Owner of ‘legendary’ drive-in featured on ESPN dies in house fire, SC officials say

Screengrab from k4rgd on YouTube

The owner of a “legendary” Clemson drive-in that was once featured on ESPN was killed in a house fire, according to South Carolina officials.

Edgar “Teddy” Hunter, 81, was found dead inside his home just after 7:15 p.m. on Jan. 27, the Pickens County Coroner told McClatchy News. An autopsy is pending, and the fire is under investigation.

Hunter owned and ran Mac’s Drive-In, a diner located about a mile from Clemson University’s campus that locals call “legendary” and “iconic.”

“It was like walking into a hall of fame,” Chris Westmoreland, who covers local news about Clemson athletics on his Facebook page Clemson Chris, told McClatchy News.

When he heard that Hunter had died, he said he knew many people in the tight-knit Clemson community would be affected.

“So many lives were touched (by him),” he said, “and it was almost like a piece of our family had passed.”

Harold “Mac” McKeown and Hunter started Mac’s Drive-In together in 1956, according to a YouTube documentary about the establishment. The restaurant was previously called Dan’s Diner until McKeown, an employee and student at the time, purchased it from the owner, Dan Gentry, according to a blog called the Tiger Pregame Show.

In the documentary, Hunter talks about how he and his fellow owners tried to keep the restaurant casual so that it would appeal to working people.

“My theory is, I make people comfortable,” he said.

But the restaurant has served all kinds of patrons, including governors of South Carolina, writers for Sports Illustrated and other celebrities, Hunter says in the documentary.

“You can come in and sit down, you don’t know who’s going to be walking in that door,” he said.

Hunter took over running the restaurant after McKeown died in 2009, Westmoreland said.

More than 60 years after it opened, the drive-in is “nostalgic” for patrons, Westmoreland said.

“It was just like you were going back to the ‘50s,” he said. “When you walked in, it felt like just a downhome feeling.”

The restaurant was featured on an ESPN special hosted by Todd Blackledge called “Taste of the Town,” a segment about local restaurants in popular college football towns. Blackledge, a former quarterback, later published a cookbook based on the show that also featured Mac’s Drive-In.

Clemson alumni and fans shared memories of Hunter and McKeown and of going to the drive-in as teens and college students on Facebook.

“Went there lots in the early 70’s,” Lauri Bishop Ashmore wrote. “Lots of the football players ate there (and) Mac knew them all by name. Good memories!”

“I graduated from Clemson in 1976. Mac’s Drive-In was a favorite place to eat, even back then!” Peggy Phifer Vann wrote. “I ate my first grilled cheeseburger there: delicious!”

“Thankful to have known and shared many a conversation with Ted about cars, Clemson (and) Christ,” Ted M. Rich wrote. “Our family is saddened in heart to hear this news.”

Hunter’s son did not respond to a request for comment from McClatchy News.

Clemson University Fire Chief Rick Cramer told McClatchy News the cause of the fire is under investigation. He said Hunter was found in the living room of the home — the same room where the fire started. No one else was home at the time.

Hunter lived less than half-a-mile down the road from Mac’s Drive-In.

Clemson is about 130 miles northwest of Columbia.

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