Jonathan Boncek file photo

South Carolina politicians can’t stop naming things after themselves. This isn’t a new phenomenon, and S.C. elected officials aren’t alone in their egomania, but it’s got to stop. Any local bureaucrat can slap enough backs to ensure a legacy with his or her (mostly his) name etched on a taxpayer-funded building. Let’s let time be the judge of leadership, not buddies on council.

A new county services complex will open soon in North Charleston, but it should not be named for any currently serving politician. History is still being written about these guys.

Charleston is pockmarked with challenging place names. Arthur Ravenel’s racist insinuations were even too much for TV’s bawdy Southern Charm, yet the landmark bridge named for the former congressman is synonymous with the Holy City. Instead of Boundary Street downtown, we now have Calhoun Street, which memorializes a forefather of secession. Then there’s the fun intersection in West Ashley where the road named for Paul Cantrell, who served a whopping four years in the state legislature, changes to the road named for Glenn McConnell, a leader of the state Senate and proprietor of a Confederate memorabilia store at the time the road was named. A few exits away along the Mark Clark Expressway, Sheriff Kristin Graziano goes to work at the county jail named for the guy she booted from office last year.

Not far from the new Leatherman port terminal — named for a sitting and powerful Florence senator — sits the intersection of McMillan and Rivers avenues. Thomas McMillan was the speaker of the state House and an eight-term congressman 100 years ago who lived six miles away in Hampton Park Terrace. In Congress, Mendel Rivers was a segregationist eulogized as a champion of  “the Southern way,” who helped cover up the 1968 My Lai Massacre, when U.S. troops slaughtered hundreds of Vietnamese villagers. (Not surprisingly, the plaque recently unveiled outside the former federal building named for Rivers, now The Dewberry hotel, bears no mention of My Lai.)

Today, the Rivers and McMillan area is a landmark for local government embarrassment. On one side sits the 10-story former naval hospital which Charleston County was forced to buy for $30 million and sell at a loss after clumsy, cocksure legal maneuvers landed the county in a lawsuit. On the other side sits a new social services hub developers are hastily building as part of the deal they made to flip the old hospital into a private-sector cash cow.

Of course, local leaders are already clamoring to desecrate the building with some incumbent politician’s name. The proposal by County Councilman Henry Darby to name the building after Council Chairman Teddie Pryor may be well-meaning, but we don’t need any more buildings named for sitting elected officials, particularly when Pryor was intimately involved with the mess over the naval hospital. Lord knows, if there’s one group of local leaders who should take a timeout from naming things after themselves, it’s Charleston County Council.

None of us know how our legacies will land when our work is done. But when the history books are written, you can bet your bottom dollar you’ll find them next door at the (wait for it) R. Keith Summey Library on Rivers Avenue.

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