Unless you live in South Carolina, and most likely in the Myrtle Beach area, you probably never heard of the late state Senator Dick Elliott. But for many people in these parts, he is a legend and a perfect example of a politician totally dedicated to public service.
On June 29, Elliott, who passed away just over five years ago at age 78, was honored for his years of service by the Horry County Democratic Party (HCDP) with a fundraising golf outing named in his honor and by the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, the single A farm club of the Chicago Cubs.
Elliott's son, Rick, spoke at the golf event, which he and his family's business enterprises strongly supported. He told a story of how his father, when he first entered politics -- a career that would take him from Horry County Council to the state House of Representatives and State Senate -- first had to decide whether he would be a Republican or a Democrat.
"He chose to be a Democrat," Elliott said of his father, "and he never left the Democrat Party."
That was remarkable because over the years Horry County has turned bright red -- to the point that until recently Democrats couldn't even find candidates to run. Nevertheless, Elliott stayed the course.
"When the Republicans came calling and said to him, 'You're a conservative, why don't you join the Republican Party,'" Rick Elliott said, his father replied, "No. I'm going to ride my donkey into the sunset." And that, said Rick, is exactly what he did.
Senator Elliott was proud of the fact that in 30 years of state legislative service in Columbia he never missed a day. And when it came time to hang up his political spikes in 2012, he said, "When you spend 30 years without missing a day in Columbia, you deserve to retire." It was then that the senator was presented the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina's highest civilian honor.
With that record in mind, Ryan Waters, director of business development for the Pelicans, presented Rick Elliott and his mother, Anne, a framed Pelicans jersey emblazoned with the name "D. Elliott" and the number 30.
"No matter which side of the line you were on," said Waters, "you knew Senator Elliott was always there."
HCDP Chair Don Kohn recalled the senator's long background as a businessman, councilman, state representative and state senator, and said he was always "involved in moving South Carolina forward," with major roles in the development of Coastal Carolina University and Seacoast Medical Center.
Kohn pointed out that at one point in his career, there was a campaign ad lauding Elliott's achievement. At the bottom was the line, "Sponsored by Republicans for Dick Elliott."
"He set quite an example," said Kohn "even the Republicans took out an ad supporting him. We need more politicians like that today."