South Carolina

Pioneering former SC state representative will be laid to rest this week

This file photo shows Julius Murray, a former South Carolina state representative and activist who recently died.
This file photo shows Julius Murray, a former South Carolina state representative and activist who recently died. tglantz@thestate.com

Longtime Richland County businessman, activist and Democratic politician Julius Murray died last week.

Following a wake Monday evening, Murray’s funeral service is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, according to his tribute page posted by JP Holley Funeral Home.

A U.S. Air Force veteran, the master sergeant will be buried at Fort Jackson National Cemetery at noon Wednesday.

The 81-year-old died Sept. 8, according to the funeral home.

“He was a pioneer, a transformational figure,” Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright said of Murray, who was one of the first African Americans to serve on the Richland County Council.

Those sentiments were echoed by J.T. McLawhorn, president of the Columbia Urban League.

“He was a pioneer and a trailblazer,” McLawhorn said. “He was a member of County Council when we didn’t have too many African Americans serving as elected officials.”

Murray was born in Kingsville in 1938, and attended the former Webber High in Lower Richland before graduating from Columbia College of Missouri, according to his biography with the South Carolina Legislature.

He served in the Air Force from 1955-76, and was one of the military’s first African American recruiters located in the Southeast, according to his obituary.

When Murray served on the Richland County Council, it included a term where he was the council’s first African American vice chairman, according to Murray’s legislative biography.

During his political career, Murray also served on the Richland County Detention Center Committee before serving in the State House, representing District 70 from 1979-1984, according to his legislative biography.

He was the primary sponsor on five bills, including two that were passed, and his name was on many more resolutions, records show.

“He was always willing to lend a helping hand, and he epitomized what was expected from the community of a politician,” McLawhorn said. “He was a servant-leader. His role was to serve the community.”

Activism after politics

Even after leaving office, Murray was still a vital part of the community. He ran a contracting company, among other endeavors, according to McLawhorn.

“Julius loved to build and preserve things, which led him to form his construction company, Julius Murray Builders, where he was a General Contractor,” his obituary said. “Julius also renovated and rented countless houses in Richland County.”

Murray tried to find “housing for the homeless and food for the unemployed,” WLTX reported.

He was also active in preserving and restoring African American businesses, according to Seawright.

That included the Carver Theater, which was built in 1941 and, along with the Capitol Theatre, served the African American community in Columbia, The State reported. In 2002 he announced plans to renovate the theater.

In 2003, the theater was listed on the National Register. Murray then sold it to Allen University, which still utilizes the space, WLTX reported.

“He was a man who charted a unique path from picking cotton to where he ended up,” Seawright said. “People in Lower Richland felt he made a contribution, and I thank him for his contributions, made in his own way, and for creating an opportunity for me and others to follow.”

Murray’s wake will be held at 6 p.m. at the JP Holley funeral home, and his funeral service will take place at noon at First Nazareth Baptist Church.

He is survived by his wife, Gertrude, and children Julia Rhinehart Mountain, Sharon Banister and Julius Murray II, all who live in the Columbia area, according to the obituary.

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