In Rock Hill, the Rev. George Schultz Sr. never was elected to a single office. But few men in the last half-century helped shape the city as Schultz did.
Not with laws, but with joy and love.
Schultz, who died Thursday at 86, saw his way to make the community and the world better through the simple practice of urging all to be good to one another.
He beat polio to do it. He beat doubters to do it. For George Schultz, no obstacle was too big.
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Schultz was so committed to living a Christ-inspired life of generosity and spreading the Word that he started his church, Trinity Bible Church, that remains to this day next to the fire station on busy Cherry Road, in a Quonset hut building that still stands.
The signature half-circle galvanized metal roof remains to this day.
But church wasn’t all Schultz wanted to build, so he started a Christian school. Trinity Christian School was founded in 1968 with 10 students – all kindergartners – right there in the little church.
The school flourished, building a campus on University Drive at Bird Street several years later, and lasted until the poor economy closed it in 2009. In the school’s busiest years, it taught students through high school.
All of this from a guy who flew in the very last bombing raid of World War II, over Tokyo. Japan surrendered the next day in 1945, and George Schultz was right in the middle of it as bombardier.
He spent the next 65 years fighting for the salvation of human hearts.
Hundreds of missionaries, maybe thousands, who traveled to the wildest and poorest corners of the earth, started out right there where George Schultz was pastor, at Trinity Bible Church in Rock Hill.
“He was a man whose life was dedicated to spreading the word of Christ that he so believed was the only way,” said son Bill Schultz. “He really believed that you could live a life that practiced what you preached.
“Love, salvation and sharing it with all.”
At the time of his death, George Schultz had a contact list – people whose lives he had touched – of more than 2,600 people. The addresses range from Rwanda to Russia. Schultz had addresses, email addresses and phone numbers of 66 pages of people.
Trinity missionaries worked on six of seven continents, in dozens of programs, over the past half-century, among people who spoke little or no English. There were no promises of riches.
If people needed Jesus in their lives, George Schultz believed, then he would raise money, teach young people, and send missionaries somewhere to find them.
For Schultz, there was no black or brown or white, no rich or poor, no countries that were good or bad. Demarcations of politicians were supposed to separate people from each other, but for Schultz, the only thing that mattered was love.
When Schultz came down with polio in the mid-1950s, injuring his throat, he had to teach himself to speak again, because he wanted to preach.
When this community and the South struggled with integration, George Schultz made it clear that all people were welcome in his church.
“Courage, compassion, character, humility – those words truly described him,” said Steve McNeely, a step-son who became part of the family after Schultz’ first wife died and he remarried.
“The man was a giant in Rock Hill and his legacy is all over the world.”
That legacy, family and friends say, is two-pronged.
The Rock Hill school produced graduates who went on to great careers, including in religious life. Schultz was principal for many of those years and superintendent from the school’s inception, until he retired as both pastor and school boss in 1999.
The other legacy is the church itself, what rose from that semi-circle building and sent missionaries and just plain decent people into the world.
Schultz saw a need for a crisis center for unwed mothers, young girls struggling with a pregnancy that seemed overbearing, so he helped create one – The Palmetto Pregnancy Center. He stayed on its board for almost 30 years.
George Schultz just plain cared about people.
“He had a ripple impact, waves of people going forth, that made the world a better place,” Bill Schultz said.
George Schultz never asked for any markers or brass plaques. The front of the church that faces the onslaught of Cherry Road traffic, or the school building that now houses the York Preparatory Academy charter school, has no mention of the name George Schultz Sr.
But without George Schultz Sr., there would have been no Trinity Christian School, or Trinity Bible Church – or people stuck in traffic wondering what’s the deal with that round-roofed building.