Community leader Johnson Small dies


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O. Johnson Small, a major supporter of Charleston arts and education for decades, died Saturday at age 93.

He helped establish the College of Charleston Foundation to raise money for the school, and he was instrumental in hiring Ted Stern as president in 1968 to transform the private school into a major institution.

Small helped the Gibbes Museum of Art expand as president of the Carolina Art Association.

He was also an active supporter of Spoleto USA and was president of the United Way, among other leadership roles.

“He was a stellar citizen and civic leader,” Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said Sunday night. “He was instrumental in many very important developments in Charleston in the latter part of the 20th century.

“He was always interested in encouraging the best for Charleston. He was wise and thoughtful, had a wonderful wit, and he was very pleasant company.”

Small, known around Charleston as Johnny, was born in Charleston on April 6, 1920. He graduated from the College of Charleston in 1941 and served in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He returned to Charleston after his military service and became a certified public accountant.

He married the late Dorothy Mahony Small, who operated a store called Porgy & Bess on Church Street from 1951 until the early 1980s. They had two daughters, Dorothy Hefner and Louise Griffen.

Small served on the board of directors of the South Carolina Historical Society, was chairman of the Charleston Area Comprehensive Health Planning Agency’s board of directors and served on the South Carolina National Bank advisory board.

He was past commodore of the Carolina Yacht Club and a member of the St. George’s Society, the Plantation Society, the Charleston Club and First (Scots) Presbyterian Church.

Stuhr’s downtown chapel is handling funeral arrangements.

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553 or