EASLEY, S.C. – The Honorable Butler Carson Derrick, Jr., of Easley, South Carolina, died peacefully on May 5, 2014, at his home surrounded by family and loved ones. His death came following months of illness. A man whose courage, principles and integrity led him to make a difference in the lives of so many, he was held in high regard, from the Halls of Congress to the rural countryside of his own district.
Derrick was born in Springfield, Mass., on September 30, 1936. His parents, native South Carolinians, the late Mr. and Mrs. Butler Carson Derrick, later returned to Florence, SC, where Derrick grew up and graduated from public school. Congressman Derrick attended the University of South Carolina and in 1965 earned a Bachelor of Laws from the Lumpkin Law School at the University of Georgia. He began practicing law on the square in his hometown of Edgefield, SC. An initial run for the South Carolina Sate Legislature resulted in a loss, but according to locals, he was on the street the very next day shaking hands in anticipation of his next run. He was elected to the South Carolina State Legislature in 1968 and served until he ran for the 3rd Congressional Seat in 1974. During his time in the State Legislature, Derrick served on the Ways & Means Committee and was the first freshman member to sit on the Appropriations Bill Conference Committee.
Derrick had a full and accomplished 20 years of service in the United States House of Representatives, beginning in 1974. As his campaign slogan once stated, he was a man with “The Courage to Take a Stand and The Ability to Make it Count.” He served 12 years on the House Budget Committee and was the first freshman congressman to serve on this committee. He served on the Banking and Finance Committee for four years and was appointed to the powerful Rules Committee by then-speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill in 1979. When Derrick retired in 1995, he was Vice Chairman, next in line for Chairmanship. He was also appointed by Speaker O’Neill to head the first task force to pass a budget in 1980. His ability to bring about compromise later led to his appointment by Speaker Thomas Foley to Chief Deputy Whip, making Derrick the fifth ranking member of leadership in the House and the first time in 130 years that a South Carolinian had been named to a top leadership post in the US House of Representatives. At the time of his retirement, Derrick was considered one of the ten most influential members of Congress.
During his congressional service, Derrick enjoyed a reputation as a thoughtful and pragmatic member who could secure passage of important legislation by working behind the scenes, a career marked by influence. He was seen by his party and others in Congress as a bridge between liberals and conservatives. His gentlemanly demeanor, and straight-forward nature immediately put any friend or foe at ease, enhancing his dedication and commitment to the task at hand. Among numerous issues, Derrick made a significant impact in South Carolina’s nuclear energy industry and environmental protection. Keeping the budget in check and the economies of his district and state thriving were just as vital as protecting and preserving our natural resources. In 2002, Derrick was awarded The Order of the Palmetto by then Governor Jim Hodges, for Derrick’s “contributions and friendship to the State of South Carolina.” Conservationist of the Year was awarded to Congressman Derrick in 1977 by both the National Wildlife Federation and the South Carolina Wildlife Federation.
Since leaving Congress, he practiced law with several firms, culminating in his partnership in 2004 with the firm Nelson, Mullins Riley & Scarborough, having opened their Washington office. He served as a member of the Gibraltar American Council, Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board; the South Carolina Nuclear Waste Program’s Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel as Chairman; the Department of Energy’s Commission on the Evaluation of Nonproliferation Programs with Russia; A Rand Corp. advisory board; the Washington Institute of Foreign Affairs; the boards of Entrust Inc.; United Nations Association; National Wildlife Caucus; Common Cause Presidents Council; and the Institute for Representative Government.
Derrick was an avid reader throughout his life until his illness no longer allowed it. He claimed the knowledge of history and biographies of many which helped to enrich his infinite knowledge of the American landscape, its characters and statesmen. He served as adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina. A favorite pastime in his later years was publishing a bi-weekly column in the Charleston Mercury, penning more than 250 thought-provoking columns on public policy.
Derrick was previously married to Suzanne Mims from1960 –1982. From that union were two children, Lydia Gile Derrick and Butler Carson Derrick, III.
He is survived by his adoring wife of 26 years, Beverly Grantham Derrick, who remained by his side providing continuous care throughout his illness. He is also survived by his daughter, Lydia Derrick Wherry and husband Scott, son Butler Carson Derrick, III and wife Jessica, daughter Charlotte Grantham Webb and husband Mitchell and son George Leighton Grantham IV and wife Heath; his siblings; Mary Scott Guest, Ambassador Rita Derrick Hayes and Thomas Scott Derrick and wife Mary, nine grandchildren and seven nieces and nephews.
He was loyal as a friend and devoted to his constituency, never allowing his vision to be clouded when fighting for what he felt was right. His departure into humor was enjoyed by all who knew him. In his last days, he spoke of himself, stating that a “wallflower” he was not. He will be greatly missed by many.
Memorials may be made to:
The Episcopal Church of the Ridge
PO Box 206
Trenton, SC 29847
Butler C. Derrick Jr. Scholarship Fund
c/o South Carolina International Trade Conference
PO Box 1446
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29465
A Graveside Service will be held at The Episcopal Church of Our Savior Cemetery at 212 Church Street, Trenton, SC, on Monday, May 12, at 1pm. The family will receive friends following the service at the home of Scott and Mary Derrick in Johnston, SC.
Edgefield Mercantile Funeral Home is assisting the family.