Retired pastor, longtime Live 5 News employee dies

The Rev. James Sumter (Source: Lakecia Hollington)
The Rev. James Sumter (Source: Lakecia Hollington)
The Rev. James Sumter (Source: Lakecia Hollington)
The Rev. James Sumter (Source: Lakecia Hollington)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A retired Charleston County pastor who was also a member of the Live 5 News family has died.

The Rev. James C. Sumter, of Red Top, died early Thursday morning. He was 87.

Sumter was a pastor with the Union Methodist Episcopal Diocese for more than 40 years beginning in 1965 and pastored several churches, his daughter, Arlene, said.

"My dad was a great man," she said. "He took care of his family, he loved his daughters, his wife, his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren. He loved his church family and his community. That was his life. And he loved Piggly Wiggly, Bojangle's and McDonald's!"

She says her father also loved the Live 5 family. Sumter worked in a variety of jobs at WCSC-TV at the station's original East Bay Street facility in downtown Charleston and for its original owners, the Rivers family, for a total of 47 years.

John M. Rivers, Jr., whose father started WCSC-TV in 1953, said he was 13 years old in the summer of 1958 when he started "working" for Sumter as his "assistant." Sumter, he said, was his first boss.

"James had so much pride and so much energy that he took to the job every day," Rivers said. "He would come to work at 5 a.m., make sure that everything was tidy not only in the parking lot but also in the main building.  He would then go get the mail and proceed to do various other jobs ranging from cleaning specific areas to making banking deposits to assisting with gathering news stories. Occasionally, he would drive my father to a bank meeting in Columbia. To me, his most important legacy is that he was an honest man, hardworking, spiritual to the core, and respected and loved by everyone who worked with him.  That respect carried on to his weekend activities when he became a minister in the Red Top community.  I think he was known as the Revered Reverend."

Rivers said he was able to visit Sumter three days before he passed away.

"He was a good man when I first met him, he was a good man the last time I saw him," Rivers said. "Now he's at peace with his Lord; the person to whom he looked up to his entire life.  My thoughts and prayers continue to go out to his many children and grandchildren, as well as to his faithful congregation in Red Top."

"I loved the man!" Live 5 anchor Bill Sharpe said. "Rev. Sumter never met a stranger! He had a smile as big as a sunset, and his Lowcountry laugh was infectious: it made you laugh out loud! He was a gentle soul sustained by a strong belief in God. I loved the stories he would tell in his distinctive Lowcountry accent. I count myself fortunate he touched my life in such a wonderful way. May you rest in peace, Rev. Sumter."

"When I first started with WCSC, I worked in radio news and had very early morning hours," Live 5 anchor Debi Chard said. "James Sumter was always one of the first employees to arrive at the station.  He would make your day because he was so upbeat and friendly, he was always smiling.  Isn't that a wonderful way to be remembered?  He was a fixture, and if you needed help, you could count on him to be there for you."

His family says he worked until health forced his retirement in 2002.

"Most of all, he loved the Lord and loved serving God's people," Arlene said of her father.

Sumter's funeral will be held Monday at 11 a.m. at the Lovely Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Red Top. Walker's Mortuary Chapel of Peace on Johns Island is in charge.

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