S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, Jan. 2, 2005
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/05.0102.morris.htm

Find other ways to honor public servants
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

JAN. 2, 2005 - - It's almost gotten to the point that you can't drive anywhere without seeing a road, interchange, bridge or some other piece of public infrastructure named after a public official.

There are at least 20 buildings, gyms, schools, statues and streets named after the late Sen. Strom Thurmond. Retiring Sen. Fritz Hollings, who made it a practice to try not to have things named for him while he was in office, still has six major namesakes, including the recently renamed ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge.

And then there's the Earle E. Morris Jr. Alcohol and Drug Addiction Treatment Center in Columbia and the Earle E. Morris Jr. Highway in Pickens County.

Thirty years ago when Morris was a public official, the General Assembly named S.C. Highway 153 in his native Pickens County to honor his public service. He served as a state senator, followed by statewide positions as lieutenant governor and comptroller general.

Earle E. Morris Alcohol and Drug Addiction Treatment Center, Columbia

After he left state service, he became chairman of Carolina Investors in Pickens. In November, Morris was sentenced to 44 months in prison for his role in the collapse of the Upstate bank-like financial institution which once had holdings of $278 million. Thousands lost their savings when the company went bankrupt. Following bankruptcy proceedings, most of the mom-and-pop investors were able to recover about 15 cents on the dollar.

Currently, State Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, is talking with business owners along the Morris Highway to learn whether they want to change the name. Why? Because they'll likely have to spend thousands of dollars to change stationery, envelopes, business cards and the like.

Regardless, state lawmakers should strip Morris's name from the road, as well as the building named for him in Columbia. To keep the name on each dishonors the state.


McLEMORE'S WORLD: Resolutions in stone



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In fact, state lawmakers seriously should examine the too-common practice of naming public infrastructure for incumbent public officials and just-retired ones. We suggest buildings, highways and the like only be named to honor people after they've passed away.

But the people who make these decisions, politicians, likely won't want to do this. That's because they seem to want to see their names emblazoned upon signage honoring their public service. It's almost become mandatory for state officials to expect some kind of naming honor.

Still, it's just not a good idea. Naming things for public officials runs the continuing risk of embarrassing the state and taxpayers, as in the Morris case. Certainly those who named the road and center for him couldn't foresee his conviction. But their good intentions have come back to haunt the people of Pickens County. Imagine if you had lost your life savings in the Carolina Investors debacle and were reminded of it every day as you drove down a state road.

It's far safer to wait and honor public servants in some other way while they're living. For example, if there were a great wail to do something public, people could take up a collection and erect a statue or have a portrait painted of the official.

Instead of having those in the old boys' (and girls') club of politics pat their peers on the backs by naming something after them, perhaps the people who gave these folks the power in the first place - - voters and taxpayers - - should be trusted to write thank-you letters instead.


1/2: Resolutions in stone

The latest from cartoonist Bill McLemore:


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