Lila Mae Brock wanted to be a foreign missionary but she found the need just as great in Southernside, just a few blocks from Greenville’s Main Street.
The community was deteriorating, with unemployment, dilapidated buildings and empty lots commonplace. But Brock wouldn’t let it die.
She pushed for a community center and for affordable apartments for the area’s senior citizens.
Brock, who died in 1996, will be honored by the city with a bronze statue at West Washington and Hudson streets near the entrance to Unity Park, the city’s newest park.
“She set a Christ-like example for all of us,” said Mary Duckett, a Southernside community activist and president of Southernside Neighborhoods in Action. “She had a Christ-like spirit she exemplified every day. She was a role model who set an example for everyone. There could not be a more fitting entrance to the park.”
Greenville’s Charles Pate Jr. is the artist. He also did “Regenesis,” a piece that shows a sculptor carving himself out of a tree as a metaphor for Greenville’s transformation; and “Fear Not,” the lion sculpture in the Cancer Survivor’s Park’s children’s garden.
Brock, who is the mother of Greenville City Councilwoman Lillian Brock Flemming, moved to Southernside in 1938. After she retired as a cafeteria operator for the Greenville County Schools in the 1970s, she focused on fighting poverty, crime, and neglect in Southernside.
After the Southernside Community Center opened in 1982, the first year’s bills were paid with church donations and Brock’s Social Security checks. As the center’s director, she operated and coordinated several programs, including a noon meal program, supervised recreation, tutoring, and an after-school program.
“She saw men eating out of the trash and started a feeding program,” said Mae Bell Cruell, a Southernside resident. “It was an effort to make sure no one went hungry.”
Brock helped obtain Department of Housing and Urban Development funds to build 68 apartments for the elderly and disabled. The complex was named Brockwood Apartments in her honor.
She was the recipient of the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest civilian honor, and the Jefferson Award.