Thomas Nathaniel Rhoad Jr., who spent his life in service to his family and his community, died Thursday evening. He was 89.

Rhoad represented District 90 in the South Carolina House for 24 years, starting in 1983. He served as the majority whip for a time.

He worked to pass laws on subjects as varied as turkey hunting, drug abuse and tax incentives for job creation, while also involved in oversight of House personnel and facilities. He was a longtime chairman of the Agricultural, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee.

“Tom was a great legislator. He was consistent and fair, and his word was his bond,” said state Sen. John Matthews Jr., D-Bowman. “The best interest of Bamberg County always was first for him. He made a difference for the community he served, and I know they’re going to miss him.”

Born in Bamberg County, Rhoad attended the public schools and served on an aircraft carrier in the North Atlantic during World War II.

He was a retired farmer and rural mail carrier. He was treasurer and a deacon at Edisto Baptist Church for 27 years but also donated land for the expansion of Claflin Methodist Church. He helped bring an Office of Aging and a Visiting Nurses Association to the county. He served on County Council for two years. He supported the Red Cross chapter.

U.S. Highway 78 between Bamberg and Denmark was named in his honor through the efforts of Rep. Bakari Sellers, who defeated Rhoad in the Democratic primary in 2006 and has held the District 90 seat ever since. Sellers was not immediately available for comment.

Near the end of his last term, more than 200 of Rhoad’s friends held an appreciation reception for him and his wife, Chessie, at the old National Guard Armory in Bamberg. Rhoad had been instrumental in transferring ownership of the building to the community.

Rhoad told his supporters at the time: “I will continue to work for Bamberg County. I will always love my work. I will always be proud that I have been a friend to so many.”

Visitation for the former state legislator will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday at Edisto Baptist Church, 4831 Edisto River Road. The funeral will begin at 4 p.m. Sunday at the church. Burial will follow in the church cemetery.

Contact the writer: lhendren@ and 803-533-5552.

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