Rock Hill’s Bev Carroll honored for her passion for legal and community service

Friends and colleagues of Bev Carroll say you don’t want to oppose her.

You’ll never out work her, they say. She is fearless and, above all, plays for keeps.

Just ask friends Dan Ballou and Ed Thompson.

Ballou and Carroll are partners in the Hamilton Martens Ballou & Carroll law firm in Rock Hill. Twenty years ago, Carroll mentored a young Ballou, instructing him on all the things that aren’t taught in law school.

When their career paths led them to different law firms, Ballou found himself in court against Carroll.

“She is gracious and tenacious at the same time,” Ballou said. “She requires you to be on your ‘A’ game, requires you to work your cases, and you knew you were in for a tough fight. I’m glad we’re on the same team now.”

Thompson and Carroll have been friends since they both were high school coaches nearly 40 years ago. Thompson was starting the girls basketball program at Northwestern High School while Carroll was coaching at Great Falls.

Carroll mentored Thompson and his girls, helping him to become a better coach and his players to improve their skills. But when Northwestern and Great Falls met in a game, even a scrimmage, “they took us to the house,” Thompson remembers.

The respect Ballou, Thompson and others hold for Carroll is reflected in their successful efforts to have Carroll named a “Compleat Lawyer” by the University of South Carolina’s Law School Alumni Council.

The annual award is for lawyers who not only demonstrate a commitment to the law, but to their communities as well. Carroll was one of nine lawyers honored. She shared the platinum award – for lawyers with more than 30 years of service – with two Columbia attorneys.

Carroll is known as a “fierce advocate, a lawyer of great principle, but also as a lawyer who can be trusted to play by the rules,” wrote Jack Griffeth of the Greenville law firm Collins & Lacy in his nomination letter. Carroll, he wrote, “never hides the ball and always focuses on a proper, fair and just resolution to every matter.”

In addition to her legal reputation, Carroll also has served on the Rock Hill Parks, Recreation and Tourism Commission since 1988; has served as a volunteer with Special Olympics for more than 30 years; and as a board member of the Upper Palmetto YMCA.

While the law is her passion, her eyes light up brighter when she talks about children, Ballou said. On days when other lawyers might sneak off for a round of golf, Carroll can be found helping Special Olympians.

She has been an advocate for the Rock Hill business community as a member of the board of directors for the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce and past chairman of the Rock Hill Economic Development Corp.

She has also served as a deacon, elder, and youth basketball coach at her church, Oakland Avenue Presbyterian, and on the Provident Presbytery’s executive council.

Of her community service, Carroll said, “It just makes sense to me. A community is only as good as your participation.”

Community passion

Carroll traces some of her community passion to her mother, Elma Stark Carroll, who pushed her children “to where we needed to be.” Her mom led by example. If a classroom bake sale needed a pie, she would bake four, Carroll said.

“The best thing I learned from her was to be incredibly generous,” Carroll said.

Upon graduating from then-Winthrop College in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, Carroll was hired as a history teacher and girl’s basketball coach at Great Falls High School.

In addition to teaching and coaching, Carroll supervised the cheerleaders, managed the football concession stand and, in general, was a part of everything in the small town. Her girls’ basketball teams were among the best in the state. One season they were 26-0 going into the state final but lost to Bowman.

“There were so many lessons learned there,” she said, especially the value of pulling together as a team and that sports can unify a community.

As satisfying as teaching was, it wasn’t what Carroll wanted to do. Since five, she knew she wanted to be a lawyer. Watching the TV series Perry Mason convinced her of that.

After completing law school at the University of South Carolina, Carroll returned to York County, where she worked under some of the area’s most respected lawyers, Bob Carpenter and Melvin Roberts.

After practicing general law, she eventually focused on employment and labor law, becoming certified in those areas by the S.C. Supreme Court. She now represents companies in a variety of employment matters, including wrongful termination, non-competition and trade secret action, and occupational safety issues.

Since 1988 Carroll has become a consistent advocate for Rock Hill children, said Brother David Boone, who has served on the board as long as Carroll.

“She is always looking out for every section of the community,” Boone said. “Are we skipping someone, are our prices too high, can there be scholarships to offset the price?”

Carroll also demonstrated an ability to look at the big picture, coming up with solutions and building consensus. While some leaders say follow me or get left behind,Carroll’s style is let’s get this done and follow me, said Boone and others.

Toy Rhea, who has served with Carroll on the PRT commission, the Chamber of Commerce, and the economic development corporation, said if she is in charge, “she will ask questions and she is not afraid to speak her mind. If you want an answer, you’ll get it,” Rhea said.

Her successes on the PRT board include advocating for and overseeing construction of the Manchester Meadows complex and the passage of the hospitality tax which has been used to expand Rock Hill’s sports venues.

“I’m the proud parent when it comes to Manchester Meadows,” she said. “I feel like I built it,” she said.

“She understood the value of sports tourism before it was a buzz word,” Thompson said.

Now 61, Carroll sometimes talks of slowing down, taking more time to listen to people’s stories. But don’t expect her to make any big changes, “sitting on the sidelines is not something I’ve ever done,” she said.

Most of all, Ballou said, is he expects Carroll to be Carroll.

“She is the example of excellence that all of us need,” he said.