Buzz Rich: Local attorney drives improvement in Aiken community | Sunday Best

“Committed” and “caring” are among the words that local residents have chosen in describing attorney Buzz Rich, along with “quiet,” all in association with a solid sense of humor.

Rich, formally known as Arthur Warren Rich, has lived in Aiken for almost all his life, aside from his college and university years, and his high-profile clients include such names as SRP Federal Credit Union, Security Federal Bank, City of Aiken Housing Authority, Breezy Hill Water and Sewer Company, Beech Island Rural Community Water District and Montmorenci-Couchton Water District. 

One of Rich’s most prominent roles has been as a driver – since 1992 – for the local meals-on-wheels program, as detailed in a 2017 Aiken Standard article. Rich’s service is through Aiken Senior Life Services, the same agency previously known as the Aiken Area Council on Aging.

“He’s always been very generous in support of charitable causes,” said Marshall Cain, a retired attorney and former member of the state legislature.

He cited Rich’s meal deliveries as a prime example. “It’s amazing … he would take time away from his practice during the week and deliver meals,” Cain said, describing the involvement as “emblematic of his civic-mindedness.”

“He’s one of my favorite people in Aiken,” Cain said. “He’s a very bright young man, and … has a great reputation.”

Rich said the best part of his work, as an attorney, is the people – “feeling like you’re making a difference in people’s lives.”

“I’m sure I’m old enough to retire, but I don’t want to,” Rich said. “I enjoy my work … and I have the opportunity to make people’s lives better, to give them reassurance.”

• Date and place of birth: April 15, 1948, in Spartanburg, S.C.

Cain reflected on the fact that legal work is familiar territory for Rich, as the son of Arthur D. Rich, an attorney who came up through the Ivy League.

“When his daddy came back and worked for him, at that time Buzz always said he had the only Harvard graduate who was checking titles for him,” he recalled with a laugh. 

Rich, who came up by way of Aiken High School, Wofford College and University of South Carolina School of Law, moved to Aiken at age 4 and now has his professional stakes put down at 205 Barnwell Ave. N.W. His professional website notes that the office is “directly across the street from First Presbyterian Church, where he married the former Sallye Williams in 1980.”

He hooked up with his dad’s law firm in 1973 and set off on his own in 1981, with emphasis on real estate and estate planning and administration. He is now a certified financial planner as well, having earned that status in 1996.

The nickname came courtesy of Rich’s dad, Arthur Douglas Rich, whose law partners included Strom Thurmond in the early 1950s when Thurmond was a former governor but not yet a senator.

“I think I buzzed around the house,” Rich said. “My father called me that … He spelled it ‘B-u-z-z-i-e.’ I never felt like an Arthur.”

Rich’s earliest school years were spent in Aiken Elementary School, in the same building now known as the Aiken County Public Library. He recalled visiting the library’s north wing recently, and found that the layout had not changed much since the 1950s. 

His next steps were through Aiken Junior High, and Rich is still on board as a booster of local schools via such organizations as Public Education Partners, Mead Hall and Aiken Technical College. 

One of Rich’s most prominent current roles is as chairman of Aiken Corporation, which exists “to build a strong and stable economic base through the attraction of jobs, investment, and a diverse mix of businesses,” as stated on its website.

Pat Cunning, the corporation’s vice chairman, assessed Rich’s priorities and noted that Rich does not seek the spotlight. “He’s the type of person that, if he gives you his word, you can take it to the bank. As a former banker for 34 years, that means a lot.” 

Cunning, also known as the president of Woodside-Aiken Realty and for his years with Palmetto Federal and Regions Bank, added, “He is very even-keeled … He works hard, and he has done a lot for the city, and he is of high quality, as far as character.”

Rich’s local roles include leadership in such other organizations as Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness, Habitat for Humanity, Joye in Aiken, USC Aiken Partnership Board, United Way, Aiken Downtown Development Association, Croft House, Kiwanis Club, Salvation Army and Child Advocacy Center. 

Home life, based on 40-plus years of marriage, includes three children and five grandchildren. All five grandkids are now 4 or younger, and spending time with them is high on Rich’s list of favorite activities, which also includes pursuits such as boat riding, bicycling and taking piano lessons.  

Peggy Ford, executive director of Children’s Place, described Rich, whom she knows as a fellow member of Aiken Rotary Club, as “committed and caring.” 

“His sense of humor is … well known,” she added, recalling his help in recent months when Children’s Place was acquiring a new piece of land on which to base its operations. Rich was involved as president of Aiken Corporation, which sold the parcel to be used.

Ford noted that “as soon as we closed, he handed me a check, and said, ‘Make me the first donor of your capital campaign.’ I keep telling him I’m going to put extra zeros behind it.” 

The Rev. Grant Wiseman, rector of St. Thaddeus Episcopal Church, has Rich among his parishioners and has also been one of his clients. 

“He’s quiet in a lot of the things he does. I think he does it without a lot of people knowing, and I think that’s the mark of a consummate gentleman. He’s done a lot of neat things – a lot of really good things – for the city.” 

Rich said his legal work has undergone a transformation, over the decades. “I started out doing criminal work, bankruptcies, wrecks, divorces – a little bit of everything – and it gradually evolved into what I do now: estate planning and probate.”

As for the profession as a whole, he added, “I think that 99 percent of lawyers are ethical and honest, and try to treat people honestly and fairly. There’s always the one percent that give us a bad reputation.”

Gail Diggs, the Clyburn Center for Primary Care’s director of community health and outreach, made similar comments. “He is the kindest and most caring person, but Buzz … has always thought about other people and their needs, and of course, he is over the Aiken Corporation now.”

Diggs said Rich is an ideal successor to the late Wade Brodie, the corporation’s former leader. “If you knew Wade Brodie, you know how much he meant to this community, because of his care and commitment to the community, so Buzz is … truly one of Aiken’s best.”

Rich laughed in recalling his first interaction with the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce, when he went to check and see what volunteer opportunities might be available. “Thirty years ago, I knew nothing about the chamber of commerce, and I went over one day. I knocked on the door, and June Murff was there,” he said, recalling one of the chamber’s former directors. 

“I said, ‘June, I’d like to do something for the chamber of commerce. I know nothing about it. A committee or something,’ and the next thing I knew, she put me on the board. I served 25 years on that board, until they finally promoted me to chairman, I think, just to get rid of me.”

He described that period as “an extremely rewarding 25 years,” comparable to his ongoing support of the meals-on-wheels service. “Don’t wait to be asked. Aiken’s got so many opportunities. People tell me they’re bored in Aiken. I say, ‘Get your head out of the sand.'”

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