James (“Jackie”) Erskine Hite, 76, died peacefully Sept. 20, 2016, with his wife and four daughters at his side.
Born April 21, 1940, he was a lifelong resident of Leesville. He was the son of the late James O. “Jack” Hite and the late Dorothy B. Hite.
Jackie first burst on the Batesburg-Leesville scene as a star high school football player. He broke so many records and tackles as running back that he earned All-State honors in 1958, played in the Shrine Bowl in 1959, and attended Wingate College on an athletic scholarship. He was an original member of the Batesburg-Leesville High School Athletics Hall of Fame (2009).
To most in the community, Jackie was the larger-than-life Barbecue Baron and Crappie King. His uncompromisingly authentic barbecue attracted state, national and international attention thanks to WIS-TV, The History Channel, The Food Network, Garden & Gun and The Barbecue Pilgrim’s popular internet video “The Hite of Barbecue.” Southern Living named Jackie Hite’s Barbeque one of the “10 Must Visit Barbeque Joints” in America. Columbia Metropolitan’s profile of the man and his ‘cue, “Characters of Carolina Keep the Coals Hot,” was one of his favorites. Jackie was a partner and salesman for Hite’s Supply Company, which he owned with his father, before opening his famous restaurant.
In his 60 years fishing South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida, Jackie won a trophy case full and fished on World Championship teams. He also took his grandchildren and scores of local kids and adults out on the water and shared his favorite techniques and secret honey holes with them. As for his angler expertise, few could match his average take at the high point of his career: 10,000 fish per year. A strong conservationist, Jackie worked for catch limits in Lake Murray to allow the crappie population to survive for future generations.
Jackie ran for Lexington County Council in 1974 and Lexington County Sheriff in 1976. He was elected Mayor of Leesville in 1977, 1978 and 1984. During his tenure, the town greatly expanded water and sewer infrastructure to better serve the needs of the town. He also served as Councilman, Public Works Commissioner, National Guardsman, Grand Juryman, Magistrate, Fire & Rescue Chief, and President of the Lexington County Fire Chief’s Association. Though Jackie left elective office during the 1980s, politics and law enforcement remained in his blood. He was named an Honorary Assistant Solicitor and an Honorary Deputy Sheriff. He was also active in the Lions, Shriners, Masons and Woodmen of the World.
Mr. Hite is survived by his wife of over fifty three years, Mickey Hutto Hite of Pelion, South Carolina; his four daughters, Kim (Chad Sanders) of Batesburg-Leesville, South Carolina, Jackie (Monty Shealy) of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, Rebecca Hite of Batesburg-Leesville, and Sue (Pete Futia) of Waxhaw, North Carolina; six grandchildren, Samantha Shealy, Nicholas Futia, Alexandria Futia, Jacob Futia, Sydney Sanders, and Andrew Sanders. Also surviving are his siblings, Linda Danielsen of Gilbert, South Carolina, and Essie Steele of Batesburg-Leesville, South Carolina. He was predeceased by a brother, Lester Hite of Batesburg-Leesville.
Graveside services will begin at 11 a.m. Friday, Sept. 23, at Leesville Cemetery, Wittenberg Lutheran Church in Batesburg-Leesville, with the Batesburg-Leesville Fire Department serving as pallbearers. The family will receive friends from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22, at Barr-Price Funeral Home and Crematorium, Historic Batesburg-Leesville Chapel.
Memorials may be made to Leesville United Methodist Church, 510 East Columbia Avenue, Batesburg-Leesville, South Carolina 29070 and Wittenberg Lutheran Church Cemetery Fund, P.O. Box 3447, Batesburg-Leesville South Carolina 29070.