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Hon. Gregory Derek Blanton

Hon. Gregory Derek Blanton

Honorable Gregory Derek Blanton, 62, passed Tuesday May 12, 2020.  He was born in Myrtle Beach, SC on September 21, 1957, son of the late Honorable Olin I. Blanton, Jr. and Verma Rae Harrelson Blanton.

The Hon. Gregory “Derek” Blanton, Ret., said the best advice he ever got was from his father – “It does not cost a dime to be nice to people – if a person has a problem – always see if you can guide them in some way.”  Derek did just that on a daily basis, but he took that advice one step further.  Derek has helped not just one person but many by dedicating his entire life to community service and volunteer work.  Those who knew Derek on a personal level knew him as an endeared and gregarious loyal friend.  His family knew him as a faithful husband and caring brother who was proud of his family’s history.  Those who knew of Derek saw him as a man of character and integrity.

Derek comes from a long family history of public service.  His father, Olin Blanton, Jr. served as a Horry County Policeman and later appointed as the Horry County Magistrate where he served for 10 years.  Derek’s father had a reputation as a fair judge, one with integrity and character which led to not only wise decisions on the bench, but the honor of having a county office complex named after him. His mother, Verma Rae Harrelson Blanton, was a great southern lady who although nurturing had an unyielding expectation that her children have great character and manners.  She was an avid painter and was recognized by the Waccamaw Arts and Crafts Guild when she received the Best Low Country Scene Award.   Derek’s grandfather, Olin Blanton, Sr., was in law enforcement in Horry County and his great grandfather served with the confederacy and was honored with a Confederate Memorial and a 21-gun salute. His cousin, Frankie Blanton served as School Board Chairman and the board of higher education.  His uncle, James P. Blanton, was one of the founders of Coastal Carolina University and he served in the House of Representatives. 

THE JUDGE

Derek served as a magistrate for 5 terms or about 24 years until his medical retirement.  He also was municipal judge for Surfside Beach and for 17 years for the town of Briarcliff Acres.  For about 4 years Derek was the Assistant Chief Magistrate and he was the executive secretary for the SC Summary Court Judge’s Association.  He cherished his years as judge and that he was upholding the laws and the Constitution.  He was honest and forthright, and it was important to him to provide all litigants a fair hearing and to administer justice with grace and compassion. 

Derek never saw his position as a “judge” of people’s conduct but the judge of whether the law had been properly applied.  Derek respected the police but was quick to point out that he did not always agree with them.  He was interested in teaching them to become better officers and to learn the correct application of the law.  Admittedly the weight of being judge was heavy, he knew he would not make everybody happy with tough rulings, but he felt a duty to make sure the law was applied fairly.  Derek was called on by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal to preside over a case in Dillon County due to a conflict.  There was a motion to suppress testimony due to the sheriff’s deputy not reading the accused his Miranda Rights.  On another occasion he took the brunt of the court of public opinion when he denied a search warrant for the police’s failure to make a showing of probable cause.  Despite community “judgment,” he believed in the law and the process of enforcing the law as written and always tried to temper the hands of justice from an overreaching government.

THE HUSBAND

Derek said the best decision he ever made was to ask Donna Rabon Blanton to marry him.  He knew he was in love with her and wanted to marry her within a month of dating her.  With a reminiscent smile on his face he recalled how he got down on one knee and proposed to her hoping she would say yes, and she did.  He said not only was she a strikingly beautiful woman but that she was loving, kind, and had a beautiful heart and he loved her personality.  Derek respected his wife and with a sincere tone he said, “she has really stuck with me – over 30 years married, and we have been through a lot of struggles together.” When asked to describe a special moment with Donna he said in 2006 he was diagnosed with cancer and she took care of him and made sure he was ok the whole time.  Then in 2010 she was diagnosed with cancer and he got to take care of her and was grateful that he got to become her source of strength and support.  Despite their share of difficult times, they continued to cling to the other in love and in faith. Theirs surely is a marriage which is the epitome of for “better or worse, in sickness and in health.”    

THE BROTHER

Derek was amazed by his baby sister, Kimberly Blanton Moore.  He said she was a strong woman and despite having a lot on her she still took care of their sweet aging mother.  He knew it was a labor of love and was often concerned for his sister.  He told a story and laughed just before telling it that he had a minibike and his sister got a wig.  She would ride on the back of the bike with the wig flying in the air and they would laugh together.  He reminisced wrestling with her as a child and he accidentally broke her tooth.  He said he cried worrying about he had hurt his sister.  One cold winter night a heater had been placed too close to the bedspread and it caught on fire.  Derek saw the fire and ran in to wake up his sister and got her out of the fiery house.  Years later when Derek was dealing with kidney disease, his sister volunteered to give him her kidney.  He did not want his sister to go through any medical hardship for him.  Kimberly said, “You saved my life and I want to help you save yours.”  He was moved by the love of his sister.  

THE FRIEND

To say Derek was a friend to many is an understatement.  He was a friend, a mentor, and inspiration to many.  Derek’s circle of friends encompassed practically every walk of life.  No matter what was going on, Derek always enjoyed the company of his many friends but more importantly he was really concerned for what was going on in their lives and he always asked.  A few quotes from his friends include he “always wanted the best for me. Non-judgmental, kind, friendly and accepting.  He gave honor to others as more important than himself.”  More than one friend said he was always willing to listen and was of good counsel.    

To be in the presence of Derek was like being in a sanctuary filled with laughter and a smile that literally sparkled through his eyes.  He knew how to make each person in his life feel like they were important to not only him but to the rest of the world. Derek was a warm, welcoming, and a kind person with a positive outlook on life no matter how many times cancer to tried to knock him down.  He had a genuine belief and fundamental faith in humanity. He could always put you at ease with his stories or one of his corny jokes – with some being told more than a dozen times – and oftentimes him laughing the loudest, but no one ever got tired of hearing them or his laughter. The one unified response from all is that Derek he had the best laugh. Now that he’s gone, his laughter will still live in our ears, warm our hearts and bring a smile to our faces. 

THE PUBLIC SERVANT

Derek graduated in 1979 from Coastal Carolina University and in 2006 was named distinguished Alumnus of the Year, in recognition of his significant contribution to his profession and community.  While at CCU, he was one of the founders of Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity where he maintained friendships for over 40 years.  When asked about the formation of the fraternity he responded that he was inspired to establish a national fraternal system to promote the natural growth and virtue, diligence and brotherly love which sought to include all races.  For nearly 20 years he served as the fraternity’s Chapter Counselor.  It is no surprise that Derek was in the Spirit Club and was a class representative in the Student Government Association.  After graduating, Derek continued his dedication to the university and served on the CCU Alumni Board for 3 terms where he actively supported scholarships for students and recruited many members. He was an avid supporter of CCU sports and could be found at most games with a Chanticleer emblazoned on his cheek.  He was sure to invite everyone he came across to join as well.

Derek received his juris doctorate degree from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in 1991.  While in law school he wanted to help fellow law students and volunteered as a Student Admission Counselor.  He also was a class representative and a member of the Delta Theta Phi National Law Fraternity.  The last year of law school he was elected by his peers to receive the Outstanding Student Award. 

There are so many ways that Derek gave of his time which included being an active member in the Surfside Area Rotary Club and served on its board of directors; headed up the middle school dictionary program, worked as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity; and served as program chair for the rotary club.  

He was a great competitor and avid supporter of South Carolina Regional Autocross events.  He made it fun and always had words of encouragement for his competitors. As a fellow competitor summed it up, “He was everything that was right about our sport and he brought people into it as well. I find solace in that he is now in the winner's circle.” 

He was the happiest when he was doing something that involved trains whether real or models.  His father gave him his first American Flyer train set when he was a boy and he got hooked on model trains.  He set up and ran a 1948 train set every year in memory of his father. He was an active member in the Grand Strand Model Railroaders since 1991.  He was a member of the Myrtle Beach All Aboard Committee which was a volunteer group and was instrumental in saving and restoring the old Myrtle Beach Train Depot which is now used by the community for events.  The committee was successful in having the Train Depot listed on the National Register of Historic Places. He was especially proud of this and has many respected friends and fellow train lovers.

Since 1988, when he and Donna were wed they have been a member of the Forestbrook Baptist Church.  Derek and his wife attended regularly and often invited other friends to their church.  It was posted by one member that they were going to miss hearing Derek from the pews yelling out – “That’s right. Tell’em preacher!”

It will surely be difficult to find a man who had as much passion for living – not living for Derek – but for what he could do for another human no matter how small or grand a gesture.

FINAL WORDS FROM DEREK

“Going through Cancer taught me the true value of human life and the need for compassion. Enjoy your ride in life we only get one! And remember do unto others as you would have them do unto you!”

He is survived by his wife, Donna Rabon Blanton; sister, Kimberly R. Blanton-Moore and husband Thomas; niece, Lauren Kyzer and husband Brian; nephew, Kyle Priestley; 2 great-nephews, Jacob and Mason Kyzer; father-in-law and mother-in-law, Bennett and Judy Rabon; brother-in-law, Stevie Rabon and wife Pansy and their son Bradley Rabon; and sister-in-law, Missy Johnson and husband Alan and their children Rabon Johnson (Courtney) and Georgia Jordan (Michael).

A graveside service will be at 3:00 pm on Friday, May 15, 2020 at Ocean Woods Memorial Cemetery.  Due to COVID-19, social distancing protocols will be followed and everyone is encourage to wear a face mask.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Forestbrook Baptist Church, 2051 Forestbrook Rd., Myrtle Beach, SC 29588 or to a charity of one’s choice.

Event Title Categories Start Date/Time
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Hon. Gregory
Derek
Blanton
62
09/21/1957
05/12/2020
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sammy truett
SURFSIDE BEACH
Created On: 05/26/2020 20:23:48

I HAD THE HONOR OF KNOWING DEREK FOR TWENTY YEARS. WHAT A WONDERFUL MAN WHO LOVED HIS FAMILY AND COMMUNITY.
AND HIS TRAINS !
RIP MY FRIEND !


Diane DeVaughn Stokes
Myrtle Beach
Created On: 05/20/2020 14:21:58

Prayers to all you.
Judge Blanton was loved by all who knew him.
He was a man of integrity and faith.
May God hold all of you in the palm of His hand.


Jamie Thompkins
Conway
Created On: 05/16/2020 01:37:59

My Condolences to the family , I am a retired Police officer and worked with My Friend Derek for many years . I would just like to say that Derek was a really kind person with a big heart . I always found him ready to help whatever way he could . The world is a Better place because he lived . Gonna miss you buddy .


Angela O’Brien
Surfside Beach
Created On: 05/15/2020 20:01:11

Sending my love to Donna and Derek sister, p.m. it must make you so proud to see how he touched so many people. Sending my love to Donna and Derek sister, p.m. it must make you so proud to see how he touched so many people.
Karaoke’s will never be the same! He will be missed, and you are loved!


Mark, Bobbie & Daniel Mercer
Mauldin, SC
Created On: 05/15/2020 15:56:59

Sending love and deep feelings of sympathy.


Steven Sadler
Myrtle Beach
Created On: 05/15/2020 15:18:48

Sending love to your family on the loss of Derek. HIs kindness and integrity were inspiring. Memories of his smile and laugh still bring warmth and joy.


Marilyn Michaud
Myrtle Beach
Created On: 05/15/2020 14:19:51

I am so very sorry for the loss of your beloved husband. I wish I had had the chance to meet him. Many thoughts and prayers for you and the rest of the family.


Sue Brennan
Myrtle Beach
Created On: 05/14/2020 13:50:36

Derek was a great boss and friend. I will miss his smile and laugh. My thoughts and prayers are with Donna, Kim and all of his family.


Ronald Todd
Myrtle Beach, SC
Created On: 05/14/2020 11:52:00

Donna, Kim, and Family I am so saddened by the Death of this Honorable man that I have known for a long time and my Brother in Christ Jesus! He fought a long and Hard Battle and though we want him with us, we know that he is in a much better place walking in a well body with the King of Kings our Lord Jesus Christ! One day we will see him again! Love Yall!


Cricket McDuffie
Boise Idaho
Created On: 05/14/2020 01:23:52

Prayers to you and your family at this hard time. Sending hugs from a far.