Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce CEO Donald “Ike” McLeese died Oct. 29 at age 69. He had led the Chamber for nearly two decades, serving as president and CEO. He suffered a heart attack Sept. 5 and underwent follow-up heart surgery two weeks prior to his death.
McLeese had planned to retire as Chamber CEO in December and transition into consulting for military affairs. He was also serving his fourth term as a civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army.
During his time in the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, he raised money to monitor Pentagon proceedings and organized trips to Washington, D.C., for local officials to meet with the state’s congressional delegations and key civilian staffers to save and promote Fort Jackson and McEntire Joint National Guard Base.
McLeese also rallied support for the city of Columbia’s agreement with Greenville developer Bob Hughes to transform the decaying, 181-acre former state mental hospital campus into a community of homes, shops, offices, hiking trails, and maybe even a baseball park.
He also served on the boards of the Veterans Policy Academy, Midlands Technical College Foundation, Midlands Business Leadership Group and the Midlands Housing Alliance and on the Board of Visitors of Anderson University.
He was a graduate of Anderson University and the University of South Carolina, and served on the staff of former Sen. Fritz Hollings and Gov. John West.
Prior to joining the chamber, McLeese served as a political consultant for the public relations firms of Cook & Reuf and Newman Saylor & Gregory.