On the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, a memorial service remembered the late Sen. Hugh K. Leatherman Sr. in the FMU Performing Arts Center (PAC) in downtown Florence from 3-4:30 p.m.
Hugh K. Leatherman was born on April 14, 1931, and passed on Nov. 12, 2021, due to complications from a cancer diagnosis. Attending the service were various South Carolina state politicians, including but not limited to state Gov. Henry McMaster and state Attorney General Alan Wilson.
Sen. Leatherman served in the South Carolina state senate from 1981 until his death in 2021. He represented the 31st district, including the Florence and Pee Dee area. During his tenure in the state senate, he oversaw the introduction of Boeing to South Carolina as well as a great deal of financial backing to the Florence infrastructure. His contributions to the state and its people were truly influential, as evidenced by the hundreds that attended the memorial service.
“He was usually the humblest person at the table,” said Fred Carter, president of FMU, during his eulogy for the late senator. “[He] seldom got angry, and in 33 years, I can’t recall him ever raising his voice. He never wanted to make permanent enemies, and he believed that no disagreement – personal or professional – should ever devolve into bitterness or discord.”
Humility seemed to be one of the key aspects of Senator Leatherman’s personality, as not only President Carter but two reverends who spoke also mentioned his humble character quite a few times in their remarks. He is also remembered as a man of great professional stature and capabilities, with many words on his achievements and abilities beyond others in his field.
“No one better understood the nexus between politics and policy, and no one was more shrewd strategically at applying it,” President Carter said in his eulogy. Carter went on to list three “pillars” that made up Senator Leatherman’s life: the family, the people and the senate.
During a personal interview, Carter further elaborated on the late senator’s contributions to Francis Marion University. “He went into the Senate when the school was 10 years old, and every year, worked hard to get funding and support for Francis Marion University. He was an emeritus member on our board of trustees; he was actively involved in almost every aspect of the University. There are about nine buildings on campus that he got some level of funding or support to help build and develop, with roughly four or five other programs he got appropriations to help develop, including the nursing program, the nurse practitioner program and the industrial engineering program. All those came with financial support from Sen. Leatherman.”
Along with the Leatherman Science Facility on campus, there is a medical education center in downtown Florence named after him and his wife Jean. He also has a bust located in the PAC – which he, of course, helped fund with roughly $14 million – honoring his efforts and impact on the Florence community.
Senator Hugh K. Leatherman was a man both respected and loved by his many: his friends, his family and the community he represented for 40 years.
“At the end of a trying day, Hugh would frequently smile and remind everyone that the ‘sun will come up again tomorrow morning,’” Carter said in closing.