Condolences pour in for state Sen. Hugh Leatherman

State Sen. Hugh Leatherman, South Carolina’s oldest and most powerful state lawmaker, has died at age 90.
State Sen. Hugh Leatherman, South Carolina’s oldest and most powerful state lawmaker, died...
State Sen. Hugh Leatherman, South Carolina’s oldest and most powerful state lawmaker, died Friday at the age of 90.(AP)
Published: Nov. 12, 2021 at 10:38 AM EST
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - State Sen. Hugh Leatherman, South Carolina’s oldest and most powerful state lawmaker, died Friday at the age of 90.

Leatherman died at his home in Florence, his office said, after being diagnosed with inoperable cancer.

As he entered hospice care last month, Leatherman’s staff began notifying lawmakers that the nonagenarian Republican had been hospitalized with severe abdominal pain and that doctors discovered the cancer while removing parts of his intestine.

“Ever the stubborn optimist,” Leatherman continued to work, drafting legislation and receiving budget briefings for the upcoming legislative session, according to a family statement.

Statement on behalf of the Leatherman Family:

“With great sorrow, we announce the passing of our beloved husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather Hugh Leatherman. After a brief but hard-fought battle, he succumbed to a recent non-covid related illness surrounded by his beloved wife Jean, children, and grandchildren.

While his passing brings us great sorrow, we take solace and joy knowing that up until his last days, he was active in the Florence community and continued serving the people of Florence and South Carolina as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Ever the stubborn optimist, he had legislation drafted and received budget briefing for the next legislative session from his hospital bed.

While most knew him as Mr. Chairman, we do and always will know him as a loving and caring husband, dad, and granddad. We ask for privacy at this time but look forward to hearing stories of how Hugh impacted your lives soon.

We offer a special thank you to the staff of MUSC Florence, MUSC Charleston, and McLeod Hospice for the care they provided over the last weeks.”

Leatherman was in his 11th term and among the longest-serving lawmakers in South Carolina’s Legislature.

“A powerful force for the progress and prosperity of our people has left us. For over fifty years, Hugh Leatherman poured his life into our state and we are the better for it. He loved his work and kept his word. He never quit. We will miss him. May God bless him and his family.”

Governor Henry McMaster

The governor will soon order that flags be lowered in honor of Senator Leatherman’s service to the state of South Carolina, once funeral arrangements are made and announced.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) gave the following statement on the passing of South Carolina Senator Hugh Leatherman.

“Senator Leatherman was a giant in the South Carolina Senate. When it came to the needs of South Carolina – from the mountains to the sea and everywhere in between – he was always at the forefront of breakthrough change.

“He had a statewide perspective that served South Carolina well. His leadership was indispensable in recruiting Boeing to South Carolina, and he was a great champion of the Port of Charleston.

“Senator Leatherman loved his hometown and the Pee Dee. He was the most effective voice for his region of the state one could have ever imagined. He was a tireless advocate always focused on building for a stronger and better future.

“Senator Leatherman was a leader. He was a great friend and a kind and caring man. His leadership, mentorship, and steady hand will be missed.

“My thoughts are with his wife and his family during this difficult time. Today, South Carolina has lost a legend.”

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham

“We were saddened to hear the news this morning that our colleague, State Senator Hugh Leatherman, has passed. Every member of our caucus feels incredibly privileged to have worked alongside Chairman Leatherman for a period of time in his impressive tenure in the South Carolina Senate. His wisdom and steadfast devotion to public service will be greatly missed. Chairman Leatherman was an effective leader, a true statesman, and an influential changemaker. He has undoubtedly left a permanent mark on South Carolina—a legacy that will long live on in the many people he inspired, the lives he touched, and the profound work he did over 40 years in office. We are sincerely grateful for all he did to make our state a better place. We offer our deepest condolences and prayers for Senator Leatherman’s family and loved ones.”

South Carolina Senate Democratic Caucus

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.

“Long before I ran for office, I respected Hugh Leatherman’s impeccable record of delivering results for the 7th District and the entire state of South Carolina. Since coming to Congress, I’ve had the opportunity to work with him on several occasions. Senator Leatherman didn’t hesitate to work across the aisle to get something done for South Carolinians. I’ve always known him to pursue smart, reasonable solutions and work hard to fix problems.

Senator Leatherman was the epitome of a public servant and will be dearly missed in the halls of the South Carolina statehouse.

Our prayers are with the Leatherman family, his colleagues in the South Carolina legislature, and those who knew his friendship, that they may find comfort in remembering an accomplished, honorable man.”

Representative Tom Rice (R-S.C.)

Leatherman also sat on a number of fiscal oversight boards, including the State Fiscal Accountability Authority and the Joint Bond Review Committee. A new port terminal in Charleston bears his name.

Leatherman played a key role in building up the state’s business economy, including backing a massive tax incentive package that helped lure Boeing to the state.

For years, the longtime lawmaker fielded criticism for how much state funding was directed toward his home district, as well as millions in state contracts given to the concrete company he founded, and from which he continued to draw a salary.

Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell,R-Charleston, right, gives Senate Finance committee...
Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell,R-Charleston, right, gives Senate Finance committee chairman, Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florance, a hug after he ratified acts on the last day of the session Thursday, June 7, 2007, at the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)(Mary Ann Chastain | ASSOCIATED PRESS)

“Senator Leatherman dedicated almost half of his life to serving the people of Florence County and South Carolina. His commitment to the Port and so many other initiatives propelled our state forward. We’re grateful for his decades of service, and our prayers are with Mrs. Jean and the rest of the Leatherman family,” said South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick.

South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick


Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, makes the announcement that the Boeing 787 plant was coming...
Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, makes the announcement that the Boeing 787 plant was coming to South Carolina during a special session of the legislature, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009, in Columbia, S.C. From the left is Sen. Nikki Setzler, D-West Columbia, Sen. Glenn McConnell R-Charleston, Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, Sen. Harvey Peeler, R-Gaffney, Sen Larry Grooms, R-Bonneau, and Sen. Paul Campbell, R-Goose Creek, gives the thumbs up.(AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)(Mary Ann Chastain | ASSOCIATED PRESS)

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