COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Longtime South Carolina state Sen. Billy O’Dell has died at age 77, his family and a fellow lawmaker said Thursday.
Angela O’Dell, the Greenwood Republican’s daughter-in-law, confirmed his death to The Associated Press in a phone interview Thursday. She the family was still waiting for details on the cause of death.
Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Gaffney, said during a workshop attended by dozens of reporters and editors at the Statehouse on Thursday that O’Dell had died, prompting a moment of silence during the gathering.
“When I think of Sen. O’Dell, I think of his support for The Citadel and his great love of South Carolina,” Peeler said during a break in the session. “He brought a calmness to the Senate. He was very reasoned. He didn’t talk much, but when he did, we listened.”
Entering the Senate in 1989, O’Dell served on several powerful committees including finance and labor, commerce and industry. He also chaired the General Committee, which serves as a catch-all for special projects, such as the panel that investigated the Department of Social Services over the past two years.
O’Dell graduated from The Citadel in 1960 and was CEO of the O’Dell Corporation, a mop, broom and dust mop manufacturing company started by his father after he returned from service in World War II, according to the company’s website.
He held a variety of positions within the business community in the Greenwood County and at the state level, serving as director of the State Chamber of Commerce in the 1980s, according to O’Dell’s legislative biography.
In a statement, Gov. Nikki Haley said she was grateful for the service of O’Dell, who she said had “worked tirelessly for the people of his district and the state.”
Haley added that O’Dell “made South Carolina a better place.”
O’Dell’s death is the second in the tightknit Senate chamber in seven months. Last June, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney was among nine parishioners shot to death during a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston. Suspect Dylann Roof currently faces state and federal charges in that case.