Family, friends and colleagues are grieving the loss of longtime Clinton City Councilman Lawrence Caison, who passed away peacefully Sunday at the age of 86, leaving behind a legacy of service to community, dedication to hometown and love for family.
Born in Roseboro, Caison was a lifelong resident of Clinton. He served nearly a quarter century on the Clinton City Council, a 24-year span that stretched from his election in Dec. 6, 1977 to Dec. 4, 2001. In addition to his accomplishments over that six-term period on the Council, Caison was an established local entrepreneur and a known family man, many said.
“He was a very, very good man,” said Clinton Mayor Lew Starling. “I’d like to say I knew him all his life, but he knew me all my life. I was a friend of Mr. Caison’s; I shopped with him at his stores and observed him on the City Council and reviewed his work. He was always a very active member of the City Council.”
Mr. Caison’s private life was centered on his family and work as a partner or owner at Caison Brothers Building Supply, Hargrove’s Men Shop, Quick Way Stores and Caison Family Mart. He was a devoted member of the Lions Club, serving the group as treasurer. In 2003, he was selected as Lion of the Year and, in 2004, received the Jack Stickley Fellow Award, the organization’s highest honor.
Caison attended Clinton City Schools, Florida Military Academy and Florida Southern College where he was a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. After serving in the Navy, he joined Caison Brothers Building Supply with his two brothers. An entrepreneur at heart, Caison was constantly active in acquiring, improving and managing real estate.
He was also active in looking after his community. As a council member, he took great interest in the wide spectrum of city affairs.
“Mr. Caison was dedicated to the city, took a great interest in it and always was a true steward of the taxpayers money,” Starling said. “The recent successes of our community can be directly attributed to his service on the City Council and building a good foundation for the town.”
Among the notable accomplishments during Caison’s tenure on the City Council, he was directly involved with the expansion of Clinton City Hall to include a new administrative wing; the purchase and renovation of both the Wall Street Fire Station and the current Police Department facility; as well as the construction of the Bellamy Center at Royal Lane Park.
Pete Connet, who served as city manager from 1972 to 1984, said Caison gave all his efforts to the city of Clinton and working closely with staff in his Council capacity.
“I was manager when he was elected,” said Connet. “He was a very honest person and always supportive of staff and what we were trying to do. He was very forward-thinking and just a great guy to work with. He was always willing to help and I know he gave his all to the Council.”
Former city manager Tommy Combs agreed. While Connet worked with Caison during his first couple terms on the Council, Combs was manager for the bulk of Caison’s time on the board.
“Lawrence was always a very active City Council member and took great interest in the affairs of the city,” said Combs, who served 20 years as manager, including 17 years with Caison, from 1984 to 2001. “He had a real interest in the town and was easy to work with, and was very thorough in his decision-making. If he needed additional information to make a decision, he would ask for it.”
Even after their time serving the city, Combs said he kept in contact with Caison through the years and would visit him from time to time. He said he would hold very fond memories of Caison, who he noted made his community proud.
“Lawrence cared a great deal about Clinton and it was a great pleasure to have served with him during my days as the Clinton city manager,” said Combs. “He was a fine man.”
In honor of Caison’s service on City Council, all flags were being flown at half-mast on Monday and Tuesday. A lifelong member of the First United Methodist Church in Clinton, Caison will also be memorialized in a service set for 2 p.m. today (Tuesday). Family visitation will follow the service.
Caison is survived by his wife of 58 years, Rebecca Kirkland Caison and their children, Lawrence Johnson Caison Jr. of Raleigh, Nancy Caison Moore of Charlotte and Lucille Caison Sossaman of Raleigh, as well as his 10 grandchildren.
Caison married Becky, a school teacher from Durham, in 1954. They raised their three children on Parker Drive, where Caison’s two brothers and one of his three sisters also built homes and raised their families. Rarely did a week go by without some sort of family gathering, no surprise for a man who cherished family.
Caison’s death comes on the heels of longtime mayor Emsley Kennedy’s passing just last month and former Councilman and longtime employee Joe Best’s in April.
“It’s been a tough year for those folks who knew and worked with the people who were on the old City Council,” said Connet. Caison himself recognized that fact during two separate conversations with The Independent this year.
Caison spoke just last month on the occasion of Kennedy’s passing, acknowledging a man with whom he served 24 years. Months earlier, he similarly shared his thoughts about Best, a colleague to whom he was related through marriage.
He shared kind words for both men, praising their dedication and intellect during years of well-respected service to the community, as well as their strong commitment to family. The city of Clinton was fortunate to have them, he said.
Now, many are sharing the same sentiment about Caison.
“He was a very well-respected businessman, a great family man and just a solid citizen in every regard,” Starling said. “This is a great loss to the city.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.