By Amanda Coyne: October 9, 2015
Larry Estridge often used his legal expertise to help others. While he practiced corporate real estate law, he helped Greenville Symphony Orchestra Conductor Edvard Tchivzhel and his family defect to the U.S. in 1991, when Tchivzhel was touring the country with the USSR State Symphony.
“He told me, ‘You know I’m a real estate attorney, right?'” said Lena Forster, executive director of International Ballet, who initially approached Estridge about helping Tchivzhel defect.
It took only 24 hours for Estridge to agree to help and, within a month, Tchivzhel and his family were able to remain safely in the U.S.
“Before he even met me, he helped my family to start a new life in America,” said Tchivzhel, who has served as music director and conductor for the Greenville orchestra since 1999.
Estridge, who died Tuesday at the age of 71, is characterized by many as a deeply generous man, often lending his time and expertise to people and the causes he held dear.
Lindsay Smith, who started the Greenville office of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice with Estridge and Allen Grumbine in 1999, credited Estridge with some of the initial efforts in the revitalization of downtown Greenville. Estridge was president of the Greenville Central Area Partnership for two terms, 1982 to 1983 and 1987 to 1988, and navigated the “legal structure” to help the city bring the Hyatt to Main Street.
“That turned out to be the building block for downtown Greenville,” Smith said.
Estridge had such a passion for his alma mater that “when Furman called, Larry said, ‘How can I help?'” said Furman trustee David Ellison.
Estridge had an integral role in Furman University’s separation from the South Carolina Baptist Convention and served on the university’s board of trustees for nearly 20 years.
Estridge graduated from Furman in 1966, went on to Harvard Law School and served as a captain in the U.S. Army before returning to the Upstate to practice law. A past student body president, he remained committed to Furman and in 1992 did the legal work that allowed the university to rewrite its bylaws and separate from the South Carolina Baptist Convention, which Ellison said is the third biggest event in the university’s history.
“If it had not happened when it did, there is a high probability that it never would have happened,” Ellison said. “This was the biggest bylaw change ever. Larry was one of the most instrumental people in convincing the board they had to take action.”
That change allowed Furman to appoint its own trustees and no longer required trustees to be members of a Baptist church, allowing Estridge to become a trustee in 1996. Estridge was Presbyterian, Ellison said.
Estridge is remembered by colleagues and friends as an intelligent, skilled lawyer and a kind man. Forster said two of the biggest favors he did for her were to help with Tchivzhel’s defection and to play the role of Herr Silberhaus in a production of the classic ballet “The Nutcracker.”
Tchivzhel said Estridge had become part of his family after helping them adjust to living in the U.S.
“He was so attentive, so careful in many ways,” Tchivzhel said. “He helped my family adjust to a new life.”
When Tchivzhel and his family met Estridge for the first time, Estridge gave Tchivzhel’s son, then 4 years old, a stuffed toy Snoopy.
“Snoopy is still with us today, almost 25 years later,” Tchivzhel said. “[Estridge] became more than a friend. He became a member of our family, and in our hearts he will stay forever as one of the most important people in my life.”