May 26, 1915, to Jan. 26, 2018

CEO who worked until 96 was quiet force behind 20th century Sumter

BY ADRIENNE SARVIS
adrienne@theitem.com
Posted 2/1/18

Known as an astute businessman and a citizen dedicated to serving his community, Ross Scott McKenzie Sr. will be remembered as a quiet local hero who put his family and Sumter first.

McKenzie, founder and former president of Sumter Coatings with …

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May 26, 1915, to Jan. 26, 2018

CEO who worked until 96 was quiet force behind 20th century Sumter

Posted

Known as an astute businessman and a citizen dedicated to serving his community, Ross Scott McKenzie Sr. will be remembered as a quiet local hero who put his family and Sumter first.

McKenzie, founder and former president of Sumter Coatings with nearly 70 years of business experience, died on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, at the age of 102.

Born on May 26, 1915, in Congaree, McKenzie was a 1936 graduate of the University of South Carolina, and he later served as a Naval officer during World War II.

In 1943, McKenzie and his family moved to Sumter, where he was hired as a chemist at Southern Coatings before later founding Sumter Coatings Inc. in 1996. He retired from the company as president and CEO in 2012 - at 96.

McKenzie was also known for his community involvement, which includes having served on the Central Carolina Technical College Foundation Board, Sumter County Historical Society, Fortnightly Club and as a former chairman of the Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce.

"He's the one person I have always looked up to," said R. Scott Jr., McKenzie's son. "He taught me everything I know. It was always an education to sit down with Dad.

"He was a great man, a great father and a great inspiration to my life."

Dianne, McKenzie's daughter-in-law, said the community leader was a man who was humble above anything else.

He was the patriarch of the family, and he deserved to live to the age of 102 for the example he set for those around him, she said.

"I don't think there will be many more like him," she said, "but maybe one day there will be."

"I don't know if there are enough adjectives to describe what a good man he was," said Roger Ackerman, a fellow member of Sumter Rotary Club, which McKenzie attended for many years.

If you knew McKenzie, you wanted to be like him, he said. He was a very modest man who continued to work into his late 90s.

"He was a rare individual," Ackerman said. "There's no question about it."

Mayor Joe McElveen said he knew McKenzie for years as the father of his friend, Scott.

He was a progressive business leader who quietly acted to benefit the community, McElveen said about the late McKenzie.

There were so many things he did that many people did not know he was involved with, he said.

McKenzie's knowledge of his business was detailed and allowed him to provide jobs and security for many Sumter families, he said.

McElveen said he hopes young people with business acumen like McKenzie will choose to do the same with their talents in Sumter.

Chuck Fienning, a fellow local businessman, met McKenzie in 1980 when he visited Sumter with his father, who was searching for a community to start a box company that would later be known as Sumter Packaging.

McKenzie was CEO of Southern Coatings at the time and spoke highly of Sumter, which is why the business is located here, Fienning said.

He was very community minded and quietly raised a lot of money for many local programs, he said.

McKenzie was one of the leading citizens of the 20th century in Sumter County for his dedication to the community, Fienning said. And he is an inspiration to those who follow him.

Though he was not a giant in stature, McKenzie was a giant in his contributions to the community, he said.

"Ross believed community service is the price we pay for the space we occupy," he said. "We were put here for the purpose of serving God and our fellow man."