Former South Carolina Rep. Tom Gettys Dies at 90

Posted June 10, 2003 at 1:43pm

After a life spent improving the civic architecture of Rock Hill, S.C., former Rep. Tom Gettys died Sunday at age 90.

Gettys, a Democrat, represented his state’s 5th district from 1964 to 1974. He was known for voting to create Medicare, stressing constituent service and caring a great deal about people’s everyday problems.

“His life exemplified what living in a democracy is all about,” Rep. John Spratt (D), who now represents the 5th district, told The Associated Press. “Everybody in this district not only respected Tom Gettys, but they loved him as well.”

Gettys, born June 19, 1912, went through Rock Hill’s public school system and attended Clemson University and Erskine College. From 1933 to 1941, he was principal at Rock Hill’s Central Elementary School. Gettys volunteered for the Navy in World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

When he returned from the Pacific, Gettys continued serving his community and country as then-5th district Rep. Dick Richards’ (D) chief of staff for seven years. During that time, Gettys studied law at night and passed the bar exam. He became Rock Hill’s postmaster when he returned from Washington, from 1951 to 1954.

Also during that time, Gettys served as president of the Rotary, the Chamber of Commerce, the YMCA and the Rock Hill School Board. In 1997, the city’s old federal courthouse was named the Tom S. Gettys Center in his honor.

“He was a great person who looked after all of us,” Gettys’ sister, Sara, who still lives in Rock Hill, told the Rock Hill Herald. “The man who went to Washington was the same man when he came home.”

Gettys is survived by daughters, Julia and Sara, and his wife of 55 years, Mary Phillips Gettys.

The funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. today in Rock Hill at the First Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.