FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — A funeral was held Friday for longtime South Carolina Sen. Hugh Leatherman.
Friends, family, and colleagues gathered at the Francis Marion Performing Arts Center to pay their respects to Leatherman. Speakers called him a man of faith and a leader who cared deeply for his constituents. Gov. Henry McMaster called him “a powerful force for the progress and prosperity of our people.”
“This region has lost an iconic leader and many of us have lost our dearest friend,” Francis Marion University President Fred Carter said.
“Everything he wanted and needed resided in the senate,” Carter said. “He cherished the institution, its traditions, its procedures and its rules. Especially the seniority rule.”
Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers recalled working with Leatherman on numerous projects.
“Just a good adviser,” Weathers said. “A lot of good times in the Senate financial chairman’s office, where he would sort of lay out a map for us, a little strategy, and usually it was the best one.”
In addition to his political knowledge and strategy, Leatherman was lauded for bringing companies like Boeing and Honda to South Carolina, and for prioritizing education.
“If we do what he taught us and can work together with respect, tolerance, and patience, we will do just fine in the years ahead,” Carter said. “Florence and the Pee Dee will continue to grow and prosper. That was Hugh Leatherman’s fondest hope, and that is the legacy he deserves.”
Several roads in Florence were closed for the funeral. David Rast, a financial adviser for Edward Jones, said even though roads were closed and some businesses may have been too, it was a day to pay respects.
“What a great public servant he was and what and impact and to do it as long as he did and as successfully — I mean, everyone in the state will be here so it’s really exciting and I’m just watching them pass outside of my office,” Rast said. “It’s really good to see this turn out for him.”
All streets that were closed reopened at 7 p.m.
Leatherman died on Nov. 12 at his home in Florence, where he was in hospice care with what colleagues described as an inoperable cancer, his office announced.
Days before his death, Leatherman’s staff began notifying lawmakers that the nonagenarian Republican had been hospitalized with severe abdominal pain and that doctors had found the cancer while removing parts of his intestine.
Leatherman was in his 11th term and among the longest-serving lawmakers in the state Legislature. First elected to the Senate in 1980 as a Democrat, he later ran unsuccessfully for governor before switching parties in the 1990s, one of a number of lawmakers who did so as Republicans gained dozens of seats in Congress.
Leatherman soon assumed the chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee, and in a state where the governor has less control, Leatherman was long considered South Carolina’s most powerful politician for his dominance over the state budget.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.