COLUMBIA, SC — Friends remembered Warren Giese on Saturday as a down-to-earth lawmaker whose career in politics followed success as the University of South Carolinas head football coach in the 1950s.
Their salutes came as word spread about the death Thursday of Giese, who was 89.
During the pre-game ceremonies at Saturdays USC-Vanderbilt football game at Williams-Brice Stadium, there an announcement about his passing and a moment of silence.
Giese was known for his dedication to elementary and high school education, environmentalism, bipartisanship, fiscal conservatism, law enforcement and attention to neighborhoods during 20 years as a state senator until his retirement in 2004.
He focused on researching and refining proposals rather than initiating them, friends said.
This was not a man who was flashy, said state Sen. Joel Lourie, a Democrat who succeeded Republican Giese in a district that stretches across northeast Richland County.
The Louries and Gieses have been friends for 30 years despite political differences.
Senate president pro tem John Courson, R-Richland, characterized Giese as someone who did his homework.
He may have been the most analytical member of the General Assembly, Courson said. He read everything. And he reached across the (political) aisle.
Republican former state Rep. Bill Cotty described Giese as a leader who wanted people to come together.
His avuncular approach was to work quietly without controversy, Cotty said.
One Giese hallmark was driving his 1960s yellow Ford long after it went out of style.
There was nothing pretentious about him, no braggadocio about him, said Stephen Hefner, who was superintendent of Richland 2 schools for more than half the time Giese was a lawmaker.
Some residents remember Giese for readily responding to their pleas for assistance.
Giese oversaw development of a plan to stop flooding in neighborhoods along Little Jackson Creek after years of unsuccessful efforts, some residents said.
He got all the parties together and pointed them in the right direction, said Miles Moriarty, president of the Greengate Homeowners Association.
It was typical of Giese never to forget the people who sent him to the State House, Lourie said.
Giese was a fitness buff, rooted in a long academic career in physical education at USC after his time as football coach ended in 1960 with a record of 28-21-1.
He was not a guy youd see eating cheeseburgers and french fries, Lourie said.
His background also made Giese a passionate advocate of medical care for children to assure their academic success, Hefner said.
Susan Anderson, head of USCs dance program, saluted Giese as her first boss, in the early 1980s, who became a strong supporter and often dropped in to watch rehearsals to see how the program was growing.
Giese initially balked at installing mirrors and a ballet barre before learning why those are vital in teaching the art, she said.
We were as different as night and day, but he was very helpful in getting what I needed for the program to grow, she said. He allowed us to spread our wings.
Funeral services for Giese will be private. Survivors include wife Phyllis and four children, including son Barney, a former longtime 5th Circuit solicitor for Richland and Kershaw counties.