He let people talk, former congressional aide Maxie McDuffie Haltiwanger, a friend and confidante for nearly 40 years, said of Bandys style of journalism.
Haltiwanger met Bandy in 1974, when she was press secretary for Charles Pug Ravenel, a gubernatorial contender who won a hotly contested Democratic primary only to be denied the nomination because of residency issues. That led to the election of the states first Republican governor since Reconstruction, James B. Edwards.
Later, as a Washington aide to now retired 3rd District U.S. Rep. Butler Derrick, Haltiwanger found that Bandy was an authority on all sorts of issues, including nuclear energy and the labyrinthine agriculture bill.
When he returned to South Carolina, Bandy loved nothing better than to walk the streets of small towns and strike up conversations with ordinary people about their views on issues of the day.
An agile reporter, Bandy confided to editors that he thought of himself as a pedestrian writer, but under Bandys deft hand the peoples views were stated clearly and concisely. Democrats accused him of leaning right, and Republicans thought they caught a whiff of the leftie in him, but no one ever pinned down his personal political leanings.
Along the way, Bandy wrote 3,000 political columns, was inducted into membership in the Gridiron Club and appeared frequently on national television. When he retired, the milestone was noted in The Congressional Record.
Leland Allen Bandy was born June 5, 1935, in Asheville, N.C., the second of four children to the late Rev. Julian A. and Eunice Bascom Bandy. Julian Bandy was a well-known pastor and, for a time, was president of a Georgia Bible college. Lee Bandy recalled how the family would critique his fathers sermons around the dinner table, delighting in his quirky mannerisms. As a boy he remembered the end of World War II, when his father rolled down the windows of their car and sang The Star Spangled Banner on their way home from a baseball game.
Lee Bandy graduated from Bob Jones University, a conservative evangelical institution in Greenville. Prior to joining The State, he worked for the Sims News Bureau.
When he retired Bandy quickly learned how much of an institution he had become. Then-Gov. Mark Sanford awarded him the Order of the Palmetto, the states highest civilian honor.
You live life, and I admire that, Sanford said in a letter to Bandy. Too many people are halfway engaged in the affairs of their times, and I dont think that makes for much of a life. You have been none other than immersed in the events of your time even to the point of changing peoples minds and perspectives on some of those events.
Diagnosed before his retirement with Parkinsons, a disease that affects the central nervous system, Bandy fought his disease and never exhibited any hint of self-pity. He was a man of deep religious faith, singing in his church choir in Washington and at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Columbia. His family always came first. He was a devoted husband to his wife, Mary Dygert Bandy, and proud of his three grown children, Ryan, Alexa and Michael, and his three grandchildren, Sophia, Nathaniel and A.J., the children of Alexa Bandy Monte and her husband Lt. Col. Jeff Monte.
Mary Bandy and their two sons were present at the Hall of Fame ceremony this summer where Bandy, wheelchair-bound and speaking in a soft, halting voice, still managed to regale his audience with tales of politics past.
There were Strom stories, including the time Thurmond got so mad at old man Bandy he threatened to isolate him from the congressional news from his office.
And then there was the time Bandy asked John Kerry if he had Botox treatment.
The stories rolled on, and the sparkle was still in his eye.