“A giant tree has fallen:” SC leaders react to passing of State Senator Hugh Leatherman


MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – One of South Carolina’s oldest and most powerful state senators passed away Friday morning. Senator Hugh Letherman passed away at the age of 90 at his home in Florence after a battle with inoperable cancer. Statements and reactions from state leaders have been pouring in all day.

Senator Leatherman was first elected back in 1980 where he has served the state for more than 40 years ever since. Senator Leatherman, who chaired the state’s Finance Committee is credited with bringing several projects to the Lowcountry including Boeing, major improvements to the state’s Ports Authority and more.

“A giant tree has fallen,” says fellow State Senator Marlon Kimpson. “We certainly will dearly miss him in the South Carolina senate.”

Senator Leatherman passing away after a battle with cancer, his family saying he worked from his hospital bed up until the end in a released statement.

“I have no doubt he valued the work that he did for the state,” says Senator Kimpson.

For many like State Senator Kimpson, Senator Leatherman was seen as a public servant who put the Palmetto State first.

“Didn’t miss a day at the senate,” says Senator Kimpson. “Many of us young guys, we’d go for a drink of coffee, you know if it was somebody’s birthday – we might not come but Chairman Leatherman was always there.”

In a statement, Senator Leatherman’s family summing up the man as “ever the stubborn optimist, he had legislation drafted and received budget briefing for the next legislative from his hospital bed.” Senator Kimpson says he wouldn’t anything expect less.

“He was very attentive to the details,” says Senator Kimpson. “He knew if you moved one are of the budget you’d have to balance another area. We literally just had these conversations.”

Governor Henry McMaster weighing in saying “Senator Leatherman poured his life into our state and we are the better for it.”

State Representative Wendell Gilliard says Senator Leatherman was always on the move but always had time to listen.

“The best place you could’ve caught him on any given day in Columbia was on the elevator believe it or not,” says Representative Gilliard.

Senator Leatherman has been credited in a big way for helping the Lowcountry in securing Boeing’s move to South Carolina, helping to fund infrastructure improvements for the S.C. Ports Authority, funding for body cameras to be used by law enforcement and money for The Mother Emanuel Foundation.

“He was going to do whatever, whatever it took in that situation because that’s just the kind of weight he had. You know it was like look, consider that done.”

S.C. Ports Authority CEO Jim Newsome told News 2 in an interview Senator Leatherman was simply “one of a kind.”

“He saw the Port as a strategic instrument in fostering economic development in South Carolina,” says Newsome. “So he took a real personal interest in it really starting with the harbor deepening project and continuing on through all of the infrastructure that we’ve built in the last 8 to 10 years so he’s a crucial ally for the Port and we will miss him greatly I can assure you that.”

Remembering a man who spent 50 years as a City Councilman and State Senator, pushing the State and the Lowcountry forward.

‘We had philosophical differences, but we had respect for each other and for that I will always remember him,” says Representative Gilliard.

“An institutional figure,” says Senator Kimpson. “He was an institution.”

Governor McMaster is expected to order flags across the state to half-mass in honor of the late senator. Count on News 2 to share funeral arrangements for Senator Leatherman once they’ve been announced.

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