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Rep. Bill Wylie dies at reunion
September 13, 2010

Rep. Bill Wylie dies at reunion

By Angelia Davis

A state official regarded as a “leading voice” in the business community has died.

State Rep. William “Bill” T. Wylie, R-Simpsonville, died of a massive heart attack while on vacation in Jackson Hole, Wyo., said Teton County deputy coroner Dave Hodges.

Wylie, 70, died Saturday at the Jackson Lake Lodge, where he was attending a college class reunion, Hodges said.

Members of the House Republican Caucus leadership cited the passing of Wylie as a “tremendous loss for the state of South Carolina.”

Rep. Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville, said Wylie’s death is also a tragic loss for the people of Greenville County.

The former president of sportswear giant Umbro America, president of Stone International, and chief executive officer of Goodwill Industries, is credited for being influential in Southwest Airlines’ plans to begin serving Greenville and Charleston 2011 “That was one of his big things,” said State Rep. Tommy Stringer, R-Landrum, said. “It was a big accomplishment for a first time House member.”

Wylie introduced the air incentives bill, which would make up to $15 million available to South Carolina airports for enhancing air service and recruiting discount airlines such as Southwest.

Southwest announced in May that it intends to serve Greenville and Charleston without any government subsidies.

After the announcement, Wylie told The Greenville News, it had been “a labor of love” to have the bill drafted “as a solution to an economic development impediment to low air fares in our state.”

He said Southwest Airlines saw the effort that was being put into the passage of the bill “by such a large base of public officials” and the efforts paid off with the airline’s announcement.

Quick wit

Bannister said Wylie possessed a “quick wit, a great sense of humor and an insatiable drive to make our state a better place.”

“His passion and energy for public service infected all of us in the Greenville County Legislative Delegation,” Bannister said. “He possessed a steadfast conservative zeal for private sector solutions to our state’s problems.

State Rep. Eric Bedingfield, R-Mauldin, who worked with Wylie on trying to bring Southwest to the Upstate, said without question, “Bill was a very honorable man, very dedicated to his family, very dedicated to the state of South Carolina.”

Like many others, Stringer said he was “taken aback” by the announcement of Wylie’s death.

The two men represent parts of Greer, having both run for election to the State House in 2008. Wylie defeated incumbent Bob Leach for the District 21 seat. Leach had been in the House since 1997.

Stringer, who shared a desk with Wylie in Columbia, said his “good friend” brought a “much needed amount of levity to the situation in Columbia. Being a business leader, he had seen all this before. He was not intimidated by the process, and I regret he wasn’t 30 years younger.”

“I think the ramifications of him not being there will be long felt,” Stringer said.

House Majority Leader Kenny Bingham said Wylie’s “years of experience in the private sector gave him tremendous wisdom. Every House member sought his wise counsel on conservative issues.”

Wylie, whose career also included serving as chief executive officer of Cherith Valley Gourmet Preserves, was born in Providence, R.I. He was a graduate of Stanford University.

South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Karen Floyd said Wylie, in just two short years, became known as a “fervent conservative watchdog who fought for South Carolina taxpayers and families.

“It’s a shame that our state will no longer benefit from his hard work and public service,” Floyd said. “We keep the entire Wylie family in our prayers.”

Wylie is survived by his wife, Janie, and three adult children, according to the statement.

Thomas McAfee Downtown is in charge of funeral arrangements. Details have not yet been announced

“I think the ramifications of him not being there will be long felt.”

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