Read the name Tecklenburg in South Carolina and the focus turns to John Tecklenburg, today’s mayor of Charleston and successor to Joe Riley.
Looking deeper into the past, those familiar with South Carolina politics and business will recall the name of Henry Tecklenburg Jr., father of John, and a man of impact not unlike his son.
What many do not know is the Orangeburg connection.
At the 50th anniversary observance of the Orangeburg Massacre earlier this year, John spoke about his experiences here as a young man and his belief today that South Carolina must do better.
“Schools, our education system, our affordable housing, criminal justice, economic justice, folks we’ve got a lot of work to do and we’ve got a long way to go,” he said. “History can repeat itself and we need to learn from our history to have positive, progressive action going forward.”
Positive, progressive action was what Henry Tecklenburg, a close associate of former Sen. Ernest Hollings, was about.
The late T&D Publisher Dean Livingston wrote after his retirement in 2001: “There are not enough adjectives in the dictionary to describe his determination to help bring forth the good in political America; nor are there enough verbs to define his extensive efforts to achieve a successful religious-civic-political-governmental blend for the welfare of all in America.”
Livingston called the man known as “Teck,” who died in 1993, the most astute behind-the-scenes governmental and political person he ever knew, stating further that “his demeanor and manner of speech always made it crystal clear that he was born and bred in Charleston, South Carolina's ‘Holy City.’ It was while a resident of Orangeburg, however, that Henry Christian John Tecklenburg Jr. surfaced as one of the state's leading businessmen who was always up to his neck in political activity.”
And it is about that Orangeburg connection that we write today.
What moved Tecklenburg out of Charleston and into Orangeburg was his 1950s marriage to Esther Herlihy, daughter of the late Fred Herlihy, founder of Orangeburg's Shell oil distributorship, the Power Oil Co. After Herlihy's death, Tecklenburg became chairman of the board and operator of the oil company in 1963. He moved his wife and five sons, including John, to Orangeburg that year.
But he was not the only Tecklenburg force in Orangeburg and Charleston.
Esther Herlihy Tecklenburg made her home in Charleston for decades but has Orangeburg roots, her family settling here when she was 5. During the 1960s when she and Henry returned here, she played a leading role.
Importantly, in the wake of the Orangeburg Massacre in 1968, the incident in which three students were killed and 28 injured when shots were fired by state troopers at then-South Carolina State College, Esther Tecklenburg was looked to as a member of the Orangeburg Area Human Relations Committee.
The committee was formed to find solutions after the tragedy and help build a unified Orangeburg without bitter racial divisions. She also served as an S.C. State trustee, a post that son John told The Post and Courier “was dear to her heart.”
In Charleston, she held many positions, not the least of them being a member of city council from 1980-86.
Esther Herlihy Tecklenburg’s life, which ended Nov. 24 at age 90, is being celebrated in Charleston. And the contributions she and her family made to Orangeburg will not be forgotten.