In 1987 when Thomas J. Lipton Co., decided to divest its only U.S. tea farm on Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina, horticulturalist Mack James Fleming and tea broker Bill Hall purchased the property, saving for posterity the Charleston Tea Plantation and the American Classic tea brand.
Fleming, 75, died last week at his home in Hollywood, South Carolina. A graduate in horticulture with an advanced degree from Clemson University, he joined Lipton in 1978 and was assigned to manage the property, situated on the island which is 10 miles long by six miles wide. Lipton purchased the property in 1960 and used it to experiment with varietals that have produced more than 300 different teas over the years. As director of the site Fleming, who was known as a hands-on academic, was responsible for the design of a custom-built combine tractor still used to harvest the tea.
“He knew his way around tea. Mack was great person, great personality,” said Hall, “I have fond memories of working with him.”
Hall was a British-trained tea taster who still owns a brokerage firm. They teamed up to buy the property and converted into a commercial operation of 127 acres with two thirds under tea. Fleming and Hall managed the site until 2003 when it was sold to the Bigelow Tea Co. Fleming returned to teaching and was professor of horticulture and later the head of that department at Trident Technical College in Charleston.
He retired in 2015, launching his own tea brand, a black all-natural sold in supermarkets as Carolina Select Tea. Hall continues to partner with Bigelow.
He is survived by his wife, Jo Ann Tobias Fleming; son, Mack R. Fleming (Beth); daughters, Virginia Fleming Joczik (Mark) and Sarah Fleming McLester (Donald); two brothers, two sisters, six grandchildren, nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents.
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Source: The Post and Courier