John A. Warren | Legacy of Leadership Interview
John A. Warren (1925-2009)
John Warren retired as chairman and chief executive of SCANA Corporation in January 1990, but 18 months later he was working again, as chairman of the South Carolina State Development Board.
He had worked closely with every State Development Board chief since the 1950s in selling South Carolina, while leading a natural gas company and SCANA Corporation. In 1991, at Governor Carroll Campbell's insistence, he officially became the state's leading salesman.
John Armstrong Warren was born January 31, 1925, in Paducah, Kentucky, the son of Thomas Kerley and Effie Lou Whitehead Warren. The family moved to Nashville, Tennessee, when he was a year old, and to Spring Hill, Tennessee, five years later. His father worked for the railroad and owned a small farm, and his mother was a school teacher.
He attended Vanderbilt University on an academic scholarship but interrupted his education to serve in the Navy during World War II. After the war, he returned to Vanderbilt on the GI Bill.
He graduated in 1948 with a degree in civil engineering and joined Goodwin Engineers, a small Birmingham, Alabama, firm with several specialists. However, no one was working in natural gas, and Warren persuaded the company to let him explore the area, which he saw as an expanding enterprise.
As a result, he sold small municipalities, shunned by corporate distributors, on the idea of developing their own natural gas systems. His visits to nearly 200 municipalities throughout the Southeast, in time, made him a reluctant transferee to South Carolina.
In 1957, a group of business leaders, South Carolinians among them, formed a company to pursue natural gas franchise rights, and Warren, only 32, was persuaded to run it.
The company began as only a paper entity. But in March 1958, Carolina Pipeline delivered gas to its first customer, the Celanese plant in Rock Hill. Carolina Pipeline showed a profit its first operational year and soon became one of six subsidiaries of Carolina Energies, Inc., a holding company.
South Carolina Electric & Gas Company acquired Carolina Energies in 1982, and Warren joined SCE&G as president and chief operations officer. In 1985, he became vice chairman and chief executive officer of SCANA Corporation and subsidiaries, which had been formed in December 1984. In April 1986, Warren succeeded Virgil Summer, chairman and chief executive officer, who retired after more than 48 years with the utility.
Meanwhile, the face of SCANA was changing. While maintaining its traditional commitment, SCANA had diversified. Honored by The Newcomen Society of the United States in 1987, Warren said, "SCANA is energy to heat and cool your home, to warm your water, to light your way at night, to entertain you and your family, to operate your business, to deliver raw material for manufacturing, to provide for health and quality of life. But it is also computer software and consulting, fiber-optic telecommunications, real estate acquisition and development, and industrial and commercial construction."
Warren served on the boards of the State Ports Authority and South Carolina Research Authority, and was president of the University of South Carolina Business Partnership Foundation. He was a director of Liberty Corporation and South Carolina National Corporation.
He has served as a director of Richland Regional Medical Center, president of the ETV Endowment, executive advisory board member of Junior Achievement, president of United Way of the Midlands, director of Central Carolina Community Foundation, trustee of the Governor's School for Science and Mathematics, trustee of Coker College, director of Carolina Children's Home, director of South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, and president of the Palmetto State Orchestra Association.
He received honorary degrees from Coker College, The Citadel, and the University of South Carolina, and the 1990 Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering.
He was a director of the American Gas Association, Edison Electric Institute, National Association of Manufacturers, and Southeastern Electric Exchange, and served as president of the Southeastern Gas Association.
When John Warren retired in January 1990, Governor Carroll Campbell conferred on him the Order of the Palmetto and proclaimed January 31, 1990, as John Warren Day.
The Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce named him Ambassador of the Year. The Columbia Sales and Marketing Executive Association gave him its 1990 Distinguished Sales award. He was named the state Chamber of Commerce Businessman of the Year for 1991.
Warren and his wife, the former Betty Godbold, received the 1990 Distinguished Humanitarian Award from the Richland Regional Hospital Medical Center Foundation and Children's Hospital of Richland Memorial.
John and Betty Warren, members of Trenholm Road United Methodist Church, have two daughters, Minta Warren Floyd and Madeline Warren Fagan, and four grandchildren.
Warren was inducted into the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame in 1992.
© 1999 South Carolina Business Hall of Fame