Corner: Ralph Hendricks
Ralph Hendricks died last week. He was a month shy of his 102nd birthday. He still drove himself to work every morning. He still went to sporting events at Furman University, where he was a trustee emeritus. He still was treasurer of First Baptist Church, Simpsonville, a job he held for more than 40 years.
And hear this – Simpsonville would not be Simpsonville without Ralph Hendricks’ vision and hard work.
He was on the Simpsonville City Council for 13 years and then served 12 years as mayor. He saw what was coming before anyone else and he did the grunt work to make sure his beloved adopted hometown was ready.
He was a public servant in the best sense of both words. He thought about the public – not himself – and he served that public.
We need more Ralph Hendricks in public life.
One of the speakers at the memorial service, held in First Baptist Simpsonville’s beautiful, expansive worship center (another forward-thinking project he helped lead to fruition) said Ralph was never satisfied with the ways things are if he thought they could be better.
He was an elected official in the same vein as Dick Riley, who delivered the eulogy. He approached public service the way Donny Wilder did. And Ginger Crocker and Jim Johnson and Jim Bryan.
We need more of those type people today leading our governments. Where are they?
Ralph Hendricks left school in the eighth grade to help support his family after his father died. He became a successful businessman beyond probably his wildest dreams.
He established a foundation that has provided scholarships to hundreds of students and continues to provide scholarships to students at Furman, Anderson University, North Greenville University and Greenville Technical College. The foundation also helps support Meals on Wheels and Connie Maxwell Children’s Home in Greenwood.
He gave the land upon which the Simpsonville Public Library is built. He and his wife Marion donated the funds for Simpsonville’s iconic clock tower. He gave $300,000 to Simpsonville’s downtown revitalization project.
During a 1999 interview, he said, “Whatever I’ve given away, I can honestly say, I’ve gotten more back. It seems like right after I gave some money to a good cause, something comes along that helps me financially. The Lord has blessed me, over and over.”
He has been honored by the State of South Carolina, Furman, North Greenville, Greenville Tech and by many others.
The current mayor of Simpsonville said Ralph Hendricks “blazed the trail” that she follows as mayor.
“He was absolutely a blessing to everyone who knew him,” Mayor Janice Curtis told The Greenville News. “He was such an important part of all the community.”
Did he face opposition to his plans to make Simpsonville a better place? Sure he did.
How did he overcome that opposition, his former pastor once asked him. “I outlived them all,” he replied.
He was probably joking. But he never backed down when he thought he was right. And he never did what he did for himself or to shine the spotlight on himself.
We need more people like Ralph Hendricks in public life today.
(Larry Franklin is retired and lives in Clinton.)