John T. Rhodes

The Man Who Never Left Myrtle Beach

John’s lifelong dedication to Myrtle Beach began when he was a lifeguard while pursuing his education at the University of South Carolina (now Coastal Carolina). His journey led him from managing hotels to becoming the “Father of Sports Tourism” and eventually serving as the Mayor of Myrtle Beach for 12 years. He left an enduring legacy as a beloved figure in our community.

John’s career began as a lifeguard while attending the University of South Carolina/Coastal Carolina, where he played basketball and baseball. John frequently referred to Dr. Singleton, the president of Coastal Carolina at the time, as his educational mentor, crediting him with keeping him in school.

After college, John’s career started as the owner of the Cheerio Guest House in 1967. He quickly escalated to larger hotels, even becoming the youngest General Manager on the beach at The Yachtsman Hotel, eventually becoming part of the Hilton Cooperation. A quick promotion meant a transfer to Texas. But the “J.R.” we all knew and loved said, “NO WAY! Myrtle Beach will ALWAYS be my home.” Thus, John set his sights on the restaurant business, and the legendary Gullyfield Restaurant evolved.

In 1980 John became a voting member of the McDonald’s All-American Selection Committee, where John’s lifelong relationship with legendary Coach Morgan Wootten began. In 1981 Socastee High School basketball coach, Dan D’Antoni, conceived of a Christmas basketball tournament that would highlight local players. John became Executive Director of the Beach Ball Classic, which gave students from all over the country the opportunity to perform in front of collegiate scouts and further their careers through scholarships. Beach Ball Classic became the #1 Christmas basketball tournament in the country. From this success, John attained the nickname “Father of Sports Tourism.”

In 2005 John felt compelled to run for mayor of Myrtle Beach, a title he would hold for 12 years, devoting time to countless committees to improve the lives of children in Myrtle Beach and to generate economic development and growth along the Grand Strand. Some of John’s most outstanding accomplishments were the development of The Market Common, Myrtle Beach Boardwalk, John T. Rhodes Myrtle Beach Sports Center, the total renovation of Doug Shaw Stadium, and leader of the effort to implement the Tourism Development Fee (TDF), which gives full-time owner-occupied residential property owners the largest tax break in South Carolina history. He truly fulfilled all three aspects of the hotel, restaurant, and tourism industry.

After suffering a brain aneurism in December, 2012, John knew there was one more accomplishment he had to achieve. He raised over $1,000,000 in funds to build Savannah’s Playground—an all-inclusive park for all children. In December of 2020, John received his highest honor from Coastal Carolina University and his friend, Dr. Dave DeCenzo. He was awarded an honorary degree, Doctor of Public Service–the perfect exclamation point to his beloved Coastal Carolina.

John would want everyone to remember him as “The Man Who Never Left Myrtle Beach.” His love for “his” city was overwhelming, and those who knew him considered him their “Best Friend.”