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John Upshaw Downs
McFarland Funeral Chapel / Harwell-Wheeler Funeral Home
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John Upshaw Downs


John Upshaw Downs, Sr., of Tryon, North Carolina and Charleston, South Carolina entered into paradise on September 9, 2010. He was born on February 7, 1932, the only son of Ora Upshaw Downs and Dr. John Ayman Downs. He attended Porter Military Academy in Charleston. During World War II he attended Athens High School in Athens, Georgia and afterwards, Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia. There he constructed a fight ring, resurrecting the sport of boxing and staged “Fight Nights.” At Episcopal, he was the first declaimer, first debater, and first recipient of the Williams Fellows Page Memorial Poetry Prize. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he was a wrestler and a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity.


He served in the United States Navy during the Korean War.


After the war, he entered the insurance business where he remained for 55 years. He was a life member of the Million Dollar Round Table of the National Association of Life Underwriters and a member of the Round Table’s Quarter Century Club. He helped found the industry’s professional designation for health insurance, Charter RHU. He was president of Carolina Multimark Corp. and the Physician’s Agency. Most recently, he became case coordinator for the medicolegal firm, forensX, LLC.


He served as a Trustee of Porter Gaud School and President of their Alumni Association. He served for nine years on the Board of St. Lukes’s Hospital in Tryon, North Carolina and served as Board Treasurer. He was on the Board of Foothills Medical Center and a founding member of the Palmer and Jervey Society. He was a founder and life member of the Polk County Gun Club, a member of the Carolina Yacht Club in Charleston, and a life member of the Hibernian Society. He was Past President of the Society of the Bell and a member of St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church in Charleston.


He is survived by his wife of 36 years, Merle Rippy Downs, and six children: Arnall Downs of Gainesville, Florida; Julia “Bambi” Downs of Charleston, South Carolina; John Upshaw Downs, Jr., of Charleston, South Carolina; Dr. Jamie Downs of Savannah, Georgia; Burwell Smith of Avery County, North Carolina; and Clare Boone Smith of Tryon, North Carolina and ten grandchildren.


McFarland Funeral Chapel, Tryon, NC, and Harwell-Wheeler Funeral Home, Covington, Ga. are in charge of the services and burial at 11:00 am Monday September 13, 2010 at the Covington City Cemetery in Covington, Georgia.


In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be sent to Hospice of the Carolina Foothills, 130 Forest Glenn Dr. Columbus, NC 28722.


An online guest register is available at