20+ Charlestonians we miss the most 

Wish You Were Here

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Stephanie Barna was the paper's founding editor 1997-2014

The Emanuel 9

In our 20 years, there has been no tragedy bigger and more heartbreaking than the shooting at Mother Emanuel. It marked the beginning of a different city, one that was thrust onto the international stage for reasons we would never have imagined. Our once sleepy little town was suddenly part of a disturbing national conversation on race relations, with the theme of love, unity, and forgiveness leading the way. Unfortunately, we were robbed not only of the leadership (and booming voice) of the Rev. Pinckney, but we also lost the good souls who studied the Bible each week, who prayed for us, who loved their families and each other, and who made the world a better place. May they rest in peace.

Joseph P. Riley, Jr.

click to enlarge Riley - FILE PHOTO
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  • Riley

He might have been predictable, his tenure marked by slow and steady growth and progress, but we could rely on him to shepherd us into the future by brokering those infamous backroom deals with developers like the Beach Co. If only we knew how good we had it. As investors from off have proliferated, and our newbie mayor plays catch up, Charleston's development has gotten out of whack. Houses in once-affordable neighborhoods are suddenly selling for more than $400 a square foot. Hotels are being proposed and built in seemingly every empty space that comes available downtown, and traffic has ground to a halt. Combine that with perpetually flooded streets, clogged sidewalks, and dangerous biking and walking options, and Charleston's livability — a keyword for Mayor Riley — is under threat. And sure, we see Lil' Joe walking down Broad Street on occasion and read about him securing more and more monies for the African-American museum, but we miss his iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove guiding our little hamlet into a livable future.

Reuben Greenberg

Reuben was a badass — and a character. How many Southern towns have an ass-whooping, big-talking, roller-blading, black and Jewish, Civil War-reenacting chief of police to keep shit in line? He became famous during Hurricane Hugo for putting the fear of God into citizens to prevent looting, and also for innovative policing programs that took cops out of cars and put them into the neighborhoods on foot. He was also kind of an asshole — particularly in his later years — calling a female war protester "crazy" and "fat" and poking his finger into the chest of a news reporter when he didn't like the questions he was getting. Regardless, he was an impressive and important part of Riley's administration, reducing crime as Charleston's population rapidly grew. Boring old Greg Mullen, his replacement who just retired a few weeks ago, just couldn't compete with Ruby's colorful legacy.

Strom Thurmond & Fritz Hollings

They were the yin and yang of South Carolina Senators, serving together for 36 years, making Fritz Hollings the most senior junior senator ever. Thurmond was a racist Dixiecrat who became a Republican famous for the longest filibuster ever when he fought against the Voting Rights Act in 1964. Hollings, a former governor and popular Democrat even when Republicans were surging in the state, fought for the poor and the disenfranchised like a good liberal and penned a book in 2006 called

Making Government Work that should probably be sent to the current president and every single legislator in government. In the book, he bemoaned the loss of camaraderie and respect in Congress and made a prescient observation: "The country is in serious trouble, and we don't have the luxury of antigovernment politicking. It is our duty to make the government work." Strom, on the other hand, passed away in 2005 and the world discovered he had an illegitimate black daughter named Essie Mae Washington. Oh, the hypocrisy. You can't make this shit up.

John Graham Altman III

We can't celebrate an anniversary without going back to the dreamy days of JGA3. An unapologetic bigot and racist, Altman was considered the Jesse Helms of the General Assembly. No doubt, a moniker he welcomed. From our very first issue, he frequently called us to colorfully take issue with pretty much every opinion we published and every story we reported. His South Windermere home was as tacky as he was — with pink flamingoes decorating the front yard of the dilapidated plantation-style house. But no matter how much fun we had challenging him, Charleston did not benefit from his backasswards leadership. After our 10th anniversary, he sent us a "congratulatory" note: "Your first 10 years existence covered the final 10 years of my 30 consecutive years of elected public service to Charleston County and South Carolina. I couldn't have done it without you and I crave your continued support. I read your paper every week and enjoy your steadfast journalistic motto: 'This story/column is just too good to fact check.' Congratulations on your 'First Ten' — let's shoot for another 'Ten.' I'll try to give you some more 'ammo.'" Unfortunately, JGA3 passed away in 2013 and won't be able to offer some snide words this time. But John Graham, if you can hear us through the roar of the flames, tell Satan we said hi!

Ron Motley

As one of the nation's baddest plaintiff's trial lawyers, Ron Motley had some major cojones. He defeated asbestos companies and took on big tobacco and eventually got around to suing terrorists (or those who funded them) after 9/11. Bloomberg reports that he was making upwards of $10 million a year and had amassed a yacht, mansions, and a plane — but money couldn't insulate him from the pain of losing his son to a medical mistake in 2000. His cases may have been lucrative, but they were also major causes that forced companies that injured people for profit to pay up. He passed away in 2013, but his legacy lives on in those anti-tobacco commercials that continue to badger us into breaking the worst habit ever.

Edwin Gardner

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It's been seven years since my friend Edwin was hit by a car while riding his bike home from a rowing session at the marina, a block from his home, and Charleston still misses his input. The best sort of community activist, Edwin was knowledgeable and passionate about city living — so much so that he was probably a bit of a thorn in the side of city government. But he was always being tapped for community committees because he was a great idea generator. Free DASH shuttles around the peninsula? Improved bicycling infrastructure? Getting underprivileged black children back on the water with a new Mosquito fleet? These were his passion projects. It's just a shame that in the ensuing years, we have been unable to get his thoughts (even though we give big props to his widow Whitney Powers for carrying on with cool ideas in his honor, like If You Were Mayor) as Charleston sells its soul to the development devil.

Johnson & Wales

Ah, the glory days of the food scene, when labor was plentiful and practically free. Maybe it was our hubris. We couldn't imagine anyone ditching quaint old Charleston for flashy but boring Charlotte, but when the Queen City started throwing buckets of money and benefits at the culinary school, they abandoned us in a flash. Since then, the hospitality employment crisis has compounded infinitely. While Trident's Culinary Institute and the Art Institute valiantly upped their games to fill the void, nothing could ultimately replace that reliable, ambitious stream of J&W externs.

Tony the Peanut Man

click to enlarge Anthony Wright, aka Tony the Peanut Man - JONATHAN BONCEK FILE PHOTO
  • Jonathan Boncek file photo
  • Anthony Wright, aka Tony the Peanut Man

RiverDogs games and every parade that rolls down King Street will never be the same without the showmanship of Anthony Wright, a.k.a. Tony the Peanut Man. After a fire in 2012, Charleston showed their support and helped him rebuild his boiled peanut business. Then, sadly, he passed away last year from natural causes. He embodied hospitality and fun and put smiles on faces. All together now:

Hey hey! Now what I say.
Got some boiled
Got some toasted
Got some stewed
Got some roasted
Oh yeah, peanut man
Got some hot and got some cold
Oh yeah peanut man
Catch him if you can
Cause he got the right one, baby

Gee's Infamous Hot Dogs & More

Late-night street eats haven't been the same since Gary Alameda unexpectedly passed away at the age of 43 in 2015. His hot dog cart had a regular spot on Ann Street near the Music Farm and as the bars closed, a line to get his grub stretched down the street each night. Good-looking, friendly, and unflappable, he handled the drunken crowds, helping them soak up the alcohol with some damn fine all-beef dogs and brats and an assortment of other treats.

Philip Simmons

Charleston's legendary and celebrated blacksmith passed away in 2009, but he lived a long and productive life, forging some of the most gorgeous ironwork in the city (more than 500 gates, balconies, and details). His workshop and forge on the Eastside have become a museum, but his contribution to the beauty of downtown Charleston is the legacy that endures. Our favorite is the double heart gate at the Menotti Street entrance to the Simmons garden at St. John's Reformed Episcopal Church. When you start bitching too much about all the stupid inconveniences of fast-growing Charleston, take a slow stroll among the gardens, ironwork, and beauty and you'll realize that no matter how many hotels get built, nothing can obscure the old-school artisanship of the black craftsmen that built this town.

Jack McCray

Jack was one cool cat. He was interesting to talk to if you happened to be next to him at a jazz show or other cultural event. He was a great read in the Post and Courier, where his articles championed the artists and musicians who created our thriving scene. He literally wrote the book on Charleston jazz and helped found the Charleston Jazz Society, mentoring young artists like Leah Suarez. We lost a distinctive and important connection to the city's past when we lost Jack, but luckily his words and memory live on in those he touched.

Eric Brantley

Brash and ballsy, Brantley had been part of the local music scene about as long as the City Paper has been publishing. Our music writers spilled lots of ink writing about Telegram, his band that played here in the late '90s/early aughts. We mourned with him after a tragic accident took the life of his fellow bandmate Joey Apple and put Brantley in the hospital. From there, he carried on and remained a singular influence on the Charleston nightlife scene, bartending and playing around town. As Michael Saliba wrote in his obituary: "Describing Brantley is like describing your favorite song by The Stooges: brash, loud, sarcastic, surly, direct, smoky, and not for everyone — but he exuded so much cool, had a huge heart, and showed love unconditionally." It sucks when our community is robbed of people like Brantley because it brings Charleston one step closer to being boring and lame.

Sadler Vaden

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  • Nashville Ferrell file

This list is starting to feel like an obituary, but fortunately Sadler is alive and well, playing guitar with Jason Isbell, who he's been with since 2013. He recently returned home for a show in July and reminisced about growing up in the 'Ville and partying on Folly. Back at our 10-year anniversary, Sadler was a mere babe, tearing it up with his three-piece band, Leslie, and winning over the Windjammer crowd with their big sound and sexy rock 'n' roll swagger. Seriously. These kids broke shit down that night. In addition to his regular gig with Isbell, he continues to work on solo projects, and we expect one day he might just move back home from Nashville to be close once again to the beach and the waves.

Cary Ann Hearst, the Bivins Boys, et al.

click to enlarge Cary Ann and Michael have held it down in Charleston for years - LESLIE MCKELLAR FILE
  • Leslie McKellar file
  • Cary Ann and Michael have held it down in Charleston for years

I know, I know. Cary Ann and her husband Michael Trent of Shovels and Rope are still based here and still treat us to great concerts. They even brought a cadre of friends to play the High Water Festival in April, but we sincerely miss those old days when Cary Ann, the Jump, Little Children guys, and a crew of creatives provided us a nonstop supply of great music. Back then, Cary Ann and Michael played a free show every week at the Pour House. Cabaret Kiki, the brainchild of Matt and Evan Bivins of JLC, melded the talents of musicians and dancers to create a unique performance piece that felt sexy, cool, and edgy with the addition of Cary Ann's sultry/sweet voice. At our 10th anniversary party, we desperately tried to get Cary Ann to jump out of our birthday cake. Alas, she refused, but 10 years later, we are proud to see her and her peers successes, even if we are a tad nostalgic for the days when they were just for us.

Ken Burger

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  • Burger

Back when the Post and Courier really sucked, before the current regime's Pulitzer and award-winning in-depth local coverage, the one bright spot was Ken Burger's column. The sports writer had a great command of the form, bringing out the universal truths in stories about sports and the people who played them. His prostate cancer diagnosis propelled him on a path of bringing awareness to the disease. He won Best of Charleston award for Best Columnist for years and was always humbly appreciative of the recognition, stopping by the office to pick up his award plaque and chit-chat a bit. We always loved his way with words and miss his insightful, compassionate take on the world around him.

Jesus guy (with a cross on wheels)

Charleston used to be a much more eccentric place. Sure, we've always had those ubiquitous blondes in their Lilly Pulitzers and doughy-faced preps in chinos, but once upon a time, we had a cast of characters that roamed among the derelict, boarded-up storefronts of King Street. My favorite was the guy who dressed like Jesus and drug a cross on wheels around town. Sometimes you'd see him trekking across the James Island Connector (perhaps to go walk on some water at Folly?). While Byron might still be roaming the streets, helping keep Charleston weird, we really miss the days when punks hung around in clutches near the old AC's, the F&B crowd stayed out all night doing blow at Red Hot Tomatoes, and crazy people pooped on the doorsteps of respectable downtown businesses. Sure, it's stupid to have nostalgia for that sort of thing, but it did add a certain edginess to a town that's since become a Disneyfied version of the antebellum South.

Charlie's Little Bar

It's harder and harder to find the special secret places in Charleston these days, especially down in the high-rent district. Used to be, on East Bay Street, you could walk through a parking lot, enter a back door, walk through a kitchen and up a back flight of stairs, and find the swankiest little (rumored-to-be-a-coke) bar in town. It was dark and candelit, adding a sexy vibe to the proceedings. We miss that a place like Charlie's could even exist, but we're happy that Faculty Lounge — up on Huger Street — keeps the cool, secret, sexy vibe alive. It fills a locals' need to escape the tourons and the frat bros and find "adultish" environs with good cocktails and slammin' DJs. It's the sort of place that's starting to feel endangered as the hoteliers march up the peninsula.

And the one guy we wish would go away ...

Thomas Ravenel

Haven't we all had enough of this guy and his drunken Trumpian tweets and posts? I thought so.



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