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Herb Fielding - Businessman, Community Leader, Politician
2/17/2016 3:37:32 PM

Herbert U. Fielding

This early 1970s photograph pictures Fielding with Columbia Atty. Thomas Broadwater. Photo: Jim French

A jovial Fielding embraces the late Mendel Davis during a victory celebration
By Barney Blakeney

As the Charleston community joins the rest of the nation in celebrating Black History Month, notable figures in the history of African Americans also are celebrated for their contributions. Not least among them is Herbert Ulysses Fielding - community leader, politician and businessman.

Fielding was born July 6, 1923, a son of Julius and Sadie Gaillard Fielding. His grandfather, Julius P.L. Fielding, started a funeral home business in 1912 that would become one of the Black community’s oldest and most successful surviving Black owned businesses.

Fielding, one of seven children - Emily, Timothy, Herbert, Bernard, Julius, Dorothy and foster brother, Oscar - devoted his life to his family’s business and public service. He practically had inherited a sense of civic duty. His grandmother, Felicia Fielding-Goodwin, was a founder of the Coming Street YWCA. His grandfather’s business motto was “He profits most who serves best”.

During the Great Depression, the family and funeral home staff provided their service to families regardless of their financial circumstances. It worked on the barter system that accepted fresh eggs, vegetables and meat in exchange for funeral services. The business thrived as it gained a reputation for commitment, compassion and service.

Like his grandparents, Fielding followed the family tradition of community service in addition to working in the family business. His grandfather was a founder of the Colored Funeral Directors and Embalmers of South Carolina, predecessor to the South Carolina Morticians Association. After serving in the Army during World War II, Fielding completed his college education and returned to Charleston to enter the family business.

After his parents’ deaths in 1938, Fielding’s sister Emily took over as president in 1940. Her brother Timothy became president after her death in 1975. Bernard, an attorney who has practiced law in Charleston over 50 years, succeeded Timothy as president in 1982. Herbert, nine years Bernard’s senior, became first vice president and director of operations at that time as well.

During the interim years, Fielding’s activities in the civic arena distinguished him among such peers as John Arthur Brown, Russell Brown, Esau Jenkins Judge Ernest Fields and ‘Big’ John Chisolm. He was a stalwart advocate for Black participation in the Democratic Party and fought to win seats as delegates.

Those efforts led to his election to the S.C. House of Representatives in 1970. He served there until 1973. Along with Columbians I.S. Leevy Johnson and James Felder, Fielding attacked the status quo in the legislature and used political action committees in such innovative ways he won the respect, and fear, of his adversaries. In 1984 he won election to the state senate where he served until 1992.

He left the legislature in 1992 to work full time in the family business, but he never left politics. He remained a significant and influential force in local and state politics until his death Aug. 10, 2015.

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