Former Harlem mayor James Lewis got it exactly right: "We lost a legend."
Francis Tracy, who died Wednesday at 94, was a giant among Columbia County men, one who served his community through elected and appointed office, and as a captain of industry as founder of one of the county's oldest companies.
You'd never know it from talking to him, though. Mr. Tracy was a humble man despite his tremendous personal and community accomplishments.
Part of the Greatest Generation, Mr. Tracy graduated from Harlem High School and later received a history degree from The Citadel.
After college and at the tail end of the Great Depression, Mr. Tracy joined his parents' pecan processing business, growing it into the nationally known Tracy-Luckey Co. in 1950.
On the way there, however, Mr. Tracy took a detour through the Pacific, where he served in the 24th Infantry in the U.S. Army in World War II.
Back home, his business blossoming along with his native county, Mr. Tracy twice served as mayor of Harlem and on the city council, and served as a member and chairman of the Harlem High School Board of Trustees. He also was a founding member of the Columbia County Development Authority and a devoted member of the Rotary Club.
Mr. Tracy also was a fixture at Harlem Baptist Church, as a Sunday school teacher and deacon and founder of a scholarship program.
Perhaps more than all those accomplishments, however, Mr. Tracy was a family man, exemplified by the business he built with his parents and passed along to his granddaughter, Ruth Tracy Blackburn. His beloved wife of 69 years died recently, and without doubt Mr. Tracy was happy to rejoin her in the hereafter.
Men like Francis Tracy don't come along often, but when they do the community is a much better place for it. For Harlem, and for Columbia County, that's certainly true.
He is, indeed, a legend. Rest in peace, Francis Tracy.
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