KINGSTREE, S.C. – The town of Kingstree and area residents got a chance Thursday night to honor one of their own, who has risen to the second highest political office in the state. Hundreds gathered at the Santee Electric Cooperative Conference Center for the event, hosted by the Williamsburg County Chamber of Commerce.
Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill began his political career 38 years ago, serving on the Kingstree Town Council. The last quarter century he spent as a state senator. But his most recent venture of stepping aside from his Senate seat to assume the role as the state’s No. 2 politician brought the likes of Gov. Nikki Haley, current and former senators to his hometown to show thanks.
Haley spoke highly of McGill’s public service and character.
“I am absolutely honored and humbled to be here to talk about a man that I respect so much,” Haley said. “This is a man that when I came into office and there were divisions and there were divides, he showed me nothing but respect. This is a statesman.”
Haley discussed a “constitutional crisis” back in June when then-Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell announced he would resign the position to take over as president of the College of Charleston.
“We didn’t have a single person willing to step up to be lieutenant governor,” she said. “Why? Because the person couldn’t run for re-election. So, whoever was going to do this was going to sacrifice everything they had worked for to serve this state. And Sen. McGill stepped up and said, ‘I’ll do it.’ This is a man that will go down in the history books for really sacrificing for his state, not thinking of himself, but thinking of his county, his community, his state for the good of the cause.”
Retired Sen. John Land, Williamsburg County attorney Billy Jenkinson and Sen. Hugh Leatherman all spoke during the event. Leatherman said he, in part, owed his political career to the McGill family, especially the lieutenant governor’s father, Frank. Jenkinson recalled a childhood story when, as a grocery store bagger, the lieutenant governor worked at a Sno Cone stand across the street. Land said he was proud of what McGill had accomplished over the years.
McGill became noticeably choked up twice during the event. The first came after Debbie Ipock of the Chamber recognized his wife, Pam, and the second when McGill described his view of the character of South Carolinians.
Many iterated that the event did not mark a funeral for McGill, and the lieutenant governor did not hint at what might be next for him when his time in the office is up in January. He did however allude to “something you’ve never seen before” on the horizon for senior citizens in the state. As overseer of the state Office on Aging, he said S.C. House and Senate members would be offered “five or six potential opportunities” to pass legislation regarding senior citizens in the upcoming session.
Christopher McKagen is the editor of the Weekly Observer in Hemingway and Johnsonville. Follow @VoiceofPeeDee