Originally created 06/12/04

Bypass bears leader's name



AIKEN - Rudy Mason could enter a room, make everyone notice and disagree with someone politically and still keep them as a friend, said Rep. Harry Cato, R-Travelers Rest.

"But I also remember his handshake; it felt like a warm fish," Mr. Cato said jokingly Friday about the late Aiken state representative.

Mr. Mason, a Republican who represented House District 81 for five years until he died in office in 1999, will now be memorialized by local legislators, who named the recently completed last section of the Aiken Bypass for him. The newest stretch of highway, part of South Carolina Highway 118 that encircles the city, is now called the Rudy Mason Parkway.

His colleagues gathered late Friday morning for a dedication ceremony at the University of South Carolina Aiken, unveiled the highway sign bearing his name and told stories about Mr. Mason and his love and commitment to the residents of Aiken.

"This is an honor that is well overdue," said Rep. Skipper Perry, R-Aiken, who won Mr. Mason's seat and lobbied to honor his predecessor. "He was truly a friend who loved his community."

Most spoke of Mr. Mason's sense of humor, but said he took his service seriously.

"He was a down-to-earth individual who really stood up for what he believed in," said Rep. Roland Smith, R-Langley, the chairman of the Aiken County legislative delegation. "People just liked to be around him."

Mr. Mason was elected in 1994 to House District 81 and served on the Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee. He also served on the city's planning commission.

Mr. Mason was president of the Aiken Sertoma Club and served as chairman of the City of Aiken Planning Commission.

Mr. Cato said the dedication of the bypass was fitting for Mr. Mason.

"It's a road that will make an impact and will serve as an entrance into Aiken, and I know Rudy would be proud of this accomplishment."

Reach Peter G. Gilchrist at (803) 648-1395 or peter.gilchrist@augustachronicle.com.

Rudy Mason

Elected: 1994, representing state House District 81, centered on Aiken
Positions held: Member of Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee; chairman of the House's insurance subcommittee; chairman of the City of Aiken Planning Commission
Died: June 1999 of a heart attack at age 66
Family: Wife, Lu Ann, and four children