A former Columbia-area Republican legislator who was a key figure in the 2000 debate that eventually removed the Confederate flag from the Statehouse dome has died.
Former State Rep. Bill Cotty had been battling lung cancer when he passed away at home Saturday, according to colleagues. He was 69 years old. Cotty’s obituary said his family plans a private internment and celebration of his life at a later date.
Cotty was originally from Buffalo, NY, but moved south and graduated from Erskine College in Due West, SC, where he was also the student body president. Five years later, he graduated from the University of South Carolina’s law school in 1974. He served in the Army National Guard for 38 years, eventually retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel.
The attorney served on the suburban Richland County School District 2 board for eight years until he ran for a South Carolina House of Representatives seat in 1994. He represented the northeast Richland County and western Kershaw County region as a moderate Republican for 12 years before retiring in 2006.
Cotty was one of the few Republicans who publicly opposed the Confederate flag’s presence on the Statehouse dome after then-Governor David Beasley made it an issue in the mid-1990s. He was critical in passing the 2000 compromise that moved the flag to a spot behind the Confederate Soldier’s monument in exchange for a new African-American history memorial and Martin Luther King, Jr., state holiday. The flag flew at the monument for another 15 years until state legislators took it off the grounds permanently last summer.
He was also a key figure in the mid-2000s revamp of state property taxes that reduced the bills on owner-occupied homes and increased the state’s role in funding. The law now known as “Act 388” was designed to bring in more state money for school districts, particularly in rural areas that did not have a reliable property tax base. However, business groups have since complained the property tax burden is instead shifted to them.
Cotty is survived by his wife, three children and seven grandchildren.