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Columbia Councilman Joe Taylor Jr. dies, fellow lawmakers remember him

Taylor had been a member of council for under a year and was credited with helping to bring Boeing to South Carolina as commerce secretary.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Columbia City Councilman Joe Taylor Jr., who'd been on the council for the last year and was a former state secretary of commerce, has died.

Councilman Howard Duvall and city officials confirmed Taylor's passing Thursday morning. 

Taylor had been elected to council representing District Four just over a year ago and was officially sworn in on January 4 of this year. While on council, Taylor had been an advocate for increased business development, working with other members to push through measures designed to spur more investment in the capital city. 

“Today, Columbia lost one of her biggest advocates, one of my best friends, Joe E. Taylor, Jr.," Columbia Mayor Daniel Rickenmann said in part in a statement. "Joe was a giant in our community....He was more than a colleague or a friend, he was family. I will deeply miss him and am very grateful to have known him."

Taylor had an extensive history in the business community both locally and statewide. 

In 2003, then-Gov. Mark Sanford named him as the chair of the South Carolina Jobs Economic Development Authority. In 2006, he was appointed the South Carolina Secretary of Commerce, the chief position in state politics for recruiting businesses to the state. During his tenure, he helped the state land one of the largest investments in South Carolina history, when Boeing decided to build its first airplane manufacturing site outside of Washington State in North Charleston, SC.

He then became head of the State Infrastructure Bank in 2011, leading that agency until February 2019. For his work, he was awarded the Order of the Palmetto, the state's highest honor. 

He's also held ownership positions in concrete businesses, banks, advertising, and real-estate.

Taylor was a graduate of Wofford University. He founded Southland Log Homes while in college with his father and, at age 25, became the company's president and CEO. 

He is survived by his wife and two adult children.

A cause of death was not immediately released. 

The City of Columbia released a statement regarding Taylor's passing, saying: "We are saddened by the passing of Councilman Joe E. Taylor, Jr. This sudden and unexpected loss has had a major impact on our City of Columbia family.

"During his tenure on City Council, Councilman Taylor was an advocate for business development, particularly as it related to small business owners, and a champion of commerce. He truly believed in the greatness of our city and he was focused on making Columbia better for all citizens. We will miss his leadership and his dedication to our community.

"Our prayers and sincere condolences are extended to the Taylor family. We ask that you keep them in your thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time."

Governor Henry McMaster issued a statement on social media saying Taylor "has had an enormous impact on the Midlands and on the state of South Carolina. To recognize his contributions, flags at the statehouse (sic) will fly at half-staff on the day of his funeral services. Please join Peggy and me in praying for Amanda and the Taylor family."

And US Senator Lindsey Graham said in a statement:

“I was shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of my good friend, Joe Taylor. 

“Joe was a force in South Carolina business and politics, and a friend to so many. His time as South Carolina’s Secretary of Commerce was one of unprecedented growth for our state. He was also a strong and challenging voice on the Columbia City Council - always looking out for the taxpayer.

“On a personal level, Joe was one of my earliest supporters, and he and his family have become dear friends. My thoughts and prayers are with Joe’s wonderful family at this difficult time. Rest in Peace my good friend.”

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