Joe E. Taylor Jr. ’80 always had a head for business and a heart for Wofford.
Taylor, who oversaw record investment in South Carolina as secretary of commerce, died Dec. 29.
“Our community was shocked and saddened to learn of the death of Joe E. Taylor,” says President Nayef Samhat. “He was an outspoken advocate for the student experience at Wofford, serving on the board’s finance, athletics, development and student life committees. No detail was too small and no project was too big for his keen mind and strength of will.”
No matter how busy he was, Taylor made time for his alma mater. He served on the Wofford Board of Trustees for several years, and also served on the President’s Advisory Board, Parents Leadership Council and the Alumni Association board. Last spring, Taylor was on campus to speak with students in Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity about work ethic, entrepreneurship, leadership and community engagement.
Taylor donated $1 million for the renovation of the Curry Building, which became the Joe E. Taylor Athletic Center. The Taylor Center, which was completed in June of 2009, features a 7,000-square-foot weight room and offices for athletics department staff.
He was inducted into Wofford’s athletics Hall of Fame as an honorary letterman in 2010. In 2019, the college awarded him an honorary degree.
“Joe made a tremendous impact on Wofford College during his tenure as a trustee,” says Dr. Danny Morrison ’75, a current Wofford trustee who served as the college’s director of athletics from 1985-97. “He took his responsibilities seriously, giving close attention to the college’s fiscal strength and putting processes in place that, even now, guide the way the college manages financial resources. He led by example, giving generously and caring deeply. He will be missed.”
Taylor’s business career began while he was a student at Wofford when he and his father founded Southland Log Homes. Taylor quickly rose to become president and CEO. Under his leadership, Southland became the largest pre-cut log building producer in North America. He sold the company in 2005.
In 2003, then-Gov. Mark Sanford appointed Taylor the chair of the state Jobs Economic Development Authority. Three years later, Sanford named him secretary of commerce.
Taylor proved adept at attracting businesses to South Carolina. The state led the Southeast in job recruitment in 2009 and 2010. He led the team that recruited Boeing to Charleston, the largest economic development deal in state history and the national deal of the year in 2009.
He also had the national deal of the year in 2010, when he convinced First Quality Tissue to land in Anderson. And 2010 remains the top year in the number of new jobs brought into the state.
After his term with commerce ended in 2011, Taylor was appointed to the State Infrastructure Bank Board. He spent the next several years working primarily in real estate development, private equity, business advising and holding ownership positions in numerous other ventures.
In 2014, he founded his private equity venture, Southland Capital Partners in Columbia. He worked on residential and commercial development of the area. He also created the West Columbia Food Map, a guide to all fine eateries of Cayce and West Columbia. He was awarded West Columbia “Man of the Year” in 2020.
In 2021, Taylor entered the political arena, winning a seat on Columbia City Council. He chaired the Economic and Community Development Committee and served on the Administrative Policy and Public Safety committees.
Taylor received the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest civilian honor, and the Distinguished Service Award from the South Carolina Coaches Association. He was an avid bird hunter, published cookbook author, wedding planner and South Carolina State Fair pie judge.
He is survived by his wife, Amanda Walker Taylor, daughter, Ann Taylor Corontzes ’18, and son, John Walker Taylor ’20.