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John T. Wardlaw Honored at Chamber Annual Meeting With Neville Holcombe Distinguished Citizenship Award

Mr. John T. Wardlaw, retired business and community leader, was honored at the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce’s 96th Annual Meeting on Monday, March 3, 2014 at the Spartanburg Marriott. The Annual Meeting, presented by Denny’s, is the Chamber’s most prestigious event of the year, celebrating the many accomplishments of the Upstate business community. Mr. Wardlaw was recognized at the annual meeting as the 2014 recipient of the Neville Holcombe Distinguished Citizenship Award.

John T. WardlawMr. Wardlaw is credited with being the original architect of the Spartanburg Community Indicators Project, which was originally named Critical Indicators when created in 1986. Today, the Project is a collaboration of The Spartanburg County Foundation, United Way of the Piedmont, Spartanburg County Government, and The University of South Carolina Upstate.

The Community Indicators Project presents data and engages the community in dialogue and strategy that leads to positive change in Spartanburg County, South Carolina. The Project facilitates organizations and individuals as they actively promote civic prosperity by using community indicator data to inform and guide their progress. The project has become a model for many others across the country.

Findings from the studies have helped a support a wide variety of community initiatives – from pregnancy prevention to adult learning programs like the Adult Learning Center. It has been noted that Mr. Wadlaw has been a driving force behind providing adult education in Spartanburg and his leadership and dedication to this cause has greatly impacted the community.

Mr. Wardlaw was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1923 and his family moved to Spartanburg in 1930 where he was raised. He attended Pine Street School and Spartanburg High School, and went to Davidson College (1940-1942) and Georgia Institute of Technology (1942-1943). He married Mary Saunders Williamson of Greensboro, North Carolina in 1957 and they have one daughter.

Mr. Wardlaw served in the Navy as a communications officer aboard a destroyer escort during World War II. After the war, he returned home and went to work for Deering Milliken (now Milliken & Co.) as a management trainee. He eventually became an executive for several of Milliken’s mills and spent nearly four decades in manufacturing. His other business ventures have included: President of Wardlaw Sales, Inc.; President of Bo-Buck Mills, Chesterfied, South Carolina; and President of Narrow Fabrics Institute.

Wardlaw retired from business in 1995 and decided to take aim at the problem of adult illiteracy in the county. He founded the Adult Learning Center, a nonprofit organization serving high school dropouts. Wardlaw was also instrumental in starting the Spartanburg County Foundation.

Mr. Wardlaw has served the community in a wide variety of capacities. His involvement has included: Chairman of the Spartanburg County Foundation (1988); Chairman, Investment Advisory Committee, Spartanburg County Foundation (1985-98); Member, Board of Habitat for Humanity when Habitat was begun in Spartanburg; Commissioner, Spartanburg Housing Authority (1994-97); Senior Warden Episcopal Church of the Advent (1992); Chairman, Spartanburg County Consensus Project (1994); President, Rotary Club, Spartanburg (1995-96); Chairman, Board of Regents Leadership Spartanburg (1991); Investment Advisor Committee, Wofford; and activity with many other groups/organizations.

In recognition of his service to others, Mr. Wardlaw was awarded the Dean Griffin Public Service Award from Georgia Tech and the Dr. Sam Black, Jr. Health Promotion Award for Leadership from the Mary Black Foundation in 1999; the Algernon-Sidney Sullivan Award from Wofford College; and the Four Avenues of Service Citation for Individual Rotarians in 2001 and remains a very active Rotarian today.

In 2004 Mr. Wardlaw was awarded the Order of the Palmetto by Governor Mark Sanford. The Order of the Palmetto is considered the highest civilian honor in the State of South Carolina. It was first awarded in 1971 by Governor John C. West. It recognizes a person’s lifetime achievements and contributions to the State of South Carolina.

About the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce

The Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce is a private, non-profit organization supported through membership investment and strategic partnerships. Our mission is to enhance the economic vitality and lifestyle environment of Spartanburg County. The Chamber accomplishes its mission through: Public Policy initiatives and political involvement, Economic Development strategies and implementation, Leadership development programs, Advancing college completion initiatives, Building business networks, Growing the visitor economy, Collaborative activities throughout the Community, Excellent communication vehicles, Business skills enhancement, Air service improvements and CEO networks. For more information, visit