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Mack James Fleming

Mack James Fleming, of Hollywood, a tea horticulturist and co-founder of the Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island, died Monday. He was 75.

Born Sept. 4, 1942, in Alcolu, he was a son of Robert B. Fleming and Alma Ruth Morris Fleming. He earned undergraduate and graduate horticulture degrees from Clemson University and became a professor and horticulture department head with Trident Technical College in Charleston. 

In 1978, Fleming began working for the Thomas J. Lipton Co., which owned a tea farm on Wadmalaw Island, using it as an experimental station for tea research. He was the director of the site and over the years designed a custom-built, modified combine tractor that harvested the tea.

In 1987, Fleming partnered up with William Barclay Hall, an English-trained tea taster and owner of a tea brokerage firm, and they purchased the Wadmalaw farm, founding what is now known as the Charleston Tea Plantation, home of the American Classic tea brand. Three hundred or more types of tea later, in 2003, Fleming sold the tea plantation to the Bigelow Tea Co., namely David and Eunice Bigelow. According to his obituary, Fleming returned to teaching at Trident Technical College, retiring in 2015 to focus on his own tea brand, Carolina Select.

Surviving are his wife, Jo Ann Tobias Fleming; son, Mack R. Fleming (Beth); daughters, Virginia Fleming Joczik (Mark) and Sarah Fleming McLester (Donald); two brothers, two sisters, six grandchildren, nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents.

A funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 28, at Union United Methodist Church in Wilson. Burial will follow in the church cemetery. Arrangements are being handled by Stephens Funeral Home of Manning.

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Reach Liz Foster at 843-937-5581. Follow her on Twitter @TheDizzyLizzieB