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Political Icon Herbert U. Fielding Passes At 92
8/12/2015 4:58:22 PM

By Barney Blakeney

Charleston’s elder statesman, former Sen. Herbert U. Fielding, died August 10 after a brief illness. He was 92.

Fielding, a member of one of Charleston’s most prominent families, in 1970 became the first Black Charlestonian elected to the South Carolina State Legislature since Reconstruction. His was a lifetime of public service and his legacy to the progress of Blacks in Charleston and South Carolina as well as the state itself, was immeasurable.

Born July 26, 1923 to Julius and Sadie Fielding, Herbert Fielding practically inherited his sense of civic duty. His grandfather Julius P.L. Fielding started the funeral home business in 1912 with one wagon and a blind horse, according to family legend. During the Great Depression Fielding and his staff provided their service to families regardless of their financial circumstances working on the barter system accepting fresh eggs, vegetables and meat in exchange for funeral services. The business thrived as it gained a reputation for commitment, compassion and service.

Herbert Fielding, one of seven children born to Julius and Sadie, devoted his life to his family’s business and public service. After serving in the Army during World War II, Fielding completed his college education and returned to Charleston to enter the family business. His 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, serving there until 1973. In 1984 he won election to the senate where he served until 1992. He left the legislature to work full time in the family business, but he never left politics.

Throughout his life he remained a significant influence in local and state politics.

Former Sen. Robert Ford succeeded Fielding in the Dist. 42 seat. He said Tuesday Fielding taught him all he knew about South Carolina politics.

“Herbert was a top tier politician. He was elected to the general assembly when only three or four Blacks were there, but they got more done than the 100 Blacks we have there now,” Ford said.

Former Charleston County Council Chairman Lonnie Hamilton said Fielding was among the early Blacks who fought to make more possible for the second generation of Black politicians who followed them.

“They paved the road for all the young guys in the arena now,” Hamilton said.

Marlon Kimpson the current Dist. 42 senator said Fielding’s service in the general assembly was vitally important not just from a civil rights perspective, but also from a business perspective. As a Black businessman, Fielding had the ability to act independently, free of any economic constraints that may have been imposed upon him. “He could speak his mind,” Kimpson said.

Former Dist. 45 Sen. McKinley Washington served in the senate with Fielding. Describing Fielding as a smart man who knew politics, Washington said, “I’ve lost a great friend and our community has lost a great advocate. Herbert was a bridge builder. He spent his life trying to move Charleston County and the State of South Carolina forward.”

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.

“A lot of people knew him, but most don’t know how much he did to move this state forward,” Washington said.

Fielding is survived by his three sons; Julius, Herbert S. and Frederick: and his brother Bernard. He was predeceased by his wife, Thelma Stent Fielding in 2012.

Information about funeral arrangements for Mr. Fielding were unavailable at press time.

Herbert Fielding

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

This early 1970s photograph pictures Fielding with Columbia Atty. Thomas Broadwater

In this late 1970s picture Fielding chats with the House of Representatives colleague Rep. Robert R. Woods

A mature Herbert Fielding in this 1980s era photograph

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