reached at 833-1900 or



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