The Buzz

Fred Sheheen remembered as advocate of higher education, arts

In this 2004 file photo, Sen. Vincent Sheheen, center, celebrates early poll numbers with his father, Fred, left, and supporters at his Camden home. Fred Sheheen died Monday in a car crash.
In this 2004 file photo, Sen. Vincent Sheheen, center, celebrates early poll numbers with his father, Fred, left, and supporters at his Camden home. Fred Sheheen died Monday in a car crash. File Photo

Fred Sheheen, former head of the state Commission on Higher Education, was remembered late Monday as an advocate for higher education and the arts.

The father of state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, died Monday in a car crash.

Kershaw County Coroner David West confirmed Sheheen’s death. Sheheen was 79.

Vincent Sheheen's youngest son, Anthony, who was a passenger in his grandfather’s vehicle, was being treated for injuries suffered in the accident. He is expected to fully recover, said Antjuan Seawright, political adviser to Sen. Sheheen.

“Please keep Fred's wife, Mrs. Rose Sheheen, and the entire Sheheen family in your thoughts and prayers,” Seawright said.

The crash is under investigation by the S.C. Highway Patrol, said Lance Cpl. David Jones. It occurred about 2:30 p.m. Monday on S.C. 97 at Sailing Club Road in Kershaw County.

A 2000 Lexus, driven by a Rock Hill woman, was traveling south on S.C. 97. Fred Sheheen was driving a 1997 Isuzu pickup truck north.

The vehicles hit when Sheheen attempted to make a left turn, Jones said, adding the Rock Hill woman also was transported to a hospital.

Higher education, arts advocate

Fred Sheheen graduated from Duke University in the late 1950s. After graduating, he worked as a reporter for The Charlotte Observer, covering civil-rights issues. In the 1960s, he worked as an aide to S.C. Gov. Donald Russell.

Sheheen was head of the state agency that oversees public colleges and universities, the Commission on Higher Education, from 1987 to 1997. At the commission, Sheheen helped craft policies to provide equality for blacks attending S.C. colleges and universities.

During part of his tenure, his brother Bob, a Camden Democrat, was speaker of the S.C. House of Representatives. Fred’s son Vincent later was elected to the S.C. House and state Senate, and, in 2010 and 2014, he was the Democratic nominee for governor.

State Rep. Laurie Slade Funderburk, D-Kershaw, said Monday that Fred Sheheen was the most energetic person she knew. He was a supporter of arts, and very active in local affairs and civic affairs, Funderburk said, adding Sheheen recently made a speech at a Kershaw County Democratic Women’s event, talking about how much he loved his country.

Sheheen was probably the strongest head of the Commission on Higher Education that the state has had, said Sen. John Courson, R-Richland. citing Sheheen’s intellect and communication skills. “He was aggressive without being abrasive,” said Courson, a higher education advocate.

Sheheen also was on the executive board of UNITED 2000, which was dedicated to bringing the Confederate flag down from the State House.

Cassie Cope: 803-771-8657, @cassielcope

Fred Sheheen

The former head of the state Commission on Higher Education died Monday, at age 79, in an auto accident.

‘Dedication to public service was unsurpassed’

“The university and the state of South Carolina have suffered a tremendous loss with the passing of Fred Sheheen. Fred’s dedication to public service was unsurpassed. ... (H)e was dedicated to making South Carolina a better place today than it was yesterday.”

Bob Oldendick, director of the Institute for Public Service and Policy Research at the University of South Carolina

‘A champion for all that is right’

“Fred Sheheen was one of the best of the best ... as it relates to humanity, the arts, bringing people together. He was a champion for all that is right in this world. His death will be a loss that we will feel not only in Camden and Kershaw County but throughout the state.”

Kristin Cobb, executive director of the Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County

‘Incredible human being’

“He was an incredible human being and a tremendous advocate for higher education in South Carolina.”

— Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington