Lawrence Winston Fryer, Sr. was born on December 25, 1931, in Gonzales, Texas (Lone Oak Community). He was one of eight children born to Bessie Hopkins Fryer and Brack Fryer, Sr. He confessed to
Christ at an early age and was a member of Lone Oak Methodist
Church, later transitioning to Henson Chapel United Methodist Church. He learned early the value of Christianity, family, education, and hard work.
Winston (“Wince” to family and childhood friends) graduated from
Edwards High School in the Class of 1950. He attended Prairie View
A&M University where he earned two Bachelor of Science degrees in Agricultural Education and in Poultry Science. Fryer was then commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army as an Infantry Officer. He later completed a Master of Science degree in Agricultural Education followed by a year as an Assistant Professor at PVA&M.
Winston was united in holy matrimony to Clara Mathis Fryer, for 49 years. Into this union three children were born: Dr. Lawrence Fryer, Jr. LtCol USMC Ret. (Cheryl); Major André Fryer, US Army Infantry Airborne Ranger (Pamela); and Iberia Fryer Smith (Benny).
After completing military service, he was employed as a Vocational Agriculture teacher for 41 years, 17 in Van Vleck (Herman and Van Vleck high schools) and 24 at Waelder ISD.
While his children were instilled with the value of hard work and accountability in their younger years, we had excellent vacations sometimes traveling great distances: Pikes Peak (Colorado), Indian Reservations (Oklahoma), Tuskeegee Institute (Alabama), Hampton University (Virginia), the Carolinas, and even to NFL Super Bowl games twice. Though commonplace now, he was one of the first to “tailgate” at PVA&M Homecoming football games. His fellow Ag Teachers, friends, and family knew to meet at the tree where Fryer was set up for a good meal and fellowship.
Other than a deep love for family, he loved being in the country caring for his animals. The primary undertaking for several years was expanding our Swine operation (5F Farms), eventually becoming one of the largest in Gonzales County. The quality livestock were shown locally and at major livestock shows (San Antonio and Houston) every year. Later he transitioned to ranching by raising cattle for the remainder of his life. His greatest joy was taking his grandchildren, nieces and nephews out to the country to make sure they were exposed to our way of life.
Mr. Fryer was highly regarded as a leader who was able to visualize what was needed, beyond that, he used his abilities to see all projects through to completion with professional level results. A perfect example is the Edwards Senior Living Apartments on Robertson St. He negotiated for the land purchase, coordinated with the Architect for design, kept the members informed as the project progressed, and coordinated with the Mayor’s office for the grand opening.
Even in retirement, his former students were his boys. All have stories about how firm but fair he was while having high expectations and holding them accountable for results. One student who became a multi-millionaire recalled that “Mr. Fryer was the first adult person who trusted him” and that is what drove him to become successful in life. Another former student completing his PhD at the University of Texas said, “when he was unsure of himself, Mr. Fryer said you’re going to be a leader and taught him everything he knows to have become a successful leader.” Yet another former student who had not planned to attend college said, “Mr. Fryer drove him to the University to get him enrolled, tracked his progress, and was the first person there to meet and congratulate him as he walked down the stairs at graduation.”
Mr. Fryer was a charter member and President of the Waelder Lions Club. A really big deal initiative is the Annual Big Bang fireworks every 4th of July as a major community, County-wide event with the proceeds every year going to a designated charity.
Recognizing a need, Fryer and his students built a livestock show barn for the annual FFA and 4H livestock show. Since this undertaking went well beyond his responsibilities, the Superintendent's recommendation to name the facility the “L. W. Fryer Show Barn” was unanimously approved by the Waelder ISD School Board.
Henson Chapel United Methodist Church, established in 1882, was in a state of disrepair and internal funding was limited. Under Winston’s leadership, not only was the entire church remodeled top-to-bottom, he updated information technology, and expanded the fellowship hall along with kitchen and restroom upgrades. This was a hands-on project encompassing over two years of his dedicated personal attention. He obtained volunteer labor and financial contributions as the project progressed and paid out of his pocket for meals to feed the work crews every day. A special event was held to celebrate this project’s completion, attended by the Mayor and other dignitaries, where it was proclaimed that the new fellowship hall was to be named in honor of L. W. Fryer.
As noted in a February 1, 2012, Gonzales Inquirer feature article designating Mr. Fryer as a Hometown Hero, it was pointed out how he met with the City Council to establish the annual MLK Day Walk and Celebration. Other activities initiated as the Edwards Association president spanning 17 years were: hayrides and treats for Halloween, Santa at Christmas, Easter egg hunts, Professional Wrestling, Come and
Take It food booths and being the point of contact for events such as Quinceanera, basketball leagues, and other celebrations. He personally made sure the facility was clean and ready, ensured deposits were paid, made sure the customers were satisfied, and followed up to inspect before reimbursing deposits. This required being available when events were held and having late nights going to lockup. If he was not home or in the country, we knew he’d be at Edwards.
Personal recognition: United Methodist Man of the Year (Crossroads
District), National Award as American Farmer (Kansas City), Edwards Association service award, Masonic Lodge - Most Worshipful Master, and serving on numerous local Boards and Commissions
Lawrence, Sr. went home to be with the Lord on September 11, 2023, at the age of 91. He was preceded in death by his wife (Clara); parents.
(Bessie and Brack); sister (Joycesteen); brothers (Brack Jr., James Elmo,
Lacy, and Frank); sisters-in law (Florence Fryer, Franner (Sugar)
Brasfield, Carolyn Fryer, Dorothy Mathis, Lawanda Mathis, Bessie
Randle, Josie Stevens, Reene Mathis, and Gracie Mathis; brothers-in law
(Joseph Ruffin, Floyd Lott, Walter Mathis, Ross Mathis, Edward (Son) Mathis, Elias (Koochie) Mathis, Topsy (Bubba) Mathis, and Dr. Norman Dyer.
He leaves to cherish his memory: sons – Lawrence, Jr. and Andre;
Daughter – Iberia; grandchildren – Adrienne Latrice Steen, Tomeka
Fryer, Benny Smith, Jr., Winston Brack Fryer, Andrew Lawrence Smith,
Lawrence W. Fryer, III, and Clara Ariana Fryer, Esquire; step grandsons
Marcus and Julian Waddell; great-grandchildren - Ayson, Bailey, Benny
Smith III; sisters – Cloteal Lott and Bobbie Courett; sisters-in-law Willie Mae Dyer and Magalene Mathis; brothers-in-law William Brasfield, Sr. and Manzola Courette; and a host of nieces, nephews, relatives, and friends.