What does it take to get on the City Paper‘s list of top newsmakers in the last 10 years? Well, a general contempt for the paper is good, but not required. Mounds of legal troubles help and you should either be really old or have a propensity for stuffing your foot into your mouth.
The former City Council member made several appearances in our pages between 2000 and 2002 for falling behind on child support payments. One October 2002 piece ended with, “Since this has happened so often with Campbell, blah blah blah, yada yada yada, etc.”
In December of that year, Campbell announced he was joining the Republican Party, claiming the Democrats have taken advantage of blacks. He later lobbed similar complaints at Mayor Joe Riley when Campbell ran for mayor in 2003.
“It’s all Joe’s way or no way at all. All the black community ever gets out of him is feel-good festivals,” Campbell said.
Kwadjo lost the race, but maintained his council seat until a string of problems hit him in 2005. In January, Campbell delayed a vote on a condo development, later seeking financial concessions for the East Side Community Development Group, leading Riley and others to call for a state ethics review.
Two months later, Campbell was arrested for driving with a suspended license and providing false information to an officer when he failed to give his real name, Larry Roy Campbell. He then appeared in court on charges for possession of a stolen car and a second offence for possession of marijuana.
In July 2005, Campbell was indicted on charges that he mishandled campaign cash, leading Gov. Mark Sanford to suspend him from office.
Likely recognizing that he’d never get out of the City Paper pages without relocating, Campbell has moved to the Upstate.
John Graham Altman III
Backwards thinking has always been prominent in the South, but it may never find a better mouthpiece than former state legislator John Graham Altman III. Say what you will about the man, but he said what he felt — he just didn’t know when not to say what he felt.
After the state Supreme Court ruled that “Choose Life” licence plates were unconstitutional in early 2003, Altman introduced “Choose Death” plates. The City Paper called to ask about the plates, but he refused to talk to us because we endorsed his opponent in the 2002 elections. Another legislative high point came in 2005 when Altman got so frustrated with the state’s meddling in local tax cap plans that he authored a bill allowing Charleston to secede from the state.
In 2003, Altman and others pressured the College of Charleston to ditch a proposal for a new gay studies minor before the curriculum committee had a chance to consider it. When challenged again in the 2004 elections by gay West Ashley resident Charlie Smith, Altman sent a campaign letter out to voters claiming, ” We’ve got to stop that ultraliberal Democrat crowd and the militant homosexual crowd before they do great harm.”
Local gay activist Steve Lepre and his partner, Mark McKinney, created “Militant Homosexual” T-shirts in response. “I’ll keep saying stuff and they can keep putting it on T-shirts,” Altman said.
But the man is best known for his response in 2005 to a female reporter who asked why gamecock legislation was advancing while a domestic violence bill had stalled. Altman replied that he didn’t know why women would go back to an abusive man.
“I mean you women want it one way and not another,” he said.
But the quote we will cherish the most came from a 1999 interview with Altman when he was asked his thoughts about the City Paper.
“I read the City Paper every week and I enjoy it. But in reading it, you sort of pick up a flavor of the audience you are catering to. And you are a niche publication, but it appears to me that you fill your niche very well.”
Altman stopped filling his niche in 2006 when he decided not to seek reelection and was replaced by Democrat Leon Stavrinakis.
The first whisperings of trouble for Charleston City Police Chief Reuben Greenberg came in 2000 when it was found that convicted drug dealer Mikell White was living rent-free in an East Side house owned by the Charleston Police Department. It turned out that ownership was in question because Greenberg had signed the house over to White for $1. Greenberg at first denied having signed any such deed, until the deed was uncovered in a Charleston County evidence locker.
During a 2003 anti-war rally, Greenberg asked rally organizer Merrill Chapman if she was the “fat lady in charge of this mess.” He then said he hoped that “no one here is as fat as this lady.”
Not long after that, a cover story in the City Paper spotlighted Greenberg’s outburst at a local TV reporter after he had asked Greenberg about the police department providing a bus to Columbia for one local group protesting a porn store and not another that was heading to the Statehouse to protest a sales tax referendum.
The exchange resulted in cursing and finger-poking from Greenberg, all caught on tape. “I make decisions based on if they are good for Reuben Greenberg or if they’re bad for Reuben Greenberg. If they’re good for the police department or bad for the police department.”
The mess settled, but was stirred up again in early 2004 when Greenberg said, “I refuse to take responsibility every time one black son-of-a-bitch kills another. I have no control over that.”
The comments led City Council member James Lewis to respond, “That’s what the chief needs to pay attention to, solving crime and preventing crime, and not calling people bitches in the paper.”
In April 2005, Greenberg said he was not responsible for notifying the state after former officer Dan Hiers Jr. was fired for allegedly molesting a 10-year-old girl. Hiers had gone missing when wanted for questioning regarding the death of his wife. “I washed my hands of it,” Greenberg said.
Four months later, Greenberg announced his resignation after speaking with his doctor. The previous week, Greenberg had pulled a woman over and repeatedly punched the side of her truck after she had called 911 to report his erratic driving. Mayor Riley denied the run-in had anything to do with his resignation.
A close friend of Sen. Strom Thurmond’s once complained to the City Paper that we gave the famed United State senator too much grief. And it’s true that, in his later years, you likely couldn’t swing a dead cat in this office without hitting a “How old is Strom Thurmond?” joke. And, when we weren’t making fun of Strom’s old age, we were joking about how young Strom Jr. was.
After the 2000 elections, the paper reported that Thurmond would be second in line for the presidency if the chad controversy in Florida wasn’t resolved by early 2001. Dodged bullet or opportunity squandered — we’ll never know.
The following year began a string of headlines joking about his advanced age as the senator passed out here and fell asleep there, including “Any day now,” “If Strom was going to die, he woulda done it already,” “And you thought Methuselah was old.”
A May 2003 story noted, “the biggest surprise may have been for those who didn’t know photography predated the 100-year-old Thurmond.” And, just weeks later, Thurmond passed away, “after a seemingly life-long battle with old age.”
Likely looking to avoid the old-guy jokes, Sen. Fritz Hollings got out while he could.
Our Thurmond coverage has lived on after his passing, with the revelation that he had an illegitimate daughter with a black housekeeper.
In 2006, his son, Paul Thurmond, neither old enough nor young enough for ageist jokes, won a seat on the Charleston County Council.
Last summer was a bad one for Rep. Wallace Scarborough (R-James Island). Gearing up for a reelection campaign, he was already embroiled in a messy divorce when two SCE&G guys came wandering around his house after a storm to check the power. We’ll let Charleston Democratic Party Chair Waring Howe take it from there: “They were reportedly attacked by this bully with a Glock pistol and a flashlight who repeatedly threatened them and then fired his gun.” Scarborough was released and charges were dropped, thanks to his attorney — wait for it — John Graham Altman III. Really, we couldn’t make this up. Earlier this year, Scarborough introduced legislation that would protect homeowners from being prosecuted for using reasonable force when spotting a trespasser on their property.
Just as the excitement was dying down from that mess, City Paper columnist Will Moredock was the first to publish the details of Scarborough’s divorce, including accusations that Scarborough was having an affair with fellow legislator Catherine Ceips of Beaufort, including phone logs, voice mail messages, and private investigator photos. Scarborough at first denied the affair in The State, then refused to confirm or deny it, but he didn’t hold back on what he thought of the City Paper, calling us a “liberal throw-away newspaper.”
“The Charleston City Paper has always been a rag,” he said. “It’s like the (supermarket tabloid) National Enquirer.”
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley
While Thurmond got the age jokes, Riley typically gets a jab from the City Paper for his seemingly never-ending run as Charleston’s mayor. In 1999, we jokingly reported Riley’s defeat and, in a 2004 story on plans to close City Hall for renovations, the headline read, “Riley Finally to Leave City Hall.”
Lt. Governor André Bauer
Past poking came with his local real estate dealings, but after the lieutenant governor proclaimed “I’m No. 2” when trying to get out of a speeding ticket, the ribbing practically wrote itself.
School Board member Arthur Ravenel
Sure, he called the NAACP the National Association of Retarded People and then apologized to the retards, but Ravenel is better known around these parts for his new job as a Charleston County School Board member. Ravenel tried to roll through the 2006 elections with a slate of like-minded candidates that called themselves the A-Team, something they likely thought was clever until Sandi Engelman’s head turned up on Mr. T’s body for a City Paper cover. Though he was elected, most of Ravenel’s buddies lost. But he’s brought prayer back to board meetings and chased Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson (or “Dr. Maria” as he likes to call her) to Seattle.
Former School Board member Sandi Engelman
Engelman was always well known for being Altman-esque in her ability to talk frankly about what’s on her mind, so it’s no surprise that putting her foot in her mouth sealed her fate. After challengers to her school board seat released figures on Engelman’s travel time on the district dime, she responded by accusing Goodloe-Johnson of missing a flight because she was on “CPT.” Engelman tried to say that she meant “certain people’s time” and not the common interpretation of “colored people’s time,” but it was too late. Blacks vowed not to be late to the polls and Engelman lost her seat to black parent Ruth Jordan.
Sen. Glenn McConnell
He may be one of the most powerful men in the state legislature, but that doesn’t scare us. McConnell’s fascination with his Confederate roots is easy enough to poke fun at, but his related obsession with the C.S.S. Hunley has provided tons of fodder, both for legitimate questions about how the state is paying for the expensive sub preservation program and for the ridiculous jokes alluding to McConnell’s status as a long-suffering bachelor (but let’s hope the semen/seamen jokes stay buried). To his credit, McConnell was nice enough to have his picture taken with a spooky mannequin and poking his head out of the Hunley (and we’re back to the dick jokes already). We’ll never learn.
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