PERSPECTIVE: Midlands loses 3 influential people within a week

The following Perspective is an expression of opinion by the Editorial Board at WIS, and presented by Senior Reporter Jack Kuenzie:

To move a region and a state forward, you need awareness and involvement. Over the past week we've lost three men who led the way in creating those things.

Lee Bandy spent four decades with the State newspaper, half that time covering the nation's capital and building a legend based on blunt, incisive, fair reporting.  South Carolina---a small state home to larger-than-life political leaders and their ambitions---turned to Bandy to keep them all in check. But his work was also remarkable because he produced it, without producing enemies. A quintessential tough, old-school newsman who thrived on personal contact, shared his gifts with younger colleagues, lived his faith and never sought the spotlight. It sought him. We were honored to air his insights many times here on WIS.

Steve Morrison's name did not appear in print quite as often, but it was widely known and deeply respected in the legal, education, civil rights and arts communities. Brilliant attorney---tireless champion of the arts, Morrison may be best remembered for his efforts to fight discrimination, eliminate impoverished schools and level the playing field for young South Carolinians. His lead role in the long court battle to reform funding for the state's poorest school districts stands as a prime example of involved citizenry. Typically---when he chose to run for Columbia mayor several years ago, Steve Morrison said he would do so only to bring people together---not divide them.

And while we were still mourning those losses, we learned of the passing of Ike Mcleese. For 19 years, the president and CEO of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce----where he took on economic and political challenges affecting the future of the entire region. His efforts to save Midlands military installations from the 2005 BRAC cuts were so successful, the Pentagon expanded operations here instead of slashing them. It was a measure of the man that when Columbia lost a bid to attract a new air carrier----Ike Mcleese responded by pulling local governments together so we would not miss the next opportunity. A friend to many---an expert on so much---he worked long hours to achieve his big vision.

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