Fort Jackson on Tuesday dedicated a building to a former commander from Arizona who retired in Columbia and spent the rest of his life serving the community.
Plaques, photographs and signs now identify the previously nondescript Building 9810 as the Maj. Gen. John Renner Building. In about 18 months, it will be renovated to become the new post headquarters, replacing the present World War II-era building. Now, the building houses the fort’s warrior transition and family support services.
Renner passed away last year at age 70 after losing a battle with leukemia. Of the 45 commanding generals at Fort Jackson, he is one of only four to have a facility named for him.
“He dedicated the last 16 years of his life to Fort Jackson and Columbia,” said retired Col. Angelo Perri, a stalwart member of the Fort Jackson community and close friend of Renner who was instrumental in getting the dedication approved by the military.
Renner served as Fort Jackson’s 35th commanding general from 1989-91. After his 1994 retirement from the military after 32 years of service, Renner remained in Columbia and was active in the community, serving on the S.C. State Museum Board, the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce’s military committee and as an officer in the Spring Valley Rotary Club, among other volunteer efforts.
Fort Jackson commander Brig. Gen. Bryan T. Roberts described Renner Tuesday as a “true role model” who “epitomized the characteristics of the Army profession … If you asked a Hollywood casting agent to send you a general, it would be John Renner.”
Renner was born June 21, 1940, in Phoenix and grew up in Glendale, Ariz., where he was a high school athlete and scholar.
He attended the University of Arizona on a football scholarship, playing tight end for the Wildcats for four years. He also was named an Academic All-American.
Renner was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army in 1962 through the University of Arizona’s Army ROTC program. He served two tours in Vietnam, first as a company commander with the 25th Division and later as a district senior adviser in the Mekong Delta.
Renner was wounded twice in Vietnam, each time receiving the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest award for valor in combat, and the Purple Heart. His other decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Bronze Star with a V device, the Air Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
Renner’s career included several notable assignments such as deputy commander of Allied Land Forces for Southeastern Europe in Izmir, Turkey; assistant commander of the 1st Infantry Division; commander of the 1st Infantry Division Forward in Germany; and commander of the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division.
Earlier this year, friends and colleagues, through the University of Arizona Foundation, set a goal of $50,000 for a memorial fund for Renner, an avid Wildcats fan to the end.
About $30,000 has been raised to pay for the cost of a bronze bust of Renner, which will be in the ROTC building at the university. Another $20,000 or more is being sought to establish an endowment for students enrolled in the Senior Army ROTC program at the university.
Renner was represented at Tuesday’s ceremony by his daughters, Heather Ligon of Peachtree City, Ga., and Renner Eberlein of Charlotte, and their families.
Heather Renner said her father’s posting at Fort Jackson was a perfect job for him, to set an example and be the first to train new soldiers.
“I hope they continue to be inspired by my dad,” she said.