Hall of Fame to mark 30 years

rburris@thestate.comMarch 31, 2014 

Ambrose Gonzales

A Who’s Who of the South Carolina business world is expected to don black tie en masse tonight to celebrate the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame’s 30th anniversary.

Over the years, 101 of the state’s most elite business leaders have been inducted into the Business Hall of Fame, ranging from Bernard Baruch, the “Park Bench Statesman” of Camden, who made his fortune on Wall Street, to William Gregg, the Charleston merchant who built Graniteville Mill.

Tonight, no new Laureates will be inducted into the Business Hall of Fame, however. Instead, as many as 400 business and community leaders will come together and pause for an evening commemoration of “Honoring the Past” and “Celebrating the Future,” organizers say.

“We are looking to celebrate the history of this event,” said Stephanie Stuckey, Junior Achievement of Central South Carolina president and CEO. “We really would like to pay homage to (the past Laureates) for everything they have done and contributed to South Carolina over the years – and continue to.”

The South Carolina Business Hall of Fame honors the state’s business titans past and present, while exposing coming generations of leaders to their work and accomplishments through Junior Achievement. Junior Achievement and BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina sponsor the annual banquet, held this year at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.

The Hall’s list of Laureates is not only long, but deep. In addition to characters such as Baruch and Gregg, other past Laureates include figures such as Roger Milliken, the textile and chemical manufacturing business magnate in the Upstate, and Ben R. Morris, noted past publisher of The State and The Columbia-Record newspapers in Columbia.

Boeing Vice President Jack Jones, keynote speaker, is expected to focus on the direction of business in the Palmetto State and the importance of a well-trained work force during the banquet.

Dianne Chinnes, who served as Junior Achievement of Central South Carolina president until 2005, and both envisioned and led the establishment of the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame in 1985 — assisted by a small, though key group of leaders — will guide the evening’s trip down memory lane.

“It’s my first time to return to the podium since retirement and, of course, I’m flooded with memories,” said Chinnes, who joined Junior Achievement in 1983. “One hundred and one business leaders have been honored during the premier business event in South Carolina. God blessed this great state with some giants of free enterprise, and they blessed us with a legacy of leadership.”

Chinnes will illuminate the key role she said Morris’ support played in getting the Business Hall of Fame off the ground, and her connection to the state’s business titans, including an impossible-to-get 15-minute meeting with Milliken decades ago.

“Ben (Morris) warned me that if I was late, I might as well leave the state,” Chinnes recalled.

Morris became publisher of The State and The Columbia Record in 1972, taking over leadership of the then-family-owned media company from his father-in-law, Ambrose G. Hampton.

“Sweet ol’ Ben Morris was the father of the Business Hall of Fame and Roger became our excellence guru,” Chinnes said. “Without Ben’s help, the Hall of Fame would never have succeeded.”

The event also is designed to cast light toward future new Laureates.

“South Carolina is a great state for business, but it has transformed and we need to set the direction for the future,” Stuckey said.

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