RICHBURG -- Mayor John Boyd McCrorey, the state's longest-serving mayor, whose smiles and serving spirit put him in office 21 times, died Thursday after complications from a fall earlier in the week.
The World War II veteran, former store manager, councilman and school board chairman was 91.
"This is such a tragic loss not only for the town of Richburg but for the entire region, Chester County and the state," Richburg town attorney Bill Marion said.
The father of three and grandfather of three was first elected to the Town Council as a council member in 1964, Marion said. The mayor's office followed in 1967 after then Richburg Mayor Jacob "J.A." Clawson died during his 31st year in office.
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McCrorey was elected as mayor in 1968 and served in that capacity for more than 40 years.
"He was a true gentlemen," Marion said. "He was extremely soft-spoken. The betterment of the common good for the people he served was what he looked for. You never even thought he was doing anything for his own good."
McCrorey's willingness to serve others was rewarded over the decades when voters returned him to office time and time again. He most recently was re-elected in 2007.
"I've been fussed at, cussed and shot at, too, in these 40-something years," McCrorey told The Herald last year. "But I've enjoyed every minute of it."
McCrorey's long-standing tenure also brought recognition, said Howard Duvall Jr., executive director of the Municipal Association of South Carolina.
"He was the longest serving mayor in South Carolina," Duvall said. "Obviously, the folks in Richburg liked him. They returned him to office for so many years."
Duvall joked with McCrorey about being the longest serving mayor in the state. "He'd just put a big grin on his face and say the people in Richburg had been mighty nice to him," Duvall recalled.
The next longest serving mayor is E.T. Moore of Snelling, Duvall said.
Richburg Mayor Pro Tem Barnette Nichols joined the town council with McCrorey in May 1964.
"He was a friend plus a leader," Nichols said. "All of this infrastructure we have in Richburg, I credit that to him. He had to compete for grants for infrastructure. He was a devoted man to the community. He knew the people. He was a good man."
Nichols last spoke to McCrorey after church ended Sunday.
"He went straight home and was making dinner and fell," Nichols said. "He hit the back of his head."
That fall led to McCrorey being taken to hospitals in Rock Hill and Charlotte, where he died Thursday afternoon. Hours later, Rosemary Young clung to childhood memories of her quiet father.
"He was always there for us," she said. "We'd take beach trips. He'd put me on his back, and we'd go into the ocean and play."
During one vacation to the mountains, a scared Young braved a chair-lift ride at Maggie Valley, N.C.
"My head was on his shoulder," she recalled. "I knew I had his strength. He was going to protect me, and I rode up that mountain."
Decades later, Young's father worked to protect the interest of the people who called Richburg home.
"He always looked after everyone else," she said. "His famous last words were, 'I can do it.'"
On Thursday, family and friends alike appreciated McCrorey's dedication.
"He was a unique person," Chester County Coroner Terry Tinker said. "He touched a lot of lives in his community and Chester County."