It should come as no surprise to anyone who knew John Rainey that he admired men like Bernard Baruch.
Anderson University dedicated a new statue to Baruch Thursday, one of the last gifts from Rainey to AU before his death in March at age 73.
“Bernard Baruch and John Rainey were independent thinkers who stood up for what they believed in,” said Anderson Mayor Terence Roberts. “Just because someone is different doesn’t mean that they are inferior and these two men understood that.”
Baruch, a native of Camden, made a fortune on Wall Street before World War I, helped negotiate peace after both world wars, advised six U.S. presidents and used his philanthropic work in South Carolina to benefit white and black residents alike.
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Rainey, a native of Anderson, was an adviser to South Carolina governors, a driving force behind starting South Carolina Educational Television and part of a two-decade fight leading to the 2014 state Supreme Court decision to order the Legislature to fix funding for several public school districts across the state.
“John Rainey was one of the finest men I’ve ever known ... he loved this state, the good and the bad,” recalled the university’s president, Evans Whitaker. “He was a real mover and shaker; he made things happen.”
Bud Ferillo worked with Rainey on the documentary “Corridor of Shame,” which showed the extreme poverty along Interstate 95 and other parts of the state and the corresponding scarcity of money for public schools when compared to more affluent districts in Greenville, Charleston and other places.
“He thought it was important to guarantee equal access to public education to all South Carolinians, regardless of their geography,” said Ferillo. “It was his vision to educate the people of South Carolina about that problem.”
The Raineys have financially supported AU from its days as a two-year school and up and through it becoming a four-year university growing steadily in academic offerings and national stature. John Rainey’s grandparents lived next to campus, and he and his siblings grew up close by on North Avenue.
Robert Rainey said that close relationship forged by his late brother and the rest of their family will endure.
“We know our family’s continuing relations with Anderson University will continue to be gratifying,” he said.
The new statue, “The Park Bench Statesman” by Camden sculptor Maria Kirby-Smith, sits across from the Rainey Fine Arts Center. The 4 p.m. ceremony was forced into the Daniel Recital Hall after rain showers began shortly before the event.
Rainey also donated a statue to honor Cpl. Freddie Stowers, one of two black SC natives to receive the nation’s highest military award. Stowers, a native of Sandy Springs, died in battle just six weeks before the end of World War I in 1918. It took 73 years, but he finally received the ultimate thanks of his nation when President George H.W. Bush awarded him the Medal of Honor in 1991.
Whitaker said the Stowers’ piece is nearly done and is scheduled for dedication on Veterans Day this year.