Ralph Hendricks was a builder.
From donations that helped build Simpsonville’s iconic clock tower and a new Greenville County branch library to developing subdivisions that became home to hundreds of families, Hendricks helped build his adopted hometown into what it is today.
He also built futures.
Through the Ralph and Virginia Hendricks Foundation, the former Simpsonville City Council member and mayor allowed hundreds of high school graduates from the Golden Strip to further their educations through scholarships to Furman University, North Greenville University, Anderson University, and Greenville Technical College.
“He was a builder of good things in his community, and he was a builder of opportunity,” said Dick Riley, former South Carolina governor and U.S. secretary of education, who served as Simpsonville city attorney when Hendricks served on the City Council and as mayor.
Hendricks died on Feb. 17 at the age of 101.
Hendricks didn’t have the opportunity to attend college himself. He left school when he was 16 to go to work to support his family. After serving in the U.S. Air Force, he was working as a long-haul truck driver before his father-in-law offered him a job at his building supply business.
He eventually bought the business and developed it into one of the largest independent building-material suppliers in the Southeast.
Hendricks often quoted his father as saying, “You can blow cash but you can’t blow an education,” said Jenna Hendricks, his great-niece who will take his seat on the foundation board.
“It was his heart’s mission to provide opportunity for students to better their lives and better the community,” said attorney Rick Moore, who was one of the Hendricks Foundation’s original board members.
In a video recorded for the Greenville Tech Foundation’s 2016 Workforce Development Salute, Hendricks told the story of the first recipient of a Hendricks scholarship, the daughter of teachers, who finished medical school and went on to work for the hospital system.
“It’s just that good feeling that you spent your money well,” Hendricks said in the video.
He said that unlike gifts for brick-and-mortar projects where the results could be seen quickly, education was more of a long-term investment.
“It won’t show up the day you give it, but hopefully it will show up many years later,” he said. “My legacy is looking at that student and seeing what that student has that he can carry on and make this world a better place.”
The foundation was Hendricks’ way to provide for the youth of the community and leave a lasting legacy, Jenna Hendricks said. He often received thank-you notes from scholarship recipients and he saved all of them in an album.
“He cheered and rooted for their success,” said Allison Foy, Furman University’s director of donor relations.
Hendricks, who had served on the Furman board, cheered for the Paladin athletics teams as well, especially the men’s basketball team.
Hendricks sat across the aisle from Furman athletic director Mike Buddie. When Furman defeated Wofford two years ago on a tip-in at the buzzer, fans stormed the court. Hendricks started walking down the bleachers, students dodging him as they made their way to the court and he made his way out to beat the traffic, Buddie said.
“In his own way, he stormed the court,” he said.
Hendricks is survived by his wife, Marion; their sons, Ted A. (Patti) Hubbard of Winston Salem, N.C., and Kenneth (Eva) Hubbard of Simpsonville; grandchildren, Melissa Hubbard and her husband Joe Hundley, Stephanie Hubbard, Andrew (Jennifer) Hubbard, John (Victoria) Hubbard, and step-granddaughter, Megan Hubbard; great-grandchildren, Faith Hubbard, Mikayla Hubbard, and Eden Hubbard; one sister, Elizabeth Fowler; and many nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his first wife, Virginia Webb Hendricks; two brothers, and two sisters.