Beaufort News

‘A level-headed guy’: Beaufort lawyer, longtime community activist and volunteer dies

Beaufort attorney Louis Dore poses in this undated photo provided by his wife. Dore died on Monday at age 74.
Beaufort attorney Louis Dore poses in this undated photo provided by his wife. Dore died on Monday at age 74. Vernita Dore

A Beaufort attorney who was an advocate for equal rights and is believed to be one of the first black lawyers to be named partner in a local firm died this week.

Louis O. Dore, 74, died Monday after a recent illness. He founded Dore Law Firm in Beaufort almost 30 years ago and before that was a partner in the firm that would become Moss, Bailey, Dore and McIntyre.

There weren’t many integrated firms in the state when Dore started practicing law in the early 1970s, Jim Moss remembered Wednesday.

“He was a damn good lawyer and just a level-headed guy,” Moss said. “He could have been otherwise, because I’m sure he’d been through some racial events that didn’t sit well with him. But he was just a level-headed guy. He didn’t let things like that throw him off the course of where he was going.”

Dore served as the longtime attorney for Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Comprehensive Health Services from 1972 until his death. During his early years with the agency, he helped bring drinking water to various local rural communities, secured grants for a community grocery store on Daufuskie Island, and fought for the rights of black doctors at hospitals in Beaufort and Jasper counties.

He was remembered this week as a fighter, beating a pancreatic cancer diagnosis from 22 years ago. He participated in protests in the late 1960s to lobby downtown Beaufort merchants to hire black employees, friend Roland Gardner said.

He served on boards at Penn Center, Beaufort Memorial Hospital and was the chairman of the state Board of Education when the Education Improvement Act was passed in 1984. In 2012 he was inducted into Penn Center’s 1862 Circle, an honor that recognizes advocates for the Sea Islands history and culture.

Dore, born in Burton in 1945, was one of nine children. His father, Hezekiah, drove a tractor on a farm owned by John Trask Sr. and emphasized the importance of education, John Trask III said.

People in Beaufort knew Dore from his job at The Shack, a burger joint on Boundary Street. As a child he also worked at Goin Store and had a newspaper route, said Vernita Dore, his wife of 30 years.

“He was always working,” she said. “He believed in hard work.”

After graduating from Robert Smalls School, Dore attended Morehouse College and earned his degree while working three jobs in the Atlanta area — at the iconic Varsity restaurant, as a firefighter and a janitor.

He taught with Gardner at St. Helena High School through 1970, helping guide the integration of St. Helena and Robert Smalls with Beaufort High School. Dore was inducted into Beaufort High School’s hall of fame in 2009.

He left teaching to attend the University of Georgia law school as one of a handful of black students.

Dore was still a teacher at heart and would later serve as an associate law professor at University of South Carolina, his wife said. He liked to stock the house with fresh food and, over dinner, hold court with guests about current events, politics and finances, his wife said.

Dore had the ability to talk with former presidents Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama as freely as he did friends, Vernita Dore said. He avoided talking negatively about other people, withheld judgment and offered to pay for others’ education, she said.

As an attorney he spent hours researching history of heirs’ property, working to clear titles for owners. After starting his own practice, he worked with his sons, Anthony and Bertrand Dore, at the family’s firm on Lady’s Island.

When Dore returned from law school, Gardner helped him get a job as the attorney for the health agency, where Gardner has been director 39 years.

“He could have gone anywhere after he finished law school...but he came back home,” Gardner said. “He always wanted to be in Beaufort.”