Ramon Schwartz, Jr.

Obituary of Ramon Schwartz, Jr.

The Hon. Ramon Schwartz, Jr., former Speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives, died peacefully on June 30, 2017, at Palmetto Health Tuomey in Sumter after a brief illness. Mr. Schwartz, who was first elected in 1968, was a member of the House for 18 years.

He was born in Sumter on May 25, 1925, the son of the late Raymon Schwartz and Madge Grossman Schwartz, and the husband of the late Rosa Weinberg Schwartz. In 1942, he graduated from Edmunds High School and entered the University of South Carolina.  When he turned 18 he left college to join the U. S. Army. He served in the European Theater of Operations. He was a member of American Legion Post 15 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3034.

After World War II, Mr. Schwartz returned to the University of South Carolina, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1948 and a law degree in 1949.  While there, he was first vice president of the Student Body, a member of Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Fraternity, a member of Kappa Sigma Kappa Service Fraternity, a member of the Debating Team, President of the Euphradian Literary Society, and a member of Wig and Robe Scholastic Society in Law School.

Mr. Schwartz practiced law for 68 years in Sumter, beginning with his father in the firm of Schwartz and Schwartz. He was a past president of the Sumter County Bar Association. At the time of his death, he was a member of the law firm Schwartz, McLeod, DuRant and Jordan.         

Mr. Schwartz was a fifth generation Sumterite—a fact he noted when he received the Order of the Palmetto from Governor Nikki Haley and the Gamecock City Society award from the City of Sumter in 2012. In so noting he talked about a value instilled in him by his parents—to give back to the community and make it a better place. To that end, he devoted his entire life to public service, beginning with civic organizations and charitable boards in Sumter and culminating with his tenure as the Speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives.  At the onset of his last illness, he talked about how fortunate he was to have lived in Sumter and about all the community had done for him throughout his life.

After Mr. Schwartz’s election to the South Carolina House of Representatives, he served on the Rules and Judiciary Committees. In 1975, he became chair of the Rules Committee. In 1976 he was elected Speaker Pro-Tempore. Two years later, he was elected Speaker, a position he held until his retirement from the legislature six years later.  He served one term as chairman of the Southern Speakers’ Conference.

While in the legislature, he received numerous awards. The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce named him the Legislator of the Year in recognition of his contributions to the State’s economic development. The American Legion Department of South Carolina recognized him for years of outstanding service to his community and state. The South Carolina Department of the Veterans of Foreign Wars honored him with its Legislative Award. The Pee Dee Area Boy Scouts of America designated him as a “Distinguished Citizen”.  The Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce gave him its Outstanding Achievement Award. He received honorary Doctors of Laws degrees from the University of South Carolina, The Citadel, and Newberry College. A number of years after his retirement from the legislature, the General Assembly named a portion of US Highway 76/378 abutting Shaw Air Force Base The Ramon Schwartz, Jr. Highway.

Before serving in the House, Mr. Schwartz served eight years as the Sumter City Recorder. He served as president of the Sumter Rotary Club, the Sumter Chamber of Commerce, the Sumter Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees), the South Carolina Junior Chamber of Commerce, the Sumter County Community Chest, and the Sumter Committee for Progress.  Mr. Schwartz was Sumter’s Outstanding Young Man of the Year in 1957. After serving as president of the South Carolina Jaycees, he was designated one of three outstanding state presidents.

He was also a life trustee (retired) of Tuomey Hospital Board and a trustee of the Maude C. Solomons estate, which established the Solomons Home for the Aged. He was a member of the Boards of Directors of the National Bank of South Carolina and of the Carolina Coca Cola Bottling Company.

He was a past chairman of the Sumter County United Appeal, the South Carolina March of Dimes, the Sumter County Library Board, the Sumter County Bloodmobile Program, the Sumter County Housing Authority, and the Board of Governors of Sunset Country Club, and was a member of the Shaw-Sumter Community Council.

He had a special interest in higher education in Sumter and was a powerful advocate for it in the legislature. In recognition of his contribution to USC-Sumter, a building was dedicated in his honor on the campus. He also served on the USC–Sumter Foundation Board and the Central Carolina Technical College Foundation Board.        

Mr. Schwartz loved his alma mater. He seemed to live for college football season and reveled in the Carolina-Clemson rivalry. He never wavered in his loyalty to the Gamecocks through the great seasons and the not-so-great. In 2001 he was honored by the Sumter Gamecock Club as the Sumter Fan of the Year.

Survivors include a daughter, Barbara S. Burchstead (Harry), three sons, Ray Schwartz, Milton Schwartz (Caren), and Bill Schwartz (Meg); eight grandchildren, Michael Burchstead (Megan), Matthew Burchstead (Torrey), Sarah Nagy (Travis), Hughes Schwartz, Reid Schwartz (Katherine), Grier Schwartz, Maggie Schwartz and Page Schwartz, and three great-grandchildren, Vivian Burchstead, Grant Burchstead, and David Nagy.  His sister, Edith S. Joel, predeceased him.

His family will remember him most as a devoted Christian and family man. Ramon was a devoted husband to his beloved Rosa. His family rejoices now that they are again together. He was a devoted father, grandfather and great-grandfather. There seemed to be no limit in his generosity to his family and to his friends.

Mr. Schwartz was a member and a former senior warden and vestryman of the Church of the Holy Comforter. 

A memorial service will be held there on July 6, 2017, at 1:00 p.m. with the Reverend Marcus A. Kaiser, Sr., officiating, and the Reverend Charles F. Walton, preaching. Committal of the ashes will be in the Church Memorial Garden following the memorial service.

The family will receive friends following the committal of the ashes in the Parish Hall of the church and at other times at the home of his daughter, Barbara Burchstead, 120 Church Street.

His family extends heartfelt thanks to Dr. Matt Floyd, Dr. Don DuBose, Dr. Eddie Duffy and the staff of Palmetto Health Tuomey for their care in his final days.

His family rejoices in his resurrection and is grateful to God for the life they shared with him.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Building Fund of the Church of the Holy Comforter (213 N. Main Street, Sumter, SC 29150), to USC – Sumter (200 Miller Road, Sumter, SC 29150), to the Solomons Home for the Aged (620 North Guignard Drive, Sumter, SC 29150), to the YMCA Annual Campaign (510 Miller Road, Sumter, SC 29150) or to the charity of one’s choice.

On-line condolences may be sent to www.sumterfunerals.com

Elmore Hill McCreight Funeral Home & Crematory, 221 Broad Street, Sumter, is in charge of the arrangements (803) 775-9386.