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Dorothy Anderson, a Myrtle Beach Hotelier & Tourism Mogul Dies at Age 77

By Jake Spring, The Sun News, Myrtle Beach, S.C.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Oct. 12, 2010--Dorothy Anderson left her mark on Myrtle Beach tourism in many ways, not all of them visible.

As late as the 1990s, hotels on Ocean Boulevard had to airbrush unsightly power lines out of their photos, her son Bert Anderson said. Never hesitant to express an opinion, Dorothy Anderson led the effort to get those power lines buried.

"She was very diligent about getting Ocean Boulevard improved and looking better," Bert Anderson said.

Boulevard beautification was one of many tourism issues that Dorothy Anderson championed, friends and family said on Monday. Anderson, the matriarch of one of Myrtle Beach's founding families of tourism, died early Sunday morning after a long battle with stomach cancer. She was 77.

Anderson oversaw several hotels for nearly four decades, seeing tourism expand from the summer-only operation to a year-round enterprise.

She was born into a farming family in Conway, the sixth of 13 children and graduated from Conway High School in 1952. In 1969, Anderson moved to Myrtle Beach with her sister, Mary Frances Tall, and bought a boarding house on Ninth Avenue North called the Welcome Mat, where the band Alabama used to stay.

That was the beginning of a locally grown empire that would eventually expand to about 2,000 hotel rooms at several properties, Bert Anderson said. Dorothy Anderson introduced many of her family members to the hotel business, with three generations of brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, children and grandchildren working in the hotels at any given time.

The family still owns more than six properties, some operated by management companies and others by family members, Bert Anderson said, including Camelot By The Sea, Court Capri, Anderson Ocean Club, Patricia Grand Resort Hotel and Sea Dip Motel and Condominiums.

"She really preferred the smaller properties because you got to know the guest," Bert Anderson said.

She had a reputation for doing anything to support tourism. Anderson saw a holiday lights display in Gatlinburg, Tenn., and decided that Myrtle Beach should have a similar attraction. Her push for the city's lighting displays that would be called Treasures by the Sea is a testament to her persistence, said Gary Loftus, who worked in the hotel industry at the time.

"When she had an idea, she did not let go until it was done and she would not take no for an answer," Loftus said.

The City Council would vote against Treasures by the Sea twice before approving $150,000 for the project. The attraction ran for at least six years in the mid-1990s.

Anderson served as a board member of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, was a founder of what would become the Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association and chaired the Council of Myrtle Beach Organizations, a tourism lobbying group. Among Anderson's honors, the chamber named her Citizen of the Year in 2003 and the City of Myrtle Beach named a park at 21st Avenue North after her family.

Not much for hobbies, Dorothy Anderson found enjoyment in her business and her family, Bert Anderson said. She founded the Myrtle Beach Millionaires Investment Club with a dozen or so local businesswomen. Despite the grandiose name, the women invested small amounts of money together, making their meetings into social occasions and often going to dinner, Tall said. The group continued to meet until Gloria Sapp, a fellow hotelier, became ill earlier this year and died.

Anderson brought her tenacity to her bout with cancer. Doctors told Anderson last year that she only had two months to live, but she survived for another 15 months, Tall said. She passed away at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center, surrounded by family, Bert Anderson said.

"People think of her as being tough, but that was really just kind of one of her tools to get things done," Bert Anderson said. "She was actually a very sweet-spirited person."

She is survived by husband James Bert Anderson, two sons, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Contact JAKE SPRING at 626-0310.

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Copyright (c) 2010, The Sun News, Myrtle Beach, S.C.

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