Eugene Noel Zeigler Jr. FLORENCE - Eugene Noel Zeigler, Jr., lawyer, legislator, historian, and civic leader, died in Florence on October 8, 2012. He was 91. Zeigler was born in Florence on July 20, 1921, the son of Eugene Noel Zeigler and Helen Livingston Townsend Zeigler. An early interest in history and archaeology was nurtured in Zeigler by his aunt, Leah Townsend, as well as Florence Museum founder Jane B. Evans and South Carolina historians Anne King Gregorie, James Meriwether, and Samuel Gailliard Stoney. As a result, Zeigler was involved, as a teenager, in the founding of the Florence Museum in 1936. After graduating from Florence High School in 1938, Zeigler attended the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, from which he received his B.A. in 1942. While at Sewanee, Zeigler became a member of Phi Beta Kappa and was awarded the Guerry Medal in English. Zeigler entered the United States Navy's midshipman's school upon graduation from Sewanee, and was commissioned in the fall of 1942. He served as an officer on four aircraft carriers during the Second World War, first in the Atlantic supporting the invasion of North Africa, and later in the Pacific, where he participated in the Second Battle of the Phillipines and Okinawa, and was among the first troops to go ashore at Hong Kong and the Japanese City of Nagasaki. He remained in the Naval Reserve until the 1980s, eventually retiring with the rank of Captain, and helped found and later commanded the Naval Reserve Unit in Florence. In 1946 Zeigler entered Harvard Law School, from which he received his JD in 1949, after taking a year off to write plays for the Playmakers Theater at the University of North Carolina. Zeigler returned to Florence in 1949 to practice law with Leah Townsend and his uncle and mentor Peter McEachin. He practiced law continuously until 2007, and was widely regarded for his skill and eloquence as a litigator and advocate, as well as his willingness to do what he considered his duty to represent those on the wrong side of the social and economic dynamic of his time. In 1953 he volunteered, despite death threats, to represent Raymond Carney, an African-American accused and later convicted of killing two white teenagers in Florence County. In the 1970s, he represented tobacco farmers in an antitrust suit against the nation's largest tobacco companies, which, although unsuccessful, was used by the United States Justice Department in its later actions on similar grounds. In the 1950s, Zeigler was intensely involved in civic life in Florence and the Pee Dee. He became President of the Florence Museum in 1951 and orchestrated and oversaw its move into its present building in 1953. He founded the Pee Dee Big Brothers, the first Big Brothers organization in the South, in 1953, and the Florence Fine Arts Council in 1954. He wrote and directed plays for the Florence Little Theater in the 1950s, including The Cult and Pressley's Crossroads. Zeigler was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1960 and the South Carolina Senate in 1966. During his time in the General Assembly, Zeigler promoted a progressive agenda, and was among the "Young Turks" seeking to reform state government. He served on the West Commission, which formulated the Home Rule Amendments to the South Carolina Constitution, and chaired legislative committees that reformed the juvenile justice and corrections system. He helped create the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, and wrote and sponsored the legislation that created the South Carolina Arts Commission. A proponent of civil rights for African Americans and desegregation of public schools, while in the General Assembly Zeigler authored and promoted legislation that desegregated the Florence Public Library and ended racially exclusionary School Board election practices in Florence School District One. Zeigler sponsored the legislation to create Francis Marion College in 1970, and taught political science as a member of that institution's first faculty while still serving in the Senate. Zeigler also sponsored legislation that created independent county government for Florence County prior to the enactment comprehensive home rule legislation in the 1970s, and designed the County's seal. Zeigler was the Democratic Party's nominee for the US Senate in 1972, but lost in the election to incumbent Strom Thurmond. Zeigler also ran unsuccessfully for Governor in 1974. After leaving elective politics in the 1970s, Zeigler remained active in statewide governmental affairs, serving as Chairman on the newly created Human Affairs Commission, and was a member of the South Carolina Board of Corrections from 1975 to 1990, serving as its Chairman during much of that time. A member of both the South Carolina Tricentennial and Bicentennial Commissions, Zeigler also served for several decades as President of the Florence County Historical Society, and was Secretary of the St. David's Society of South Carolina from 1977 to 2003. Zeigler was a lifelong member of St. John's Episcopal Church, serving on its vestry on several occasions, and was Chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina for over twenty years. A prolific writer and skilled story teller, Zeigler was the author of six books, including Florence, A Renaissance Spirit, Barnwell Blarney, Village to City: Florence, South Carolina, 1853-93, Refugees and Remnants: The Story of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Pee Dee and St. John's Episcopal Church, and a memoir, When Conscience and Power Meet. Zeigler's sixth book, In Disgrace With Fortune and Mens' Eyes, profiles forty-seven forgotten, ignored, or unpopular South Carolinians, and was published several weeks before his death. Zeigler received numerous awards in recognition of his achievements and contributions, including the South Carolina Arts Commission's Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Award in 1971; the Florence Arts Council's Jack Baker Award in 1992; the Order of the Palmetto in 2003; the Governor's Award in Humanities in 2004, and the South Carolina Bar Foundation's DuRant Award for distinguished public service in 2005. He received honorary degrees from both the University of the South and Francis Marion University, and was honored by the School Foundation as Florence District One's Distinguished Graduate in 2012. He is survived by his wife, the former Anne Marion Lide, and their four children, Belton Townsend Zeigler, Helen Townsend Zeigler Ellerbe, Nina McClenaghan Zeigler Knowlton, all of Columbia, and Benjamin Turner Zeigler of Florence, and eleven grandchildren: Anne Lide Knowlton of Boston, MA, Belton Townsend Zeigler, Jr. of Columbia, SC, Dr. Robert Yates Knowlton, Jr. of Jacksonville, FL., Dr. Sanford Manning Zeigler of Menlo Park, CA, William Haselden Ellerbe of New York City, Nina McClenaghan Knowlton Turton of London, England, Elizabeth Sanford Zeigler of Columbia, Mildred Brown Knowlton of Washington, DC, Caroline Robinson Ellerbe of Columbia, Frances Eugenia Ellerbe of Stanford, CA, and Eugene Noel Zeigler, III of Florence. Funeral Services will be at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 11, 2012, at St. John's Episcopal Church in Florence, with burial immediately following at Mount Hope Cemetery, directed by Waters-Powell Funeral Home. The family will receive friends at the Fellowship Hall of St. John's Episcopal Church immediately following burial. Memorials may be sent to the Florence Museum, Florence County Library, or St. John's Episcopal Church.
Published in The State on Oct. 10, 2012.