Summerville mourns longtime mayor, visionary, friend

The funeral for former Summerville Mayor Berlin Myers was held Monday at Summerville Baptist Church.

SUMMERVILLE — One of South Carolina’s longest-serving mayors was laid to rest Monday in a service where his granddaughters remembered him as a dapper dresser and family man who demanded orderliness.

“He will always be remembered for two things: what he wore, and how clean he kept the lumberyard and this town,” said Johannah Myers of her grandfather, Berlin G. Myers, 98, who died Wednesday at his home in Summerville.

As a child, she often played in his lumber store.

“Never once did he stop me,” she said. “We enjoyed every minute of our time together, even as he followed along behind me, straightening up everything I touched.”

Myers was eulogized in an hour-long service at Summerville Baptist Church attended by hundreds before being buried at Parks Cemetery.

Myers, a World War II veteran and lifelong lumberman, served the longest term of any mayor in Summerville’s 167-year history. Myers was first elected to Town Council in 1965. In 1972, he became head of the town after the death of Mayor Allan Luke. He subsequently won 10 elections before deciding to retire.

“It’s hard to imagine how this community, how this town, how this area would be if it had not been for Berlin G. Myers, serving, leading, making tough decisions, being a visionary, seeing the big picture,” said Joe Wren, pastor of Summerville Baptist Church, where Myers was one of the oldest members and a life deacon. “He had a plan.”

At 94, he was the oldest mayor in the state when he presided over his last council meeting on June 8, 2011. In an interview with a local TV station at the time, he talked about how much the town had changed.

“We had a budget of $127,000, 13 (town) employees, no town hall,” he said. “Now we got a budget of $22 million, 300 some (town) employees and a big town hall. That’s a lot to be thankful for.”

During his years as mayor, Summerville grew from a small town of 3,000 to a sprawling suburban hub of 44,000. Myers managed to maintain its small-town atmosphere, pushing for a new town hall and new fire station and leading efforts to house police, fire, telecommunications and municipal court together.

He also saw the need nearly half a century ago for a bypass around Summerville. The highway, which bears his name, is now two-thirds completed.

Myers started the Berlin G. Myers Lumber Yard in 1939 shortly after graduating from Summerville High School. He closed it briefly while serving with the Army in World War II, where he was among the Allied troops who hit the beaches during D-Day.

Myers had a way of making people feel special, Johannah Myers said.

“He took time to speak with everyone who approached him,” she said. “All too often, after carrying on a wonderful conversation with someone who had stopped to speak, Granddad would turn to the family and say, ‘Now, who was that?’ And we would all have to laugh because he never once gave away that he wasn’t quite sure of that person’s name.”

Born in Knightsville on March 1, 1917, Myers was a dedicated fan of Green Wave and Clemson football. He liked to remind people that he was a member of Summerville’s science class that planted “every blade of grass” at the town’s football stadium, McKissick Field.

Myers was a member of the board of Dorchester County Hospital, North Trident Hospital and Summerville Medical Center; First National Bank of South Carolina; Board of Visitors of Columbia College; and the Carolinas Lumber and Building Materials Dealers Association.

He was also a member of Summerville Rotary Club, the Municipal Association of South Carolina and the National Building Material Association.

He was a cofounder of Baptist College at Charleston, now Charleston Southern University, having stepped forward in the early 1960s to contribute funds and leadership, according to the university.

Myers met four presidents: Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Truman and George H.W. Bush, who gave him a presidential tie clasp when visiting Summerville 25 years ago after Hurricane Hugo. Myers wore the clasp every day.