Long-time Pee Dee columnist publishes first volume of her weekly columns


FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – A 92-year-old local journalist just self-published a book that holds a collection of her past weekly columns called “Life in the Past Lane.”

“I loved reading and writing from as early as I can remember; those were my passions as a child,” said author Mildred Browder-Hughes.

Her passions have remained the same ever since she published her first column in 1942.

“I have written so much about the past that so many young people today know nothing about, nothing,” Browder-Hughes said.

So “Life in the Past Lane” is her way of keeping print journalism alive. It contains 200 of 2,000-plus columns she had published in local newspapers across South Carolina.

Browder-Hughes recalled one memory from her reporting she said she will never forget.

“I broke the Pee Wee Gaskins Prospect murder to the news media on December the sixth of 1973,” she said.

Serial killer Donald Gaskins later confessed in 1978 to murdering 15 people and burying their bodies in Pee Dee counties.

“He had them dig, them, the victims dig three graves on the far back side on Prospect. Prospect is a suburb from Johnsonville; it’s halfway from Johnsonville and Lake City,” Browder-Hughes said.

She was born and raised in Johnsonville and first got a phone call from a woman telling her the story.

“She told me, ‘I don’t know if you want to know about it or not, them finding six bodies in three graves at Prospect,’ and I said, ‘Tell me more!’” Browder-Hughes said. “And she told me where it was. Two Florence County deputies had a fire built up so high leading on the road protecting the site and they told me what information they could.”

The next day, the story was the front page news in Charleston.

“I sent it to the News and Courier, because I knew it would not save for our paper,” she said. “Ours was a weekly and I knew someone would get it, so I immediately sent it to the News and Courier and it carried my byline.”

When asked what advice she would give to young journalists, Browder-Hughes said to, “live with your eyes, live with your eyes wide open and see the world around you, and what you can cover what you can do with it.”

At 92 years old, she doesn’t intend to retire anytime soon.

“I don’t intend to stop, no. You’ve got to grab their interest at the first part of the story. As you well know, you have to grab them and then lead off to the rest of the story,” Browder-Hughes said.

The Florence Morning News still carries an article of hers every Sunday. Browder-Hughes looked back on her career and said it has been interesting and rewarding.

“I have very few regrets, very few,” she said. “Some, of course, but very few and my family, my children, my parents, my husband have all meant so very much to me.”

“Life in the Past Lane” is available for purchase online. Browder-Hughes is writing her second volume. she hopes will be finished in the next year.

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