First published November 14, 2021 and reproduced here by permission of the Morning News and SCNow.com.
Senator Hugh Leatherman, a Memorial
April 14, 1931 – November 12, 2021
I first met Senator Hugh Leatherman in 1984 at a pool we used near our house when he came to bring his daughter to a pool outing for our baby girls. I had seen his campaign bill boards when first alighting in Florence in 1980 and later joked with him that I was happy to be in a town that treated their Leather Workers so well (Leatherman…get it??). Through my job at the South Carolina Medical Association, I came to know him as “The Senator” starting to have breakfast about every quarter since 1988 and then over time true friends, and quietly, traveling companions. Now he is gone. Ah… the tears come to my eyes, just writing this essay.
Two weeks ago, I spent 20 minutes sitting in front of his rocker, just chatting. I had not seen him for at least 3 months. He had just come through two surgeries and then his final diagnosis. But you know, he still had that old twinkle in his eye, and he wanted to reminisce a bit. He told me he didn’t want to talk politics, but that he still was in touch with his Columbia office at least four times a day. He smiled and asked about Shirley and the Kids. He said, “You know, Doctor Steve we had some good days together”…and as in many years past he joked about my days at Berkeley. It was just like old times, but for his weight loss and pallor. Like many sick folks, he didn’t really want to talk about himself. But his brain was working better than mine. His final words to me were “Dr Steve, please come back next month.”
A cute story: Many years ago the Senator invited me on an economic development trip to Europe; I declined. But then I decided maybe I should go. So, I worked with Dr Carter’s staff at Francis Marion University to arrange private passage several days later than the group, so they would not know I was coming. On my arrival I went to a local store in Mainz, Germany and bought shoes, blue jeans, a hoodie and knapsack so I would look like at student (a cab took my luggage up to the hotel). And then I walked to one of the Leatherman group’s private bus stops and talked my way onto their bus. At first nobody recognized me, but then Jean Leatherman screamed out “My god, it’s Steve.” A few folks groaned, but most laughed. The larger group had a long trip planned, but I only spent three days with them. Great Fun but also very important.
By now you all know and remember all his accomplishments. But did you know he was an excellent computer programmer?? Do you remember that once he was a leader in Quinby, South Carolina?
Please Never Forget what he has done for us all here in Florence and South Carolina. Never forget that he was key in bringing Boeing to South Carolina. Never forget he had enormous respect for the South Carolina Senate. Never forget his eternal love for his wife and most important confidant, Jean. Never forget that he was a beloved father and family man. Never forget that he loved Florence and South Carolina. Never forget that he loved public service and did it very well.