State senator won't run again

The South Carolina Senate's longest-serving current member said he will not run for re-election next year.

John Drummond, D-Greenwood, has served in the Senate since 1967. He is the last World War II veteran serving in the Legislature.

Drummond, who turns 88 a week from today, served one term in the House before joining the Senate. Drummond led the Senate as president pro tempore from 1996 until 2001, when Republicans took control of the body.

"It's been an education for me," Drummond said. "I think I've served long enough -- not that I don't want to serve longer."

After graduating from high school in his hometown of Ninety Six, Drummond joined the Air Force, flying fighters in Europe. He was shot down over France in July 1944 and spent 10 months in a prisoner-of-war camp on the Baltic Sea.

"I guess that prison camp was the best thing to ever happen to me," Drummond said of his experience.

"I saw a lot of young men die, and none of them died a Democrat or a Republican."

Drummond never shied away from a fight but never alienated his colleagues either, said Sen. Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston.

During the dispute over flying the Confederate battle flag in 2000, McConnell said, Drummond, then president pro tempore, brokered a solution between two sides that agreed on little.

"He nudged us and massaged us. John's pretty persuasive," McConnell said. "He'd just come over and say, 'Time we work this out.'

"Nobody had the type of deep resentment of him that they dug in their heels."

Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Richland, also was passionate about the flag issue. At one point during debate, Jackson said, he took the floor and spoke of his ancestors who joined Gen. William Sherman's army when it passed through South Carolina.

After Jackson finished, Drummond told the body how moved he was by the story.

"It really meant so much to me that he supported me and stood up and said it publicly," Jackson said.

"I was young, passionate and, at times, hot-headed. He said to me, 'You're an effective speaker. There's a way you can do it without being confrontational.'"

Drummond said the flag debate was among the most trying of his Senate tenure. He also said he was a proud advocate for giving county and town governments more authority over how to run themselves.

Drummond learned at the knee of Marion Gressette and other senators, McConnell said, and passed that experience along when McConnell succeeded him as Senate President Pro Tempore.

"I had good training," McConnell said.

The goal for his last session beginning in January? Get the governor and leaders of both houses to work together.

Drummond said he has heard at least five people are interested in running for his seat, including three Republicans.

"Whoever runs," he said, "I hope they will be putting South Carolina first."