Fraser Dead at 73

Charles Fraser
Charles Fraser

The man who founded Sea Pines and Hilton Head as we know it is dead. Charles Fraser died in a boating accident in the Carribean over the weekend. His wife Mary was injured.

The loss of Fraser is a big one for the Low Country. He's really the man who came up with the idea of residential golf course communities, Harbourtown, and the Heritage of Golf. Fraser was a fun-loving guy who happened to be a genius. When asked if he had anything left to accomplish in the resort/recreation community, he was quick with a response.

"I wish I had built a golf cart speedway for kids between the age of ten and 14," beamed Fraser. "There just isn't enough to do for pre-teens and teens."

Charles Fraser was born in 1929, the son of a Liberty County, Georgia, timber company owner. He graduated at the top of his class from Yale Law School and went right to work for the Travelers Insurance Company. That was until 1958, when he went home to ask his parents for a piece of timber property on the south end of Hilton Head Island, what is now Sea Pines Plantation.

"I had the vision, but I also had the good fortune to have parents that had this property. If I had worked for someone in Augusta or elsewhere and just had an idea, they could have told me to go drop dead," Fraser recalled in an interview back in 1997. "My mother thought I was throwing my law training away for what she called a swamp. I remember telling her it may be a swamp now, but when I'm through with it I hope to create something quite beautiful, and with God's good grace I believe we did create something quite beautiful."

Fraser alway believed in balancing his developments with plenty of green space and set aside some prime real estate for what is now the Sea Pines Forest Preserve.

"I tried to woo the earth, not abuse it and use it for all it's worth," Fraser said. "And when I look at what we've created in Harbour Town and Sea Pines, I feel we truly wooed the earth. It's become a lot more grander that I ever thought possible."

Fraser, 73, and his wife were taking a chartered sightseeing cruise Sunday when a sudden explosion threw them and the small power boat's pilot into the water, relatives said.

Funeral arrangements are pending, Charles Fraser is survived by his wife, Mary, and brother, Jospeh, and two daughters, Mary Wyman and Laura Lawton.

Reported by: Mitch Glicken, mglicken@wtoc.com