David Ashby Farrow left this world for an eternal one the afternoon of Friday, April 13 — just ahead of happy hour and the traffic jams he hated. After fighting the “Big C” for the third title fight, this former boxing student of the legendary Mr. Matty Matthews caught a knockout blow. Born in Charleston on October 28, 1952, to the late Emily Ravenel Farrow and John Ashby Farrow, David, age 65, was an early participant on Team Mercury and wrote for us as recently as the end of March.
He was his own man and fearless; he kept up the fight because he loved life, Charleston and a lovely lady from Maine, Kristin Gustafson — the one he called his “perfect angel.” David wanted to write more columns and his memoirs, but the bell rang much too soon.
Nonetheless, David packed a whole lot of living into his time on this earth. He grew up at 64 South Battery, on the family’s farm on Old Town Road and on his father’s plantation on the Dawhoo River. He was predeceased by his parents, and by his brother, Michael Ashby Farrow, in 2014.
David attended Charleston Day School, Aiken Preparatory School and Christ School in Arden, N.C. He began college at George Washington University and finished at the College of Charleston. His summer jobs during college became fodder for his many columns, including the time when the late John G. Thornhill gave him the moniker of “Tin Grippah.” This nickname arrived when David was part of a house painting crew and he held on to a roof for dear life while caught in the whirling winds of a summer afternoon thunderstorm.
David was a creative and imaginative soul of the Old South and produced a popular video called the “Magical Mystery Tour of Charleston” in which he interviewed many longtime locals. When asked about the video, Charles Kuralt said: “David Farrow’s tour is full of the gossipy innuendo that defines the Southern eccentric!” He authored wrote many short stories that wove known events with his vast imagination. In 1997, his novel The Root of All Evil was published; this was a tale of Lowcountry haints, root doctors and local characters — some suave and brave like the author, he liked to say with his classic wink.
In his early years, David worked as a reporter at the News and Courier and as the owner and editor of his own newspaper, the Charleston Times. For several years, he authored a fresh revival of the erstwhile “Do You Know Your Charleston” column in the Post and Courier. Readers of this paper know that David had a long running and much beloved column in the salmon sheets, the “Pluff Mud Chronicles,” penned with publisher and longtime friend, Charles Waring.
David was well known for his passion for protecting Charleston, a commitment that gave rise to his campaign for mayor of his beloved city in 2010. He ran on the pithy slogan “Charleston is a community, not a commodity.” He bravely addressed livability issues that few would touch, but he was ahead of the curve, as we witness the explosion of traffic, hotels, cruise ship visits and “belching tubes of steel” carrying dozens at a time from off.
No one loved this city more than David Farrow; he had been in the tour guide business for several years, but he knew the tipping point and was not shy about shouting it from any forum he could find.
He also loved the Lowcountry countryside and the marsh-laden vistas; he especially enjoyed the Rockville Regatta weekend and going to visit old friends and hopping from porch to porch to chat while catching welcome breezes filtered through waving Spanish moss. This is where David’s heart was — being with “we people” in those special places that still thrive and ooze verisimilitude by the croaker sack. Rest your minds and know that David is at peace, as he knew his eternal destiny was even better than a Lowcountry piazza party.
Memorials in David’s memory may be made to the Confederate Home, 62 Broad Street, Charleston, 29401. We at the Charleston Mercury shall miss our brother in ink — he was an old school Charleston character of the rarest order.