John Travis Rhodes, 77, died on January 17, 2021, in Grand Strand Regional Medical Center. John left this earth early on a beautiful Sunday morning, just as his precious mother. John’s Celebration of Life will be scheduled at a later date, as the family wants safety and health to be the highest priority.
Born in Raleigh, North Carolina, on April 3, 1943, John was the son of the late Travis Baker Rhodes and Sallie Beal Rhodes. After graduation from Garner High School, John attended Carolina Military Academy in Maxton, NC, where he met his best friend and Myrtle Beach resident, Randy Jennings. After graduation, Randy invited John to a house party in Myrtle Beach where John attended the party and never left again. John’s career began as a lifeguard while attending the University of South Carolina/Coastal Carolina, where he played basketball and baseball. John frequently referred to Dr. Singleton, the president of Coastal Carolina at the time, as his educational mentor, crediting him with keeping him in school.
After college, John’s career started as the owner of the Cheerio Guest House in 1967. He quickly escalated to larger hotels, even becoming the youngest General Manager on the beach at The Yachtsman Hotel, eventually becoming part of the Hilton Cooperation. A quick promotion meant a transfer to Texas. But the “J.R.” we all knew and loved said, “NO WAY! Myrtle Beach will ALWAYS be my home.” Thus, John set his sights on the restaurant business, and the legendary Gullyfield Restaurant evolved.
In 1980 John became a voting member of the McDonald’s All-American Selection Committee, where John’s lifelong relationship with legendary Coach Morgan Wootten began. In 1981 Socastee High School basketball coach, Dan D’Antoni, conceived of a Christmas basketball tournament that would highlight local players. John became Executive Director of the Beach Ball Classic, which gave students from all over the country the opportunity to perform in front of collegiate scouts and further their careers through scholarships. Beach Ball Classic became the #1 Christmas basketball tournament in the country and just celebrated its 40th consecutive year. From this success, John attained the nickname “Father of Sports Tourism.”
In 2005 John felt compelled to run for mayor of Myrtle Beach, a title he would hold for 12 years, devoting time to countless committees to improve the lives of children in Myrtle Beach and to generate economic development and growth along the Grand Strand. Some of John’s most outstanding accomplishments were the development of Market Common, Myrtle Beach Boardwalk, the total renovation of Doug Shaw Stadium, and leader of the effort to implement the Tourism Development Fee (TDF), which gives full-time owner-occupied residential property owners the largest tax break in South Carolina history. He truly fulfilled all three aspects of the hotel, restaurant, and tourism industry.
After suffering a brain aneurism in December, 2012, John knew there was one more accomplishment he had to achieve. He raised over $1,000,000 in funds to build Savannah’s Playground—an all-inclusive park for all children. This past December, John received his highest honor from Coastal Carolina University and his friend, Dr. Dave DeCenzo. He was awarded an honorary degree, Doctor of Public Service--the perfect exclamation point to his beloved Coastal Carolina.
John would want everyone to remember him as “The Man Who Never Left Myrtle Beach.” His love for “his” city was overwhelming, and those who knew him considered him their “Best Friend.” But beyond that was his passion for his family.
Surviving is the love of his life of 28 years, Terri Springs Delco Rhodes; his constant canine companion and best friend “River”; his children, John Travis (“Trae”) Rhodes, Jr., of Zanesville, OH; James Chadwick (“Chad”) Rhodes (Jessica), of Charleston, SC; and Suzanne Chambree Ruth (“Zanne”) Rhodes of Lake Tahoe, NV; and their mother Suzanne Cozart Flynn of Daniel Island, SC; Teah Delco Grant (Todd Wharton) of Myrtle Beach, SC; Albert Brad Delco (Megan) of Bentonville, AR; and Gregory Reid Delco (Jessica) of Myrtle Beach, SC; and fifteen grandchildren: Caroline and Jack Rhodes; Harper and Ada Rhodes; Sophie and Sara Grant; Emma Bellamy; Bradley, Teddy, Penelope, and Henry Delco; and Decklan, Davis, Dylan, and Dawson Delco. John is survived by one sister, Kimmie “Kim” Rhodes Cottle (Michael) of Garner, NC; sister-in-law, Tami Brooks Scott (Jim); and brother-in-law, Jack “Jay” Springs (Elizabeth) of Myrtle Beach, SC. Also, John had a special relationship with his nieces and nephews, Michelle Cottle, Christi Phillips, Jerrett Oates, Boni Belle Brooks, Caroline Hills, and Jack Springs. In addition to relatives, John had the unique privilege of calling Chad Smith his “adopted” son and loved Chad’s wife, Dana, and their son, affectionately known as “Little Man” Cole.
Myrtle Beach was truly blessed to have the never-ending love and entrepreneurial vision of John Rhodes!
John’s last civic role was Chairman of the Board of the Boys and Girls Club of the Grand Strand.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Boys and Girls Club of the Grand Strand, 1404 Carver Street, Myrtle Beach, SC 29577.
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