NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The City of North Charleston’s first mayor died Thursday morning, according to a family spokesman.
John E. Bourne Jr. passed away at his home, according to Rev. Rob Dewey with the Lowcountry Community Chaplaincy.
He says Bourne’s death was expected.
Bourne served as mayor from 1972-1991.
In 1991, Bourne, Jr., lost his bid for a sixth term as mayor to Bobby Kinard, who became the city’s second mayor. Following Bobby Kinard’s resignation in 1994, current mayor Keith Summey was elected the city’s third mayor to fill the vacant seat.
Bourne, Jr.’s grandson Duncan Padgett III, posted the following message on social media.
The world knew him as Mayor John E. Bourne Jr., the founding mayor of North Charleston. To me, he was and will always be “Pop”. I have spent the majority of last year sharing my lunchtime with him every Tuesday and am thankful that I had that opportunity. He was a wonderful Grand-Father, he gave me opportunities that I doubt many people could ever dream of. I have shaken the hands of three U.S. Presidents, been to Washington D.C. for inaugurations or balls of one form or another, I have been able to swing from a rope and plummet into the waters of Lake Moultrie, laughing the whole way down. I have been able to watch the Stingrays win hockey games in a coliseum knowing that the facility wouldn’t have existed without Pop. The same goes for shopping at Tanger, going into the lobby of any of the hotels in that area, or driving on 526 over the Don Holt Bridge. I have so many stories of things he did either as Mayor or Paternal leader. The city of North Charleston owes its existence to his planning and dedication. When he was in City Hall, he was the Mayor 100%. When he was home, he was Pop 100%. I will share one bit of his wisdom with you… He told me that when he had an idea, as long as he kept it in his head, he could make changes, additions, deletions, or come up with something altogether different. But the moment he opened his mouth, he was committed one way or the other. That skill is one I think is a rare find in today’s society. I will miss him, we all will. Aside from his wisdom and accomplishments, I loved this man. He was an excellent mentor and I mourn his passing.
Padgett spoke exclusively to News 2 about his grandfather’s life and legacy in North Charleston.
“If you watch the Stingrays play at the coliseum, or been shopping at Tanger Outlets, all the hotels in that area, none of that would have existed had it not been for Pop,” said Padgett.
But Pop’s, or John E. Bourne, Jr.’s, work started way before that.
Padgett says Bourne went into the military right after World War II and was shipped off to Italy.
He eventually came back to his home town of Conway, where he met his wife.
Bourne then moved to Charleston, finished business school in a matter of months, and began working in real estate. He eventually started the John Bourne Company.
That then led to politics. He served on Charleston County Council and in the State Senate as a Republican.
“Since Reconstruction, there had been democrat dominance in South Carolina. He was one of the pioneering Republicans back in those days,” said Padgett.
By the end of the 1960’s, several people had tried to incorporate North Charleston. They had to get a majority vote from the registered voters, and each time failed.
However, in 1971, Bourne found a way. He encouraged voters.
“They had a meeting at North Charleston High School and had people go out and [say] Vote! Vote! … Build up some enthusiasm,” Padgett said.
Bourne also eliminated unnecessary votes, like the registered voters in the area that had died or moved away. At the time, those register voters counted as ‘No’ votes.
“They held the election, and it passed, but then it was immediately challenged by those that didn’t want it to be incorporated,” said Bourne’s grandson.
Bourne took the issue to the Supreme Court, and he won. He became the Mayor in 1972.
The challenges for him as a leader didn’t stop. Others battled him about the 526 design. He created the Virigina Avenue exit.
He also pushed for the building of the North Charleston Coliseum and Tanger Outlets.
Bourne’s determination has passed on to his grandson, Padgett. He plans to write Bourne’s biography.
“He said, ‘I discovered at an early age that if I have an idea, and I keep it in [my head], I can change it around and I can add things, and I can take it away. But, the moment I say something I’m committed one way or another,’” Padgett said.
Bourne’s public viewing is set for Monday, January 15 at 11 a.m. at the Park Circle Recreation Center.
The funeral begins at 2 p.m. Speakers expected include Former Police Chief Eddie Driggers and North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey.