Driven to Lead: Ruth Littlejohn

May 11th, 2022

This is an excerpt from the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of the Upstate Advocate, Upstate Forever's twice-yearly publication. To read a digital copy of the complete publication, please click here.

Ruth Littlejohn


I have many memorable experiences from growing up in Spartanburg. My neighborhood was a tight-knit community; most importantly, we knew our neighbors. Neighborhoods were like villages – if you did something you weren’t supposed to, the neighbors corrected you, and you’d better listen or else they’d tell your mother!

I remember Spartanburg being a thriving town. I enjoyed going downtown because there were so many wonderful shops. My neighbor and I would occasionally ride our bikes from the northside to the southside of town, where there were so many thriving African American businesses.

When my husband, Horace, and I married in 1975, we left Spartanburg to travel with the Air Force. He retired in 1996 as a Lt. Colonel, and we decided to return to Spartanburg in 2004. We purchased and restored an older home in the South Converse Community on the southside. When we moved back, it was like a ghost town and very depressing. Many downtown stores had moved to Westgate Mall or had gone out of business, leaving behind vacant store fronts.

After returning to Spartanburg, I was elected president of the South Converse Neighborhood Association in 2008 and began playing a role in Spartanburg’s comeback. As a child, I was taught cleanliness is next to godliness. Before school, we checked to make sure there wasn’t trash in the yard, road, or around our house. I continue to believe that if we can get children involved in cleanups, they will encourage adults and others not to litter. So I started a monthly cleanup program that continues today. Other neighborhoods have also gotten involved in cleanup initiatives, and, as a board member of Keep One Spartanburg Beautiful, I help with the cleanup throughout Spartanburg County, too.

Now, there’s much vibrancy and development in the city, with more to come. It’s encouraging to see our City, County, and OneSpartanburg working together to make this a better place for all. We have a hardworking and devoted City Team that I joined in 2018, and we’re trying to ensure everyone is included as development and business expands in the city and county.

We’ve had a great response to Spartanburg’s Comprehensive Plan with discussions focused on guaranteeing Spartanburg’s future development aligns with the City’s goal of racial and social equity. We’ve negotiated and collaborated with developers to include affordable housing within market rate developments, and we believe this will pay dividends in our communities for years to come.

Recently, Council approved the first affordable development in our downtown footprint, creating a foundation for future development.

We also have many areas where we can better use our natural resources to serve our communities. The South Converse Street Park refurbishment, for example, provided a much-needed recreational area for children and families to enhance family togetherness, eliminate obesity, and provide space for picnics and neighborhood gatherings.

Councilwoman Littlejohn led the effort to refurbish South Converse Street Park, pictured here.

As a PAL board member, I saw the pandemic prove how important greenspaces and trails are in lowering blood pressure, stress, and cholesterol rates. Such spaces also enable friends and families to gather in a socially distanced way. I believe having more greenspaces, parks, and playgrounds benefits everyone.

My favorite outdoor spot is the Mary Black Rail Trail. I don’t believe there’s any place around that brings people together more. I enjoy seeing old classmates, church members, neighbors, and friends, and it is accessible for diverse users.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed seeing all the development off this trail, including the Carolina Panthers Play 60, covered picnic pavilion, dog park, Vic Bailey Subaru Bike Park, and the Fretwell (a community hub now under construction). The YMCA is also located a few feet off the trail, and The Southside Cultural Monument is coming soon.

The best way people can get involved with Spartanburg’s initiative for sustainable development is to provide feedback to their council representatives about what they think will support or sustain current and future developments.

I am excited to see the transformation that’s currently taking place in our beautiful city. Everyone wants to move here!

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