Bill Workman

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William Douglas "Bill" Workman, III

33rd Mayor of
Greenville, South Carolina
In office
June 13, 1983 – December 11, 1995
Preceded by Harry B. Luthi
Succeeded by Knox H. White

President of the Municipal Association of South Carolina
In office
Preceded by Stephen M. Creech
Succeeded by Lessie B. Price

At-large member of the
Greenville City Council
In office
1981 – June 13, 1983
Preceded by Clifford Gaddy, Jr.
Succeeded by Knox H. White

Born July 3, 1940
Charleston, South Carolina, USA
Died May 12, 2019 (aged 78)
Walterboro, Colleton County

South Carolina, USA

Resting place Live Oak Cemetery in Walterboro
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) (1) Marcia Moorehouse Workman

(2) Patti Gage Fishburne Workman

Children Two children from first marriage:

Three step-children from second marriage

Alma mater The Citadel: The Military College of South Caronina
Occupation Businessman

Military Service
Service/branch United States Army
Rank Lieutenant colonel

William Douglas Workman, III, known as Bill Workman (July 3, 1940 – May 12, 2019), was an American businessman and politician who served from 1983 to 1995 as the mayor of Greenville, South Carolina.

His father, W. D. Workman Jr. (1914-1990), was a journalist with The Charleston News and Courier and then the editor of The Columbia State, who ran for the United States Senate in 1962 and for governor of South Carolina in 1982, both times as a Republican.


Workman was born in Charleston, South Carolina[1] as an intelligence officer during World War II. His mother, the former Heber Rhea Thomas (1918–1988), a native of Walterboro in Colleton County, was the supervisor of recreation for the Walterboro Works Progress Administration servicemen's club. Called "Tommie" by her husband, whom she married in May 1939, and "Dimples" by her friends, Rhea Workman graduated from Winthrop College at age eighteen and went on to obtain her doctorate from the University of South Carolina. She was a full Professor of English from 1957 to 1977 at Columbia College in the capital city of Columbia.[2] Her mother, Ruth Dorrill Thomas, Workman's grandmother, taught at Walterboro High School in Walterboro, where in 1935 launched the Future Teachers of America chapter at the school.[3] Workman has a sister, Dorrill "Dee" Workman Benedict of Greenville.[2]

Reared in Charleston and Columbia, Workman graduated in 1961 from The Citadel: The Military College of South Carolina in Charleston, the alma mater of his grandfather, father and both of his sons.[4] Workman served two years active duty in the United States Army, with subsequent Army Reserve Corps service, in which capacity he attained and retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel.[1] Like his father, he was a newspaper reporter for the Charleston News and Courier. He also worked for The Greenville News. He was, for a time, an educator and dean of Allied Health Sciences at Greenville Technical College. For six years, he was a member of the Greenville County School Board. He was among the founders of the South Carolina Literacy Association.[5]

Workman was twice married. From his first union, to the former Marcia Moorhouse, he has two sons: William Workman, IV, and Frank Moorhouse Workman. From his second marriage to Patti Gage Fishburne (born 1942),Workman gained three stepdaughters,[5] Gage Marks Beerer, Barnwell Johnson Marks, and Kemp Fishburne Marks.[6]

Patti Gage Fishburne Workman, a native of Walterboro, graduated in 1960 from Walterboro High School,[7] where Workman's grandmother had once been on the faculty.[3]

Political career

From 1975 to 1978, Workman was the executive assistant to Governor James B. Edwards (1927-2014) of Charleston, the first Republican chief executive in South Carolina since Reconstruction. As Edwards's assistant based in the capital city of Columbia, Workman was an alternate to the Appalachian Regional Commission. He became involved with planning and economic development issues. From 1972 to 1975, he was vice chairman and then chairman of the South Carolina Appalachian Health Council for which he worked to attract to South Carolina the growing number of federal categorical grant.[8]

Workman was an at-large member of the Greenville City Council for two years preceding his tenure as mayor. The 33rd mayor, he served for twelve and one-half years, in which capacity he refined his emphasis on economic and downtown development, the thrust of which dated back to 1971 to 1979 during the administration of the Democratic Mayor Max Heller.[9] In 2004, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham acknowledged Workman's accomplishments in attracting new industries to his city and region: "There is no doubt Greenville is now one of the Southeast region's premier cities for business."[5] Workman faced the rapid decline of the textile mills in western South Carolina, a loss which made economic development more difficult. Workman described economic development as a process which requires both diversification and specialization. Quoting the urban planner Jane Jacobs: "Poverty happens; prosperity, you have to work at it."[10] In 1994, Mayor Workman was elected by his colleagues as president of the Municipal Association of South Carolina.[11]

Involved in Republican politics, Mayor Workman in 1984 attended a Reagan-Bush rally at Greenville Technical College.[12] In 1986, Workman ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the United States House of Representatives from South Carolina's 4th congressional district. The position was vacated by Carroll Ashmore Campbell, Jr. (1940-2005), a Republican who was elected governor in 1986, only the second Republican in the office in the 20th century. Workman defeated airline pilot Ted Adams in a runoff election for the Republican nomination, 8,453 votes (55.3 percent) to 6,829 (44.7 percent); in the primary, however, Workman had polled 49.2 percent, nearly enough to win outright. Workman lost in the general election to sate Senator Elizabeth J. Patterson, 67,012 votes (52.7 percent) to 61,648 (47.3 percent). Two minor candidates polled the remaining 1,747 votes (1.3 percent).[13] Patterson is the daughter of Olin DeWitt Johnston (1896–1965), the Democrat whom Workman's father had unsuccessfully challenged twenty-four years earlier in the 1962 race for the U. S. Senate.[14] In February 2004, Workman spoke in Orangeburg, South Carolina, to support downtown revitalization efforts there. He said that development depends on a mixture of "love, humility, and cooperation among all residents. ... Downtown is everybody's neighborhood."[15]

In March 2004, Workman received the annual John D. Whisman Vision Award from the Development District Association of Appalachia at the annual conference of the organization held in Arlington, Virginia. The conference represented more than three hundred officials from seventy-two economic planning and development districts.[8] He also acquired the annual "William D. Workman, III, Buffalo Hunter Award," which honors either an individual or an organization that has demonstrated a major impact on the local economy. "Buffalo Hunter" refers to locating new businesses to Greenville.[16] He is a past president of the Greenville County Research and Technological Development Corporation.[5]

Later years

In 2004, Workman retired from the position of vice president of South Carolina district operations of the Piedmont Natural Gas Company but continued working as an economic development consultant.[5] Thereafter, he served as town manager of Bluffton, South Carolina. He also headed the Colleton County Economic Alliance Board.[1]

In 2014, Workman, by then retired in Walterboro summed up his business and political career as follows, "Economic development is what I have done for a living and for fun. ... Economic development is a high calling as far as I am concerned," upon receiving in Columbia the designation of "South Carolina Economic Ambassador".[17]

Workman died on May 12, 2019, in Walterboro, where he is interred at Live Oak Cemetery.[18]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Local Leaders Named S.C. Economic Ambassadors," May 17, 2014; material no longer on-line.
  2. 2.0 2.1 William D. Workman Papers. Retrieved on May 14, 2014; material no longer accessible on-line.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Sherry J. Cawley (1998). Around Walterboro, South Carolina. Arcadia Publishing. Retrieved on October 24, 2020. 
  4. William D. Workman, Jr.. Retrieved on May 14, 2014; material no longer be on-line.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Lindsey Graham (February 2, 2004). Bill Workman. Project Vote Smart. Retrieved on October 23, 2020.
  6. Florence Barnwell Dargan Fishburne (1916-2008). Retrieved on October 23, 2020.
  7. "Yes, You Can Go Home Again!," The Colletonian, accessed May 14, 2014.
  8. 8.0 8.1 William D. Workman, III, Receives John D. Whisman Vision Award. (March 15, 2004). Retrieved on October 24, 2020.
  9. Max Heller Biography. Furman University. Retrieved on May 20, 2014; material no longer accessible on-line.
  10. "Prosperity Requires Both Diversification and Specialization," Greenville Business Magazine, December 1, 2013.
  11. Past Presidents. Municipal Association of South Carolina. Retrieved on May 14, 2014 material no longer accessible on-line.
  12. Remarks at a Reagan-Bush Rally in Greenville, South Carolina. (October 15, 1984). Retrieved on October 24, 2020.
  13. SC - District 04. Retrieved on October 23, 2020.
  14. 24, 2020ck-bill-baxley-runoff Bitter Alabama Race Nears End. Fort Lauderdale (Florida) Sun-Sentinel (June 24, 1986; article on Alabama campaigns with mention of Workman's congressional bid). Retrieved on October 24, 2020.
  15. Former Greenville, S.C., Mayor Praises Downtown-Revitalization Group. (June 29, 2014). Retrieved on October 23, 2020.
  16. GADC reports 1,556 jobs created in 2008. (May 22, 2009). Retrieved on May 14, 2014; material no longer accessible on-line.
  17. "A WORKMAN-LIKE EFFORT: Bill Workman honored as S.C. Economic Ambassador," Colleton Today, April 17, 2014.
  18. Ella Wilkie (May 13, 2019). Bill Workman, former Greenville mayor, passes away at 78. WHNS (Fox News). Retrieved on October 24, 2020.