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David Maybank Jr., 88, Charleston businessman and adventurer, dies

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Local entrepreneur David Maybank Jr. died on Saturday, January 25 at the age of 88. 

A proud Charlestonian and ardent adventurer, Maybank was equally sure-footed on his beloved home turf, where he owned and manned the helm of companies such as Palmetto Shipping and Stevedoring Company, as he was sailing the waters of the world on far-flung voyages.

Those who knew Maybank recalled him as a deeply inquisitive, engaging man who was as gentle in demeanor as he was strong in determination. He had both a zest for life and a reverence of the past, qualities that bore out in his many pursuits, and often did so at the same time.

An intrepid sailor, Maybank twice embarked on extensive voyages commemorating historic events. In 1992, he undertook one such trip with his friend Dr. William Middleton aboard The Gambit on the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ voyage to America.

A second, 16-month trip had Maybank and crew circumnavigating the globe. Part of the 1998 Lisbon World Exposition Rally, covering 27,500 miles to mark the 500th anniversary of Vasco da Gama's route from Europe to India. 

Frank Middleton landed a place on both boats, experiences that forged a lifelong friendship between the two, who were 37 years apart in age.

"He was absolutely fearless," said Middleton, observing his friend and primary confidante in life was quiet, brave and strong. On one of their trips, Maybank encouraged him when he fell in love with a woman on a stop in Brazil. She is now Middleton's wife.

"His greatest lessons were in not being afraid to follow your heart," said Middleton. "He gave me a thousand little tips that all amounted to an ability to navigate the world in a way that continued to open opportunities for me."

Still, Maybank rarely trumpeted his own feats. "He wouldn't talk about what he did. He just did," said his son David Maybank III, recalling that, without a word, his father set out to hike the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

At Maybank's home in Charleston, which he shared with his wife Louise, he demonstrated an equally impressive energy, whether he was attending to his treasured collection of vintage Ford Model T and Model A cars or working assiduously on a 644-page history of the Maybank family.

Maybank's childhood friend Dr. Thomas Rivers observed that he was unlike anyone he has ever encountered. The two enjoyed a boyhood together hunting and studying wildlife. As adults, they were among seven friends who would spend time together at Lavington Plantation, naming themselves "The Sportsmen."  

"He was tremendously educated, but you would never know how much he knew because he was so friendly," said Rivers, adding that when Maybank was interested in something or someone, he would find out every detail about it.

Such rigor resulted in great success with companies, chief among them Palmetto Shipping and Stevedoring Company, which he purchased in 1979 and ran until it was sold in 1992.

"He was an extremely successful businessman because he was meticulous in his thinking process," Rivers said.

His son David said that his biggest pleasure was likely his personal interactions. "He related to people as individuals and he sought to help them in any way he could." 

Middleton recalled a story about his friend taking such an interest in a young man near Lavington, then guiding him through obtaining a GED, graduating from the College of Charleston, earning an MBA at University of Virginia to then become a successful businessman.

That guiding principle was also one of his final lessons to Middleton. "You don't need to know what you're going to do. You need to figure out who you're going to do it for," Maybank told him.

Maybank was born on Dec. 2, 1931 in Charleston to David Maybank and Marion Porcher Taber, He was a graduate of The Gaud School, The Episcopal High School and The University of Virginia, where he joined the ROTC. He served in the U.S. Navy for two years and in the U.S. Naval Reserve, retiring with the rank of Commander.

Among the companies he owned and ran were Maybank Fertilizing Company, Commercial Bonded Warehouse, Inc. and Palmetto Shipping and Stevedoring Company.

He was a member of St. Philip's Church and a member of The Huguenot Society of South Carolina, among many other organizations, and a trustee of Roper Hospital, Historic Charleston Foundation and The Episcopal High School. 

He is survived by his wife, Louise Green Jenkins Maybank; three sons, David Maybank III (Catherine Lynne Castleman Maybank), John Edward Frampton Maybank II and Peter Maybank; and four grandchildren, David Maybank IV, Catherine Byron Castleman Maybank, William Francis Maybank and John Edward Frampton Maybank III; a sister Derrill Taber Maybank Hagood; one niece, Marion Porcher Maybank Easley; and four nephews, James Morrow Hagood II, Benjamin Ambler Hagood, Jr., David Maybank Hagood and Robert Camp Hagood. He was preceded in death by his parents David Maybank and Marion Porcher Taber Maybank and his brother John Frampton Maybank.

Funeral services are scheduled for 2 p.m. on Wednesday at St. Philip's Church, 142 Church St., downtown Charleston. Memorials may be made to The Huguenot Society, 138 Logan St., Charleston, S.C. 29401, or to The Episcopal High School, 1200 North Quaker Lane, Alexandria, Va. 22302. Arrangements with J. Henry Stuhr, Inc., downtown chapel. 

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Follow Maura Hogan on Twitter at @msmaurahogan.

Maura Hogan is the arts critic at The Post and Courier. She has previously written about arts, culture and lifestyle for The New York Times, Gourmet, Garden & Gun, among other publications.

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