“One of South Carolina's finest examples of the Greatest Generation”: John Drummond, Distinguished Outgoing Senator

In recent years, most of the last of the World War II generation of state leaders have faded away into retirement, such as former Senator Strom Thurmond and Treasurer Grady Patterson. Citizens who first served their country on foreign battlegrounds, state political figures like Senator John Drummond learned the meaning of duty and commitment under far more difficult conditions than anything seen in South Carolina politics.

When we’ve talked with people from Greenwood, we’ve heard many a story about Senator Drummond – not the politician, but rather as a POW and senior American officer in a German POW camp during WWII. Many of these stories told us of how the Germans came to find out that the boys of Greenwood County don’t bend and never break.

According to his legislative bio, here is a summary of his WWII military service:



Mil. serv.: 263rd CA, 1939-41; (USAF, 1943-47) Fighter Pilot, Capt. 405th Fighter Bomber Group England, France, and Germany, 1944-45, Decorated Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart twice, Air Medal nine times, three Battle Stars & Presidential Citation.


Wow.

As with many politicos who came back from WW2, Drummond’s political outlook was tempered by a time in which he "never saw a young man die as a Democrat or a Republican, but as an American." That spirit of bipartisanship earned him the respect of Republicans and Democrats alike, including retiring House member Bill Cotty, a Republican from Richland County:


John Drummond is one of South Carolina's finest examples of the Greatest Generation. After his remarkable military service and demonstrated heroism in WWII, Sen. Drummond proved himself equally adept at business and politics in a career that to a large degree molded SC history in the second half of the 20th Century. All those who have had the honor to know and be friends with this fine gentleman will attest that his love for our Country and State were only surpassed by that he held for his dear wife who passed away several years ago.



Joel Lourie, considered one of the state’s rising Democratic stars, had this to say about Senator Drummond:


I am proud to call John Drummond my colleague, my hero and my friend. Generations to come will benefit from his service to our country and state. He is one in a million.


Longtime GOP campaign operative and blogger Brian McCarty at Voting Under the Influence also praised Drummond:

John Drummond is a legend in his community for his service to his country and his service to the state. Last year, my grandmother, ailing from Parkinson's disease, saw fit to fight to make her community in Ninety Six drug free. Among the leaders she called was John Drummond.

Why Drummond? Because he was known in the community to be able to get things done.

Drummond earned that reputation with his work in the SC legislature. My alma mater, Lander, called its sports teams the Senators for over 30 years in honor of the efforts Drummond made to make sure Lander stayed open as a state institution of higher learning.

Drummond is one the last old lions of South Carolina politics who worried less about party politics and more about serving the people he represented. Drummond supported Republican Presidents and worked with Republican Governors, all the while staying true not necessarily to his party, but the people who elected him to office.


Senate Democratic Leader John Land shared this story about the Senator from Drummond:

Senator Drummond and I used to sit next to each other in the Senate chamber. He and I really never spoke to one another. He was the known as the maverick of the Senate and we were often on opposite sides of the issues and engaged in heated debates.

This period of silence went on for good while early in my career in the Senate. One Thursday afternoon as the session was closing down for the week, Senator Drummond complimented me on the shirt I was wearing.

“John, that’s a nice shirt. Where’d you get it?” asked Drummond.

I told him from my haberdasher in Sumter. And that was it for our rare and brief conversation.

Over that weekend, I picked up two shirts and brought them with me back up to Columbia. I left them for Senator Drummond on his desk in the Chamber. We’ve been friends ever since.

A lot of folks said Senator Drummond could not be bought, he’s a maverick. But I got him for the cost of two shirts.


Phil Bailey, director of the Senate Democratic Caucus, has worked with Drummond for the last few years:

Working with Senator Drummond has been one of greatest opportunities I’ve had in politics. He’s been like a grandfather – telling great stories and keeping things in perspective.

I’m looking forward to continuing our regular lunch dates in Ninety-Six for a long-time to come and working with him to help Mayor Floyd Nicholson win the District 10 seat this fall.


The departure of Senator Drummond is not just the end of a political career, it is the end of an era in South Carolina politics and history. There is much to learn from his life and his times, and we are proud to recognize and honor his service.

Many will say they don’t make leaders like John Drummond anymore, and we’d agree with them. But we sure wish there were a lot more like him.

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