Gathering to say goodbye to Lee Bandy

Lindsey Graham and Mark Sanford, at reception following Lee Bandy's funeral.

Lindsey Graham and Mark Sanford, at reception following Lee Bandy’s funeral.

Above are some of the better-known people who showed up at First Presbyterian Church in Columbia yesterday to pay their respects to the inimitable Lee Bandy.

There were other politicos, such as Sen. John Courson and former Attorney General Henry McMaster. But far more numerous were present and former colleagues of Lee’s from The State.

With the emphasis being on “former.”

Lindsey Graham wondered whether there were more alumni of the paper in the receiving line — which wound all the way around the fellowship hall — than the present total newsroom employment, and I looked around and said yes, almost certainly.

The former certainly outnumbered the present at the lunch that some of us went to at the Thirsty Fellow after the funeral and reception. That group is pictured below. Of those at the table, only three currently work at The State. The rest are at The Post and Courier in Charleston, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, and various other places. Some are free-lancing. Some of us, of course, aren’t in the game at the moment.

That night was when we gave Lee a proper newspaper send-off. There were about 50 of us at Megan Sexton and Sammy Fretwell’s house. At one point in the evening, we crowded into a ragged circle in the biggest room in the house to share Bandy stories. The first couple of speakers were fairly choked up. Then Aaron Sheinin of the AJC cheered us up by saying, “What would we all say if he walked in that door right now?” And immediately, we all raised our glasses and shouted, “Bandy!”

So we went around the room, and after each testimonial — some poignant, some humorous, some both — we hoisted our glasses and cried out his name again. Just the way we did during his lifetime, in a tone infused with delight. That was the way everyone greeted him, from presidents to senators to political professionals to his fellow scribes. Everyone was glad to see him.

And everyone was deeply sorry to see him go.

There was in the room a rosy glow of remembrance of what we had all meant to each other once, and a joy at regaining that comradeship, if only for an evening. But none of the rest of us will have a sendoff like Bandy’s, nor will any of us deserve it as much…


8 thoughts on “Gathering to say goodbye to Lee Bandy

  1. KP

    Thanks for posting this, Brad. That house was filled with such love and admiration. I love knowing that so many people will miss him as much as I will. I might have raised my glass one too many times, though — but maybe that’s a fitting tribute too.

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    By the way, here’s a statement Sen. Graham put out last week about Lee:

    “South Carolina has lost one of her strongest and most capable voices. He explained what was going on in South Carolina government and politics with clarity and integrity. Lee’s criticisms stung and his praise was appreciated. There was never any doubt Lee called it as he saw it. He was a great role model for young reporters and will be missed.”

  3. Michael Sponhour

    Thanks for sharing, Brad. Sure wish I could have been there – love seeing all those familiar faces at the table. What a great group of people.

  4. Mike F.

    Despite the occasion, I greatly enjoyed seeing everybody again. Looking at the picture, I have to note: You could put out a damn fine newspaper with the people at that table.

  5. Bill Robinson

    Dear Brad et al:

    Thank you for taking the time to share these observations from Lee Bandy’s funeral. I concur wholeheartedly with Mike Sponhour. Lee was a terrific role model for all those people in the picture and many dozens more who were there in spirit.

    Bill Robinson
    Salisbury, MD

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