Former North Charleston mayor John E. Bourne Jr. dies

The first mayor of North Charleston, John Bourne, has died. (Source: City of North Charleston/Youtube)
The first mayor of North Charleston, John Bourne, has died. (Source: City of North Charleston/Youtube)
Former Mayor John Bourne and current Mayor Keith Summey were honored in 2012. (Source: Live 5)
Former Mayor John Bourne and current Mayor Keith Summey were honored in 2012. (Source: Live 5)

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The man known as "the father of North Charleston" died Thursday morning.

John E. Bourne Jr., the first mayor of North Charleston, passed away at his home, according to Rev. Rob Dewey with the Lowcountry Community Chaplaincy.

Bourne was 90 years old.

"We wish condolences to the family and they need to understand that the city is here to assist them in any way that we can," North Charleston mayor Keith Summey said in a statement. "John was the type of mayor we needed in that first timeline. He did a wonderful job of bringing us to the size and recognition we got as a city. He was the mayor who brought us the coliseum and helped to advance the quality of life. But more than anything he gave North Charleston a voice that has been heard throughout the tri-county region and the state."

After three failed attempts over the years to incorporate the city, Bourne was instrumental in the incorporation of North Charleston in 1972, a battle that eventually went all the way to the state Supreme Court.

One of Bourne's longtime friends, city councilman Bob King recalled Bourne's struggle to incorporate North Charleston.

"It was an uphill battle and a lot of people were not in favor of that," King said Thursday. "John was a strong fighter, strong willed person and he got it done."

"Coming back from Columbia after we got our charter, it occurred to me, sort of out of the blue, that here I am, John Bourne, mayor of the ninth-largest city in South Carolina, with all the powers, duties, responsibilities of every other mayor, and so is the city council, and we don't have five cents," Bourne said in a 2008 interview.

The city received its charter on a Monday; by that Thursday, the city council held its first meeting, adopted the organizational ordinance of the city, adopted a budget, levied a tax, borrowed $25,000 and rented a building to operate in, he said.

"We were in business," Bourne said. "I'm sure the general feeling was that probably we'd be kicking around up here for six months trying to figure out what we were going to do, but we were ahead of the game."

The city was the ninth-largest in the state when it was established on June 12, 1972. By December, it had grown to the fourth-largest city after annexing the Naval Base, Air Force Base and the Charleston International Airport, according to the city's website.

By 1975, it had grown to the third-largest city in the Palmetto State.

He was also given credit for the idea to build the North Charleston Coliseum.

Bourne and current North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey received special honors as the city turned 40 years old. On June 12, 2012, the City Center Complex, which includes the North Charleston Coliseum, Performing Arts Center and Convention Center, was dedicated as the Bourne-Summey City Center Complex.

Bobby Kinard succeeded Bourne as mayor in 1991.

"It was fun being mayor," Bourne said in the 2008 interview. "Really exciting. Tough job. But I just wouldn't give anything for having the opportunity to do it."

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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