The Jolley Foundation’s Beginning

Robert Albert Jolley, Sr. (Bob to his friends and colleagues, Albert to his family) grew up on a farm in rural South Georgia. Albert, the oldest of five children and born in 1890, didn’t have a taste for farming. He left home at age 16 to find work and, hopefully, send money back home to his family.

From the very beginning of his career, Albert put in the time and effort to earn a reputation as an honest and diligent worker. Word about Albert’s exceptional work ethic spread quickly. Mr. Lowery, a local businessman, was impressed by the young man’s dedication and entrepreneurial enthusiasm and asked Albert to run his Chero Cola (eventually Royal Crown Cola) bottling business in Carrollton, Georgia. He gladly accepted, and in just a few years, backed by investors who were impressed with his business acumen, Albert was able to buy the company.

Shortly thereafter, Albert met and married Rucker Tweedy, then a schoolteacher. Albert purchased a bottling facility in Anderson, South Carolina; and he and Rucker moved their family and business from Georgia to the Upstate in 1919.

The Importance of a Helping Hand

All the while, even as they struggled to keep the business afloat during the Great Depression and support their three children—Bob, Mamie, and Jimmy—the couple stayed true to their roots and sent whatever money they could back to family in Georgia.

Their hardscrabble childhoods in rural South Georgia taught Albert and Rucker firsthand the devastating toll that illness, untimely death, alcoholism, melancholia, drought, and the boll weevil could have on families. The couple knew one thing to be true: help from a friend at the right moment could change everything.

Thus, in 1947, Albert and Rucker established an assistance fund for their employees to act as a safety net during times of crisis.

And with that, the Jolley Foundation was born.

The Next Generation: Building a Legacy of Giving

In the 1970s, Albert and Rucker’s three children took the reins of the foundation. Bob, Mamie, and Jimmy all participated in the community as volunteers and civic leaders and were generous to the foundation and in their personal philanthropy. They served on nonprofit boards in the areas of mental health, education, human services, and arts and culture.

Over the years, the three siblings began the work of expanding upon their parents’ vision and values, including empathy and the belief that everyone deserves a life of dignity; gratitude for what they received and a responsibility to steward those resources in the service of the Greenville community; and a quiet humility about their philanthropy.

Creating Opportunities Through Access to Education

Perhaps the siblings' greatest shared passion was education. Having grown up in the segregated Jim Crow South, they witnessed its inequities and brutality. They believed in the power of education to help alleviate poverty, discrimination, and injustice.

They supported scholarships for underrepresented, low-income youth throughout South Carolina’s higher education institutions and Mamie gave the founding endowment to Bridges to a Brighter Future at Furman University, a nationally recognized comprehensive college access and success program for high school students whose potential outdistances their circumstances.

Staying True to Our Roots

In 2014, with the encouragement of Jimmy Jolley, the surviving Jolley sibling, the Jolley Foundation board took on the work of succession planning. James McDuffie Bruce (Duff) and Jolley Bruce Christman assumed leadership, joined by Duff’s son, Mac Bruce and Jolley’s son, Andrew Christman.

Although the Jolley Foundation has grown over the years, one thing has remained true: we have remained steadfastly dedicated to helping others and clung tightly to the values instilled in us by our founders.


Board of Trustees

James McDuffie Bruce III
Chair Greenville, SC
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Jolley Bruce Christman
Secretary Philadelphia, PA
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Andrew Christman
Philadelphia, PA
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James McDuffie Bruce IV
Austin, TX
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Executive Director

Meliah Bowers Jefferson

Greenville, SC
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