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Shirley James Findley

The late Shirley James Findley was a beauty pageant winner in addition to being a university contributor and grad


She was a timeless beauty.

Her smiling face, bright eyes, perfect hair and glistening crown would’ve turned the head of anyone. If someone told you that the late Shirley James Findley was a movie star in a classic black-and-white film, you would’ve believed them. All you have to do is look at the June, 1955 black-and-white photo of the stunning Findley in a white outfit, wearing her MISS TRI-COUNTY sash. In the photo, the Anderson University graduate is holding her pageant trophy with manicured nails.

Born in Anderson, South Carolina, Findley was a smart and classy woman and a strong Christian who worked at the Social Security Administration. But she was generous also.

Last spring, Vicki Grant, Findley’s cousin and executor of her estate, contributed nearly $500,000 of the Findley estate to Anderson University—following Findley’s wishes. The gift builds upon the Shirley James Findley Endowed Scholarship, which has awarded scholarships to students who’ve had financial need, academic promise and high moral character since 1989.

Grant said she always looked up to her cousin, 17 years her elder. Findley, who was the 1955 winner of the Miss Tri-County (consisting of Anderson, Pickens and Oconee counties) beauty pageant, even inspired Grant to follow in her footsteps and compete in pageants too. She described Findley as a great role model who served as a Bible study leader and Sunday school teacher.

“She taught Sunday school to children of First Baptist (Church of Anderson) for many, many years and had a lasting effect on their lives,” Grant said. Findley also served on the Anderson University Alumni Board from 1999 until 2002.

Findley was a role model at work, too. After graduating from AU with honors, she worked for six years in social services before landing a job as a claims examiner with the Social Security Administration. Her primary goal was to take care of her claimants and make sure they were served correctly, Grant said.

She taught Sunday school to children of First Baptist (Church of Anderson) for many, many years and had a lasting effect on their lives.

— Vicki Grant

Shirley Findley’s cousin and executor of her estate

Findley was a force there for more than three decades before retiring.

“Shirley received many awards as a claims representative with the Social Security Administration,” Grant said. “She was a valued employee and mentor to the other employees.  A manager once told me, ‘Shirley gets it,’ meaning that she understood Social Security law and regulations much better than most.” 

In 1989, Findley established the Shirley James Findley Endowed Scholarship. Findley believed Anderson University educates its students well, Grant said. After Findley passed away last June, Grant accepted the mantle of carrying out her will as Findley’s personal representative. In May, the Shirley James Findley Estate presented a check of $456,611.51 to President Evans P. Whitaker and Associate Vice President of Philanthropy and Estate Planning Johnna Shirley.