Cyril Thomas “Tommy” Wyche (1926 – January 23, 2015) was a lawyer, conservationist, and a leader in the transformation of downtown Greenville, South Carolina.
Wyche was born in Greenville, graduated from Yale University in 1946, and received his law degree from the University of Virginia in 1949.
In 1973 Wyche founded Naturaland Trust, a vehicle for his successful attempt to protect the South Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains. He was a principal author of the South Carolina Heritage Trust Act, the South Carolina Conservation Easement Act, and the South Carolina Mountain Protection Act. His efforts resulted in the protection of over 100,000 acres, including Jocassee Gorges, the watersheds of Table Rock and Poinsett Reservoir, and the land between them, which Wyche named Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area and which include Jones Gap and Caesars Head State Parks. An avid outdoor photographer, Wyche published six books that featured his work, including South Carolina’s Mountain Wilderness: The Blue Ridge Escarpment (Englewood, CO: Westcliffe, 1994).
Wyche also had the foresight to promote the rejuvenation of downtown Greenville, which during his early career was in serious economic decline. Working with Mayor Max Heller and business leader Buck Mickel, Wyche helped bring a Hyatt Regency Hotel to Greenville in the early 1980s, thus jump-starting Main Street redevelopment. Wyche was also a prime mover in the development of the Peace Center, Heritage Green, the Bi-Lo Center (now the Bon Secours Wellness Arena), and the Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities. Wyche, a longtime supporter of the Greenville Symphony Orchestra, was also a pianist and occasional composer. After Wyche’s death Edvard Tchivzhel, the orchestra’s musical director, arranged and premiered for full orchestra a short piano piece Wyche had written.
Honors and legacy
In 1996, Gov. David Beasley presented Wyche with the Order of the Palmetto. In 2012, a carillon created by van Bergen Bells was dedicated to Wyche in honor of his contributions to the city of Greenville. After Wyche’s death in 2015, his longtime colleague Frank Holleman called him “the single most important conservationist in the Upstate, one of the most important people in the state in conservation, and one of a handful of people who made the center of Greenville what it is today.”
- “C. Thomas Wyche,” Greenville News, January 25, 2015, 16A; Tonya Maxwell, “Tommy Wyche’s lifetime of dedication celebrated,” Greenville News, January 28, 2015, 1A.
- Judith Bainbridge, “Main Street Visionary,” Greenville News, March 18, 2017, 2A.
- “C. Thomas Wyche,” Greenville News, January 25, 2015, 16A.
- Paul Hyde, “Tommy Wyche, The Composer,” Greenville News, December 25, 2015, eGreenville, 8; Paul Hyde, “Wyche premiere and Scandinavian music on tap at Peace Center,” Greenville News, March 27, 2016, 3D-4D. His daughter, Sally Coenen, said that Wyche played the piano every day before going to work.
- Amy Clarke Burns, “Q&Amy: Tommy Wyche, Dutch bells and the RiverPlace carillon,” Greenville News, March 8, 2015, 3A; Greenville News photo of the bells.
- Tonya Maxwell, “Wyche recalled for conservation efforts,” Greenville News, January 27, 2015, 7A. Wyche was survived by three children, five grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and two half brothers. “Tommy Wyche’s lifetime of dedication celebrated.”