George Campsen Jr., a lawyer and former state legislator, died Tuesday in a local hospital after a long illness. He was 81.

Campsen of the Isle of Palms was perhaps best known as operator of Fort Sumter Tours, which he founded in 1961.

Born and reared in Charleston, Campsen was a 1951 graduate of The Citadel, where he was captain of the boxing team. He was an Air Force veteran of the Korean War and went to law school at the University of South Carolina.

He served three terms as a state representative from 1958 through 1964.

Campsen was widely regarded as a powerful story-teller and persuasive trial lawyer, as well as a successful businessman. He parlayed a $7,000 down payment on the first boat for Fort Sumter Tours into a thriving family-run business, which now includes SpiritLine Cruises.

His wife, Myrtle Smith Campsen, died in 2007. He is survived by four children, George E. "Chip" Campsen III, Richard Campsen, Cyndi Mosteller and Terrye Seckinger.

Chip Campsen serves in the state Legislature as a Republican senator representing District 43.

"He was the most tenacious and persistent person you'll ever know," Campsen said of his father. "Probably the Confederate flag would still be flying over the Capitol if it weren't for him."

When the debate over the flag was in high gear in the late '90s, George Campsen Jr. reminded everyone that in 1962, the legislators intended that the flag be flown over the Statehouse only during the commemoration of the Civil War's centennial.

He said the General Assembly's intention was that the flag would come down in 1965. It was simply an oversight that a take-down date was not included in the legislation.

Campsen was an avid outdoorsman and a volunteer constable with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. He attended St. Johns Lutheran Church for many years, and more recently had been attending East Cooper Baptist Church.

Arrangements are being handled by J. Henry Stuhr Funeral Home.