CLOVER — Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series of profiles of Clover-area residents and their connection to the community, to mark the 125th anniversary of the town.
Soldier, accountant, lawyer, mayor, board president and a few other titles are among the descriptions of Clover resident LeRoy Pendleton.
Pendleton, a Clover native, still comes to his office at Pendleton and Pendleton on Kings Mountain Street even though he is retired. A man of succinct words, he quickly talked about growing up in Clover.
“My grandfather was the first person to be buried at the Methodist Church just outside of town. My dad was a farmer for awhile, had some property just outside of town, closer to Bethel,” he said.
Pendleton remembers working on the farm, but most of the labor was done by sharecroppers. “I was born over there on Marion Street, still own the house,” he said.
He graduated from Clover High School in 1945, after World War II. At that time, President Harry Truman passed legislation that would give any persons who enlisted full veteran rights.
Pendleton took advantage of the offer. He joined the year after graduation, and received veteran status. After basic training, he went to “IBM School” where he got a taste of accounting. He was stationed at the Bainbridge, Md., Navy yard, keeping records for the U.S. fleet.
His time in the service ended two months shy of two years. “Johnson, the Secretary of Defense, had to discharge 50,000 soldiers early because they ran out of money; I was able to get my college paid for because I was classed as a veteran.”
Attending the University of South Carolina on the GI Bill, Pendleton majored in accounting, then went to law school. “No one in my family ever was an attorney. I’ve given it a lot of thought, still do,” he said.
He passed the bar exam on his first try, and began practicing law in 1954.
At the university, he got a taste for public service. He met Strom Thurman. “I had some meals at the governor’s mansion, when he was governor. I got to know him fairly well,” he said.
Pendleton recounted having a suitemate whose mother was a hostess for Thurman, before Thurman married his first wife, Jean. After Thurman married, Pendleton also became friends with Jean.
He recalled one meal soon after Thurman was married. “We were eating dinner one night. There were six of us. There was this one woman, Strom, Jean, my friend, his mother and myself. This lady, she was a bit elderly. She kept looking at me, and I noticed it. Finally she left the room. I asked Jean, who this woman was.” It turned out to be Thurman’s sister.
“I told Jean that this woman kept looking at me and I didn’t know what it was about. Jean Thurman said she would find out, and left the room. A short time later, she came back and said ‘She thought you were Olin T. Johnson’s nephew.’
“I guess she thought I looked like him, and couldn’t understand why I was there at the table.” At the time, Johnson and Thurman were both vying for the U.S. Senate seat.
Pendleton married his wife Sara in 1953. “She was at Columbia College, an all-girl school then, while I was at university.”
They met at a party, organized by First Baptist in Columbia, for freshman attending area colleges and universities. He and Sara will mark their 60th wedding anniversary on April 3. The Pendletons have four children and nine grandchildren.
Sara was an organist at First Baptist in Clover for 33 years, so their children were at church two times on Sunday and one time Wednesday evening. “I told them they had to plan their activities around the church schedule,” he said. “I have this feeling it had some value to their upbringing.”
Three of their children are in medicine. One son is a pediatric oncologist in Savannah, Ga., one daughter is an epidemiologist, in August, Ga., the other, a local high school nurse.
His other son, George Franklin II, followed his father into the practice of law.
The 1960s was a busy time for Pendleton. While raising his family, and building his law practice, Pendleton served as Clover’s mayor for four terms. “Back then, it was for two years at a time,” he said. “Two terms is sufficient. With two you pay your debt to society, after that it’s a contribution.”
During his term, he was instrumental in getting some legislation passed that helped bring industry to the area, after American Thread and Clover Spinning closed their doors.
After serving four terms as mayor, Pendleton still felt called to serve the community.
During the 1970s, he organized and become first president of the Clover Optimist club. He was involved in many charity drives, such as Easter Seals. Yet his fondest memories are of his service with the Boy Scouts.
He served as president of the York County Council of the Boy Scouts of America for two years, close to seven years with the Youth Leadership Training board and two years as Palmetto Council president.
“I enjoyed it more than anything else,” he said. “I have a great respect for Scout leaders. They aren’t paid anything to do what they do…we [didn’t] get paid, but that is OK. It’s a great way to do something for others.”
He leaned back comfortably in his office chair. Though he has been retired 25 years, he still does some wills and legal work.
He mused about changes in the town. “After the mills went out, people had to find work, so they went looking elsewhere for work. Still live here though. It’s a nice place to live.”
He did a quick glance at his watch. The interview came to a close. As he held the outside door open for the visitor, he said to a paralegal behind the front counter, “I’m off to get the mail.”
For LeRoy Pendleton, service, even in retirement, is still a calling.