ByPatrick Phillips|April 2, 2020 at 11:07 AM EDT - Updated April 2 at 11:10 AM
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The owner of Boone Hall Plantation, who received South Carolina’s highest civilian honor, has died.
Willie McRae, who received the Order of the Palmetto in January, died, according to a post on the Boone Hall Plantation Facebook page.
“A memorial service celebrating Mr McRae’s life will be held as soon as gatherings can again be held,” the post states.
Charleston County Councilman Elliott Summeypresented the Order of the Palmetto to McRae at a Jan. 7 ceremony at the plantation property. The once-in-a-lifetime achievement honors South Carolinians for extraordinary lifetime service and achievements of national or statewide recognition.
“It means everything in the world to me,” McRae said of the award. He calls Boone Hall Plantation the love of his life, adding that it has always been “a magical, mystical place” for him.
Summey praised McRae for refusing to sell the land on which the plantation sits for development.
“Instead, Mr McCray wanted to ensure the permanent protection of the lands of beauty, history and agriculture as well as provide public access for future generations,” Summey said.
In November,Lowcountry Land Trust, the McRae Family and state and local leaders announced a conservation easementto further protect the land at Boone Hall Plantation.
A conservation easement involves a legal agreement between a landowner and a government agency that permanently limits uses of the land to protect it.
Under that agreement, the property would remain in the McRae family.
“I’ve heard alot of stories over the years from generations that have been gone to right up to present day,” McRae said in November. “It tickles me to be able to share with those people. I love talking, I’ve been able to talk to movie stars, presidential candidates, all down to somebody’s grandmother.”
Boone Hall Plantation opened to the public in 1956, the year after the McRae family purchased the property.
"Boone Hall Plantation was founded in 1681 when Englishman Major John Boone came to Charleston and established a lucrative plantation and gracious home on the banks of Wampacheone Creek," its website states.
Boone Hall is one of America’s oldest working farms, continuously growing and producing crops for more than 330 years, its website states. Once known for growing cotton and pecans, the farm still actively produces strawberries, tomatoes, peaches and a variety of other produce throughout the spring, summer and fall.
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