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Featured Women

Leslie Richardson

Infusing Energy Into All She Does

By: Andrea Gannon

For those who know Leslie Richardson, you know that, while her appearance is an attractive, petite brunette, she is larger than life. Whatever Leslie is involved in, she puts beyond 110% into it, pouring the wide-open faucet of her positive energy into each endeavor. 

Married to James “JR” Norris Richardson, Jr., Leslie says that one of her husband’s favorite sayings is “Put your passion where your heart is.” Leslie has always done just that, and with a heart as big as hers, she has invested her time and talents in countless causes, non-profit organizations and special groups.

Backing up a few decades in time, the Richardsons were one of the first families in the modern era to make Hilton Head Island their permanent home, with JR’s parents moving here in 1956. In the area now known as Coligny Plaza (developed by the Richardson family), Norris and Lois ­– or Big Daddy and Moma Mas as they are called by their children and grandchildren– created the Forest Beach Supermarket. There weren’t many families on the island for whom to provide groceries, so their ferried-over inventory was deliberately limited. One day, JR’s future employer, Charles Fraser, came in and purchased every item in the store!
Historically, ’56 was a significant year for the island’s development. It was at that same time that Charles E. Fraser began developing Sea Pines Plantation, and that the Hilton Head Island Chamber of Commerce was established.

One of Leslie’s greatest passions is for her hometown of Hilton Head Island. Maybe part of that stems from her similarly small-town upbringing. “I am from one of the most beautiful towns in North Carolina, called Smithfield. It’s a vibrant, close-knit community with tree-lined streets and friendly people. Growing up in a small town is like being raised by a village. You step out of line, and someone will call your mother,” laughs Leslie.
Leslie graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where, as she says, she “spent four years in Blue Heaven, making lifelong friends there!” One friend and sorority sister of Leslie’s is Hester Gregory Hodde, responsible, in fact, for the auspicious introduction of Leslie and JR! Both island residents, Hester and Leslie remain the best of friends today, and their lives are as entwined now, as they were in their heady collegiate days.

Still a Carolina girl, Leslie’s love of home has been extended to Hilton Head in a way that makes her passionate about its politics, its beauty and its evolution. Leslie, an avid reader of political and social tomes, is well-versed in the issues that surround us, and is motivated by whatever will enrich our island home. After discussion with many analysts and from doing her own research, Leslie strongly supports, for example, the extension of the airport, which would “improve the economy immensely – at a time when all of us islanders need an economic boost– and there are ways to protect existing structures,” she commented.

 Leslie and JR have three wonderful children, James 19, Collins 16 and their only girl, Forest, age 14, born on Valentine’s Day.

Leslie has been – and still is – actively involved in innumerable organizations, on the board at the South Carolina Yacht Club (which Leslie and JR founded and own), the Coastal Discovery Museum, and the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, among many others. One of her most meaningful accolades came when she received the Decade Volunteer Award for the Arts Center.

Naturally, many of her activities revolve around her children’s interests. Involved in many facets of Hilton Head Preparatory School, Leslie is volunteer varsity cheerleading coach (the perfect choice, by the way) with daughter Forest on the team!

Recently, James starred as Kenecke in Prep’s Grease and brought the house down. Leslie said about James’s role in Grease, “After all these years, it turns out my son can act and sing….what a thrill it’s been, because the arts can take a child to the moon.” James is also the leading tackler on the Prep football team.

Leslie says son Collins has a “million dollar smile,” and is an all-around athlete on the varsity football team and aces on the varsity tennis team at Prep. Tennis is a sport that mother and son share, as Leslie is captain of her USTA team at South Carolina Yacht Club.  

There’s no one else like her…..her infectious energy, her high-wattage smile and her exuberance for life, make Leslie Barry Richardson a truly amazing, one-of-a-kind human being.


Up Close:

Moved to HHI in: “Married JR on April Fool’s Day 1989 and moved to Hilton Head Island after our honeymoon.”
Best Way to Spend a Weekend: In summers, a picnic on the boat wins out.
Favorite Item on the Menu at S.C.Yacht Club: The lump crab meat salad!
Favorite TV Show: Any documentary! I love learning the inside story of an ancient city or a crime scene!
Reading Now: Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky

Photography by Christian Lee