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The USC school of medicine welcomed its charter class to the new Greenville campus in July, a celebratory event set in motion in part decades ago by the visionary work of Frank Halter and his many friends and associates.
It is one of many legacies Halter gave the people of his city and the Upstate in more than 60 years of quiet, tireless and unselfish contributions.
As Knox Haynsworth, one of his oldest and dearest friends, put it, "He gave so much time and treasure to the Greenville community. Frank felt strongly that he had a duty to leave his community a better place."
By all accounts, he did. Halter died at the age of 83 on Jan. 29, leaving a lasting presence of an "extraordinary human being" whose life "was centered around his family, his church and his friends," said Haynsworth.
For 50 years, he grew the family-owned Caine Company, including Coldwell Banker Caine, into one of the most successful commercial and real estate firms in the state.
Friends of decades knew him not just as a builder and manager of enclosed malls – the first in the state – and of office buildings, industrial parks, housing subdivisions and apartments, but as a builder of a loving family, lasting friendships and of visions to enrich lives."His big thing was being a giver, not a taker. He was a quiet giver," said his son Brad Halter, president of the family business under his father's chairmanship. "There were some incredible things Frank did to help people."
That is what Frank Pinckney, retired chief executive of the Greenville Hospital System, cherishes in remembrance of working with Halter for 15 years to "improve the health in this community" and lay the groundwork for what became the Greenville medical school.
"He gave so much time and treasure to the Greenville community. Frank felt strongly that he had a duty to leave his community a better place."
Knox Haynsworth, Greenville attorney and close friend of Frank Halter
"It took years of preparation. You don't just say, 'We're going to open a medical school.' It doesn't fall from the sky. You have to have financial resources, facilities, physicians in all disciplines, you've got have quality."
As a trustee or chairman of the hospital board or as a friend and volunteer, Pinckney said, Halter gave of his time, money and knowledge to assist him, as well as predecessor CEOs Robert Toomey and Jack Skarupa, in building the hospital system.
"Early on, back when we were discussing preliminary possibilities of a medical school in Greenville and what we would need to put in place to start the long process, Frank Halter understood the vision," he said.
Haynsworth, an attorney at Ogletree Deakins, said Halter had a rare ability to bring people together, whether for a joint investment or to support a civic project.
"He had that vision, and a way about him – a quiet man who, in talking to other people, they all would agree with him. He got a lot of support from people who may have had the same vision."
Brad Halter likes to describe his father as "an everyman who was as comfortable anonymously in his pickup truck near his lake house in Clayton, Ga. as he was in a board meeting. He kept the family grounded in this 24/7 continuous news cycle we now find ourselves in. 'Family, faith and friends' was his mantra. He was our rock."
Frank Halter married Shirley Caine while both were students at the University of Georgia. After leaving the Air Force as a captain in the Korean War in 1953, Halter joined Shirley's father Robert Monteith Caine, at Caine Co. Shirley Caine Halter died in 2006 and his youngest son, Caine, died a year later.
Haynsworth said Halter got through the heavy burden of the loss of Shirley and Caine "with the help of a God that he knew very well."
He become president of Caine in 1968 and grew it from one office with 12 people to seven offices with 45 corporate employees and 180 residential and commercial sales associates.
George Zimmerman, who came to work at Caine 47 years ago in his first job and rose to senior vice president of the commercial division, said Frank Halter put together 35 to 40 ventures and partnerships in all aspects of real estate.
Very often, he would bring together many of the same friends and colleagues, who, like Haynsworth, grew unquestionably trusting of Halter's judgment on any given project. "I knew from day one it would be successful, and it was," he said.
But what few people knew, said Zimmerman, was Halter's unselfishness when it came to allowing his associates to participate in these ventures. "I myself have many times been and am still am the recipient of this generosity," he said.
"His big thing was being a giver, not a take. He was a quiet giver. There were some incredible things Frank did to help people."
Brad Halter, son of Frank Halter
The most visible and most newsworthy of the development projects was McAlister Square, which Halter built in partnership with Ned Apperson, a senior vice president at Caine Co. and a member of the McAlister family that owned the property.
Opening in 1968, it was South Carolina's first enclosed mall. And it provided his son Brad with his first job "with a paycheck" at age 13 doing maintenance work.
"Frank was as much a developer as he was anything," said Brad Halter. "You hear about brokers and salespeople, but Frank was a dealmaker. He literally conceived things, put them together and in some cases saw them through to fruition."
Halter followed development of McAlister in the late 1960s as co-developer of Dutch Square Mall in Columbia and developer of Myrtle Square Mall.
The contractor on McAlister was Robert Yeargin – like most Halter business associates, a lifelong social friend and collaborator in many civic projects over many years.
Among the civic organizations Halter was active in were the Peace Center for the Performing Arts, the United Way, the Chamber of Commerce, Greenville Hospital System, the YMCA, the American Red Cross, the Boy Scouts, Greenville Tech, Greenville Little Theater and, most devoutly, Christ Episcopal Church.
As Frank Pinckney looked back on Halter's life, a proverb came to mind:
"'If a community wants to be prosperous for a year, you grow grain. If a community wants to be prosperous for 10 years, you grow trees. If a community wants to be prosperous for 100 years, you grow people.' All of that comes together in the spirit of Frank Halter."