Greater Columbia Chamber CEO Ike McLeese dies - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Greater Columbia Chamber CEO Ike McLeese dies

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce CEO and president Ike McLeese has passed away, according to a chamber spokesperson.

McLeese died at Providence Hospital Tuesday afternoon.

McLeese had just recently announced he was stepping down from his duties as the chamber's leader in January.

He had been in charge of the group for almost 20 years He had been deeply involved with efforts to save Fort Jackson, Shaw Air Force Base, and McEntire Joint National Guard Base from downsizing during the Base Realignment and Closure program in 2005.

Lexington Mayor Randy Halfacre praised McLeese's efforts to protect the Midlands from the BRAC.

"He was the individual that marshalled all the funding, that marshalled all the resources, that brought everybody together. He pretty much single-handedly did that himself. And not only did we save Fort Jackson and the other two, Shaw Air Force Base and McEntire. But because of his effort we actually expanded," said Halfacre.

McLeese suffered a heart attack last month and underwent open heart surgery earlier this month. Those health issues curtailed a career that began in 1994 when he took over the Chamber's leadership and helped eliminate a nearly $4 million debt.

Despite his health problems and retirement, McLeese planned to remain an active defender of the Midlands military. He had just been reappointed as a civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army.

Midlands elected officials have also come forth to express their condolences.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin called McLeese "a professional mentor and a dear personal friend".

"I will miss so many things about him: his laughter, his fearlessness, his commitment to Fort Jackson and our men and women in uniform and his deep and abiding love of baseball," said Benjamin.

Congressman Joe Wilson called McLeese a "champion" of the armed forces "who pledged unwavering support."

Congressman James Clyburn said he was proud to call McLeese a friend.

"He loved Columbia, and poured his heart and soul into making it a great place for businesses and for residents," said Clyburn.

Ike McLeese was 69.

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