For Father’s Day, we asked the sons and daughters of some of the most successful men in the Midlands what they have learned from their fathers.
Below, many share the life lessons they learned long ago that they honor today.
‘Don’t buy into the hype of the people who praise you’
SC Attorney General Al Wilson on his father, Joe
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When it comes to Joe and Alan Wilson, that old adage holds true – both are elected public officials holding highly visible posts.
Rep. Joe Wilson, 67, R-SC, is the state’s 2nd Congressional District member of Congress. He’s held the post for 14 years and was in the State Senate before that. Wilson has done so much, his biography in the State Legislative Manual takes up nearly three pages – more than any other state public official listed in that book.
Alan Wilson, 41, a Republican like his dad, is State Attorney General. That was his first elected office and his biography is skimpy at less than half a page.
Asked what lessons he’s learned from his father, Alan Wilson had plenty to say:
“My dad always taught me to make sure you do the right thing because you are never going to make everybody happy, so you might as well have a clear conscience at night.
“Don’t buy into the hype of the people who praise you, and don’t buy into the distraction of the people who hate you – just seek to do the right thing and everything will work out.”
“Another thing he taught me was to always be pleasant to people, always try to do your best to treat people as respectfully as you can. And frankly, I’ve developed some wonderful friendships I never would have by giving people a chance.”
‘Doing the right thing, making the correct call, may not be the easiest’
Mignon Clyburn says her most enduring lesson came from watching her father, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia, as a member of the S.C. Human Affairs Commission, when it was asked in 1989 by the governor to investigate whether a Conway high school coach’s decision to replace a senior starting quarterback who was black with the assistant coach’s white son was discriminatory.
“Emotions ran high, tensions cut deep and protests and boycotts threatened to tear the school, that town and this state apart,” Mignon Clyburn says.
But the commission’s investigation concluded “that there was no way to determine if race was the motivating factor in the coach’s decision to replace the team’s starting quarterback.”
That decision “would ignite a fuse I thought would never extinguish. Longtime supporters hurled criticisms that sometimes crossed the line; scores of citizens were enraged...others went as far as to question the then-Commissioner Clyburn when it came to his civil rights convictions. The climate was ugly, uncomfortable and tense. It hurt. It must have. ... I asked him: How was he coping? Naturally, I was concerned about his well-being, but honestly, I was struggling with the commission’s conclusions, too. His reply that day, however, would forever order my steps whenever I come to a crossroad.”
“You must follow, respect, report and stand by the facts ... wherever they may lead, he admonished. Emotional decisions – those conclusions drawn from your gut, from that inner voice which has served you well all of your life – will not be upheld by any legitimate body with legal standing, if they are not supported by cold, hard facts. And when it comes to highly charged, controversial and painful situations like Conway, doing the right thing, making the correct call, may not be the easiest; chances are strong that your decision will be neither popular nor warmly embraced, but in the end, time will prove you right and your legacy, the one thing that ultimately matters, will remain intact until the bitter end.”
‘Do the best you can’
The parallels were there in her genes and her childhood, but Kelly Giese Veeder found her own way to the profession that she has come to share every day with her father, Barney Giese.
The 29-year-old lawyer said she changed her mind about a career when he found that neither chemical engineering nor political science held her interest at the University of South Carolina – even though she was on the Gamecock swim team, where father Barney and mother Charlotte Giese had met in the late 1970s.
“He never pushed me (to become an attorney),” she said of the father who spent 29 years as a prosecutor in metropolitan Columbia before opening his own law firm in 2011. She joined the firm two years ago.
“It’s going to sound so cliche: ‘Do the best you can,’ And that’s that,’ “ she said of the life lesson he imparted. “There was never a question, ‘Did I do it good enough for him?’ It was always good enough for him.”
Though they share a law office in downtown Columbia and Veeder routinely draws on his example and vast legal knowledge, she prefers legal research and writing memos to being in the courtroom. “We are polar opposites in that,” she said.
Barney Giese, 59, continues to fighting courtroom battles.
‘He loves to sing in his car, and I love that about him’
Amy Moody, daughter of Gamecocks head football coach Steve Spurrier, is a middle school math teacher in Panama City, Fla.
“He’s a great, great person, great father. I think about how much I have enjoyed the way he has become content in his life. You don’t want to say satisfied, but he has great peace about the place he’s in. He loves to sing in his car, and I love that about him, and any chance he gets to dance with my mom, he will dance with my mom. I have gotten to where I videotape his Thanksgiving blessing. It’s very honest and very sincere. He’s just very thankful.
“My dad loves a sunset. He will stop what he is doing when he knows he has a good seat for a sunset. He wasn’t always this way. Little things didn’t always get his attention. As he aged, as his marriage matured, as we – his kids – grew up, as he lost his parents (after long, happy lives), as he watched his own teams come and go and win and lose, he found a really good balance between important things and unimportant things. Sunsets became an important thing.
“When you have a physical reminder that one whole day of your life is over – a life that God has numbered each of your days – that warrants your consideration. Be grateful. Be honest. Be careful. Be healthy. Be faithful. Be generous. Be loyal. Be content.
“Every time I see a sunset, I stop and wonder where my dad might be at that time. Is he watching too?”
‘He was like the boss of the family’
When state Sen. Katrina Shealy spoke out this year after a fellow senator made a sexist remark, the Lexington County Republican said she channeled her father, a Lexington County grocer who had to raise three children after his wife died.
“My father always taught us if you see someone doing something wrong whether it’s to you or someone else, stand up for what’s right – even it’s not the most popular thing to do,” said Shealy, a Lexington Republican who was 15 when her mother passed away.
Her father, Brooks Frye, was strict but never raised his voice at his children, Shealy said, though they knew when he was mad because his face would turn red. Frye’s quiet authority came from helping raise his seven siblings.
“He was like the boss of the family,” Shealy said. “He took care of everybody and took care of us after my mom passed away.”
Shealy said she learned from her father’s generosity while working at his Piggly Wiggly, where he would run tabs for some customers he knew could never pay him back.
“I remember once my dad put two steaks in an older couple’s bag because he knew it was their anniversary, and they couldn’t have afforded it,” she said.
The influence of her father, who died in 1995 at age 72, comes out in how she carries herself as a legislator, Shealy said.
“I am going to be tough and say what I think. People will know I’m honest and I’m up front,” she said. “There’s no question I’m going to tell you the truth – no matter what it is.”
‘Wake up early and it breeds success’
Rabbi Levi Marrus, program director of Chabad of South Carolina, instills much of his father’s advice in himself and his kids.
Levi Marrus’ father, Peter Marrus, 70, was a respected linguist who taught French, Spanish and Italian in the mornings and English in the afternoons, mostly at Woodlands High School, and is now retired.
The rabbi, 31, said: “In general the advice that sticks with us is not the ones they tell us but the ones they show us and role model to us. These are three pieces of advice that I really remember:
“1. Always be early. Be early to everything. Be early to the meeting. Be early to the event. It shows respect to the person and the event and it shows that the event is important. My dad is still always early and he puts his clock ahead so he knows he won’t be late.
“2. Wake up early and it breeds success. When you wake up early you can get success. You look at people who are super successful and all of these people wake up really early and accomplish things in one morning that most people accomplish in one day.
“3. Treat everyone with respect no matter how high or how low on the social pole. Whether they are important or not, give them all the respect they deserve.
“I’ve come to appreciate these lessons and they are closely tied to the Jewish religion.”
‘I am where I am as a man because of my Dad’
Earl Miller started out in the pet food business about 30 years ago. He eventually opened Forest Acres Pet Store and brought up his sons Don’Fra and Lamont in the business. Earl’s goals in starting his own business were financial stability, creating a household name and to have something sustainable for future generations. In 2013, Earl handed over the reins to his sons and the business is now known as Super Starr Pets.
Don’Fra talks about what he has learned from his father.
“My dad understood pets and people, and he instilled in us to treat people right, always with a smile and with honesty,” he says. “This business allows us to fulfill another one of my father’s dreams of bringing the family closer.”
Even though Earl might not physically be in the store, “because of the daily calls and talks, it’s like he’s still here.”
Don’Fra and Lamont also have extended his father’s values of giving back to the community by starting the Springboard Program where they mentor two to five young men a year, allowing them to shadow them in the business and develop needed skills.
“I am where I am as a man because of my dad,” says Don’Fra. “That’s a blessing. It’s special.”
‘Dad taught me the importance of not being a bully with a badge’
Robin Walters’ role model for what a law enforcement officer should be is her father Douglas Walters, a retired U.S. marshal and police officer.
The lessons learned from him guide her as a Lexington County deputy, now having the rank of sergeant supervising patrols in the north part of the 758-square-mile county.
Walters, 42, said her 64-year-old father ingrained a sense of service that remains strong in her after more than 23 years in police work: “Dad always instilled the willingness and desire to help others. He would always tell me, ‘There is nothing better in this world than the satisfaction of being there when people need you the most.’
“Dad would come home after working all night and sit up with me and tell me about his adventures from the night before. They were never stories about chases, fights, or murders but stories of helping people: About the lady’s car that broke down and how he took her to the gas station in the middle of the night and stood by with her until she was able to get it started. Or how he got a wanted subject that was breaking into someone’s house, which made the neighborhood a bit safer.
“Dad taught me the importance of not being a bully with a badge and reminded me throughout my career it isn’t about how many people you put in jail, but how you helped someone.”
‘He always wanted to ensure that I had what I needed to succeed in life’
Andy Gandolfo, used car director at JT’s Automotive, says he has learned so many things from his father, JT Gandolfo. When he reflects on the many lessons he’s learned over the years the one thing that has stuck with him is his father’s selfless dedication to his family and genuine care for their well being.
“When I reflect on my dad and all I’ve learned from him over the years, so much comes to mind. But one particular trait has greatly impressed me: His selfless dedication to his family and genuine care for our well being. No matter how busy he’s been over the years, he’s always put our needs first and found the time to be there for us. As I was growing up, he insisted on giving me the tools I needed to succeed, even when I was too naïve to realize it. Whether he was driving me downtown three times a week for baseball instruction or insisting that I study my SAT flash cards with him (which was certainly beneficial because my baseball career ended in the eighth grade), he never gave up on me. He always wanted to ensure that I had what I needed to succeed in life.
“I again witnessed his selfless dedication to others when my grandfather broke his hip shortly after I graduated college. My dad immediately reached out to his father and helped him relocate to Columbia from his home in Wilmington, Delaware. It was an intense rehabilitation process and a challenging time for everyone. But no matter how much “Boompa” pushed back or tested my dad’s limits I never saw my dad complain or give up on him. He always found a way to spend time with my grandfather and helped tend to his many needs. He genuinely cared for his dad’s well being and always wanted what was best for him.
“I have witnessed this same trait in him as he conducts his business and deals with those he meets every day. He’s forever changed my life and showed me through example how to be a good father to my son.
‘He’ll make fun of me for doing something goofy’
Laura McNaughton, 30, learned how to crawl and had her first birthday at the family business Sylvan & DuBose jewelers in Five Points. McNaughton, the fifth generation in the family working at the store, is a self-proclaimed “daddy’s girl.”
Her dad, Bruce DuBose, 63, taught McNaughton about customer service and gemstones.
“I definitely appreciate sparkly things,” she said.
DuBose learned how to be a watchmaker from his grandfather, but McNaughton has not yet learned that skill. “I have not had the patience.”
But she has gotten a bit of her dad’s sense of humor.
“Every now and then he’ll make fun of me for doing something goofy,” McNaughton said.
She’ll look at him and say: “I got it honestly from you.”
‘Always put others before yourself’
Keith Hudson says his dad, Jim, has been a role model as the younger man has become a business associate to his father. They run the Jim Hudson automobile dealership in Columbia.
Jim Hudson is a North Carolina native who moved to Columbia in 1961. He got into the car business and built up automobile dealerships that are today part of the Jim Hudson Automotive Group. Active in the community, Jim Hudson has been involved in helping children’s charities, community colleges, the National Kidney Foundation, the Boy Scouts and Meals on Wheels, among other things.
Keith Hudson says his dad has taught him both about life and the car business.
“Being humble, true, and sincere is the key to both personal and business relationships. My father has been an ongoing encouragement to me, and has taught me the value of hard work and true commitment. He has allowed me to be a part of the family business not just because I’m family, but because he values me as a business partner, leader and friend,” Keith Hudson says.
A life lesson: “Always put others before yourself. Lead always by example and never ask someone to do something you wouldn’t do first. Display servant leadership in all things. Have a passion for all things you do, and do them well.”
A business lesson: “The customer always comes first. If there’s ever a problem, take care of it. Customer satisfaction is our top priority. Also, treat employees as you would family. Show them respect and appreciation. Take a genuine interest in their lives and future. Do your job well, and you will gain the respect from those who watch and work for you!”
Roddie Burris and Sammy Fretwell
‘Have a good balance of work, family and philanthropy’
Ryan Dukes is the proprietor of the landmark Blue Marlin restaurant in The Vista. He took over the business from his father, Bill Dukes. Bill Dukes had also founded the LongHorn Steakhouse franchise in Charlotte decades ago and sold it. They also own Signature Catering together.
Bill Dukes is chairman of Honor Flight S.C., which flies WWII and Korea veterans to Washington for free to see their memorials. He also serves as the S.C. Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army. He also chaired a regional board that built the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.
“I learned from my dad that you have to treat all your employees like they are family. They are the most important part of the business because with them comes the customers. You’ve got one chance to shine, and if you mess it up you are going to lose that customer and likely their friends.
“Also, he told me that if you deliver a quality product at a fair price, people will come back.”
“As to my personal life – he taught me you have to have a good balance of work, family and philanthropy. He did that with Honor Flight. He did it with the convention center, dedicating himself 100 percent. He did all he could to make them successful. He is 100 percent involved, dedicated and excited.”
“And he always taught me to be very humble.”