Former Furman president honored in Travelers Rest

TRAVELERS REST, S.C. – The man under whose leadership Furman University relocated from Greenville to its present-day location on Poinsett Highway in Travelers Rest has been recognized with an interchange being named in his honor.

At a ceremony held Saturday at the History Museum of Travelers Rest, the sign designating the Dr. John Lane Plyler Interchange – the connection just south of downtown where highways U.S. 276 and U.S. 25 come together – was unveiled in front of family, friends and community members.

Plyler, a Travelers Rest native born in 1894, graduated from Furman, served in the U.S. army during WWI, earned his law degree from Harvard University and practiced law in Greenville, later being named a judge of the Greenville County Court.

Plyler later began teaching law at Furman, becoming dean of his alma mater's law school in 1928. Ten years later, Plyler became the president of the then-struggling university, where he remains in history as the longest-serving tenured president of the school.

During Plyler’s twenty-five years of leadership, Furman developed significantly, not only acquiring the land and building a new campus at its current location, but transitioning the school into a co-educational campus as well.

Plyler died in 1966, and his obituary in the Greenville News paid tribute to “the tall, silver-haired educator who guided Furman in its greatest period of growth.”

"We are grateful for the opportunity to look back and commemorate the life of a great man, one for whom both Furman and Travelers Rest will be forever proud," Dr. John S. Beckford, vice president for academic affairs and dean at the university, said at the sign unveiling ceremony.

"I wish Dr. Plyler could see his Furman today, joining us in celebrating its physical and reputational growth, just as he knew was always possible," Beckford said.

As part of the process to name the interchange, an effort spearheaded by the Travelers Rest Historical Society, approval from the S.C  Dept. of Transportation and the S.C. House of Representatives had to be gained. S.C. Dist. 17 Representative Mike Burns read the resulting resolution at the ceremony.

The History Museum of Travelers Rest is currently hosting an exhibit on Plyler’s life. New hours for the museum, located at 3 Edwards Street, are Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.