Like most towns of a certain size, Greenville SC has a few famous sons who are celebrated here. I am going to list the top three in ascending order:
3. John Piper. I am admittedly reflecting my own bias here. The city would mostly likely celebrate Charles Townes, inventor of the laser, at #3. But John Piper is, at least in the Evangelical world, a well known and influential native of Greenville. Piper went to Wade Hampton High School and grew up at the Earle Street Baptist Church, which is just a couple of blocks from where we currently live. (Correction: A couple commenters are telling me I have the wrong church – it apparently should be White Oak Baptist Church).
2. Jesse Jackson. Whatever you think of him there is no question that Jesse Jackson is a famous Greenville native. I suppose that he did some good work alongside Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960’s before becoming a political pariah with a persistent desire to be in the limelight.
1. “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. In popular sentiment this town regards Shoeless Joe Jackson as a hero and legend. There are a couple of statues downtown of the former baseball great who rose from the local textile leagues to have a Hall of Fame caliber career with the Chicago White Sox in the 1910’s. Jackson, who is a key figure in the popular film “Field of Dreams,” is best known for being banned from baseball in the infamous “Black Sox” betting scandal in which several members of Chicago’s team conspired to throw the World Series. That ban has kept him out of the Hall of Fame, even though Jackson had a statistically incredible Series that belies the notion that he was a part of the fix.
In fact, Greenville wanted to name the new minor league baseball team the Joes in honor of Jackson, but Major League Baseball nixed the idea because of the ban. There is a popular movement afoot, called “Hall Yes!” whose aim is to set things straight by admitting Shoeless Joe into the Hall of Fame. They make a compelling case.