In 1916, J.F. Floyd of Floyd Mortuary in Spartanburg suggested that John Woodward and several associates organize a local mortuary for citizens of color. Born in 1873, John Woodward was a farmer whose family originated in Fairfield County, SC.
John Woodward spearheaded the efforts to open the mortuary, so it went forward under the sole ownership of John Woodward d/b/a The John W. Woodward Funeral Home.
The mortuary was first located on Short Wofford Street in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
The mortuary moved to its current location at 594 Howard Street in 1946. The current location formerly housed a hospital for people of color in Spartanburg.
John Woodward died in 1947.
John Woodward’s son, Lawrence Woodward, moved to Brooklyn, New York and founded the Lawrence H. Woodward Funeral Home.
John Woodward’s son, John Stinson Woodward, born 1908, attended the Renard College of Mortuary Science in New York. After graduating, he returned to Spartanburg to serve as owner of The J.W. Woodward Funeral Home, Inc.
John Stinson Woodward was the driving force behind The J.W. Woodward Funeral Home for most of his life; up until his physical health prevented him from being so. For more than 75 years, he pioneered as a licensed funeral director and embalmer in the state of South Carolina.
Through The J.W. Woodward Funeral Home, Inc., John Stinson Woodward provided many services to the Spartanburg community that were not available to citizens of color at the time – including laundry services and banking and loan services for individuals, businesses, and churches.
John Stinson Woodward’s daughter, Kay Elizabeth Woodward, had obtained her funeral director’s license in 1980. She joined the mortuary staff full-time in 1985 after leaving her professorship position in the Psychology Department at Converse College.
Kay Woodward had previously been part-owner of the mortuary, and became Vice President when she joined in 1985. Kay Woodward became President and Owner of the mortuary at the time of her father’s death in 2002.
John Stinson Woodward’s nephew, George Herman Woodward, was a licensed funeral director and embalmer who supported the family business for many years until his death.
John Stinson Woodward’s nephew, Walter C. Woodward, also supported the family business for several years before his death.
The late Albert Crawford of Spartanburg was a dedicated employee of the mortuary for sixty years.
The late Ada Parks Owens of Spartanburg served the mortuary for fifty years.
The late Donald Cheatham served the mortuary for more than fifty years.
Reverend William E. Smith, licensed funeral director, has served the mortuary for 45 years and still does today.
Kay Woodward’s son, James Cleveland Ferguson, Jr., has supported the family business since 2005.
Kay Woodward’s daughter, Stinson Woodward Ferguson, a licensed attorney, is currently an apprentice funeral director at the family business under the supervision of her mother.
Stinson Ferguson joined the family business full-time in 2015 after leaving a private law firm.
Kay Woodward continues to serve as President and owner of the mortuary. She serves clients of the mortuary as well as the community through board service and philanthropy.
The J.W. Woodward Funeral Home, Inc. celebrates its 100-year anniversary during 2016. The mortuary is the oldest African-American business in Spartanburg. The J.W. Woodward Funeral Home currently serves and employs citizens of varying ethnic, religious, and social backgrounds.