Former Mount Pleasant Mayor Harry Hallman dies

Mount Pleasant Mayor Harry Hallman

Former Mayor Harry M. Hallman Jr., whose legacy includes Memorial Waterfront Park and the Congressional Medal of Honor Museum, collapsed and died Saturday morning at his home.

“His heart stopped beating today,” said his wife, Brooke Hallman.

Hallman, who had Alzheimer’s disease, resigned near the end of his second term as mayor in May 2009. He said that because of the illness he could no longer give his best to the town.

Before his election as mayor, he served in the state House from 1988-1996.

On Friday night, Hallman, 76, seemed fine although he felt a bit weak after going out to eat, his wife said.

“He was basically healthy,” she said.

On Saturday morning, she went with Hallman to pick up the newspaper from the yard. While they were returning to the house, he collapsed outside on the first step leading to the front door, she said.

A neighbor helped her get him inside and into a chair. At that point, he was still talking. Then he stopped breathing. She performed CPR, and EMS was called. Paramedics told her that he had no heartbeat. He had signed a do not resuscitate order in July, she said.

“He did not want to be worked on,” she said.

It was unknown whether he had a heart attack. No autopsy will be performed, she said.

The funeral service will be at 1 p.m. Wednesday in Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church on Hibben Street. Interment will be private. Visitation will be held from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. Tuesday at J. Henry Stuhr, Mount Pleasant Chapel.

Hallman was remembered Saturday for his key role in ongoing projects to widen Johnnie Dodds Boulevard and revitalize Coleman Boulevard.

“What a wonderful public servant that guy was. We haven’t always agreed but I’ve always loved him,” said Mayor Billy Swails.

In the state House, Hallman had a reputation for getting things done. He would begin his day at the General Assembly with a new joke for his colleagues, said state Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston.

“We just laughed and laughed. He enjoyed every day of his public service,” Limehouse said.

Hallman served as chairman of the Charleston County Legislative Delegation and the state Department of Health and Environmental Control Board. He was instrumental in creation of the State Infrastructure Bank for road projets around the state, Limehouse said.

“It was just good to have him as a friend. I’m going to miss him. The loss of Harry Hallman is definitely a blow to our state and Mount Pleasant,” he said.

He was born July 30, 1934, in Greenwood, the son of a barber. He earned a business degree from the University of South Carolina and was hired by Spur Oil Co., where he worked for two years as a sales representative.

Hallman was a real estate manager and retail sales manager for British Petroleum and Fina. In 1973, Fina connected Hallman and Henry Tecklenburg Jr. They would become friends and business partners in a local oil and convenience store development company called Estec Petroleum and Gas King Inc. Hallman brought the first gas and convenience stores to Charleston. Hallman and Tecklenburg sold the company in 1985.

His life as a public servant began in 1982, when Gov. Richard Riley appointed Hallman to the State Development Board. In 1987, Gov. Carroll Campbell selected him for the DHEC board, where he surprised Campbell and other Republicans with his pro-environment positions and strong stands against hazardous waste dumps.

Hallman’s first foray into elected politics came in 1986 when he ran against Rep. Clyde Dangerfield, a Democratic state house member since 1953, for House Seat 112. Hallman lost by 225 votes in the most expensive house race of the year. Both Dangerfield and Hallman spent about $26,000 in their bids. He won the seat in 1988.

In the state House, Hallman pushed for environmental responsibility, sought the best deals for taxpayer dollars and introduced the law allowing for lethal injection for capital punishment.

He solved a major problem for Bishop England High School and the College of Charleston when he landed $7 million from the state for the college to buy the Catholic school. The money enabled Bishop England to relocate to Daniel Island and expand. It also provided the college prized space adjacent to its existing campus.

Hallman was instrumental in the establishment of the Lowcountry Graduate Center.

Hallman revealed in June 2008 he had been diagnosed with symptoms consistent with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. At the time, he intended to serve out his second term as mayor.

Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711