Archive for category Features

A Folk Artist Preserves The Past: Harold Branham

By Tom Poland

Every community needs a Harold Branham. In a time when things old and quaint fall to modern ways, it’s good to have someone with heart, talent, and memories preserve the past. That would be my friend, Harold Branham, a true folk artist. I first heard of Harold from Michele Jackson, the editor of the Blythewood Leader, back in 2008.

“There’s a gentleman who really likes your stories on the South. His name is Harold Branham and he wants to meet you.” The Blythewood Leader is no more, and I miss it, but it introduced me to a man who preserves his past. Harold and I talked on the phone one day, and then later I met him at a talk I gave and he gave me one of his prints.

By Harold Branham

Just recently he gave me several more—a set of prints. They’re here on my desk … country stores, the vintage types some of us older folk recall. A lot of us drank our first Coke at a country store, and we have good memories of these gathering places. Well, Harold recalls the ones that made his boyhood days better, and we’re all the richer for it.

With Harold as our guide, let’s visit some great old stores that once served the people in and around Blythewood, South Carolina. Here’s one, Wilson’s 5-10-25¢ Store, and what Harold wrote about it, a place known as the Wishing Well.

“Back when a dime was a dollar, a person could do a lot with just a little in places like Wilson’s 5-10-25¢ store. This wishin’ well had numerous eye openers for the younger shoppers. There were things like paper, pencils, shoestrings, jump ropes, paper dolls, and even fireworks and plastic sling shots.  Read the rest of this entry »

Exceptional Palate Pleasers

Tom Poland

Palmetto State Specialty Foods

By Tom Poland

Across South Carolina appetizing fragrances drift from kitchens, farms, fields, kilns, and roasters. Fiery sauces … heavenly coffee … the freshest produce, and crabcake are but a minuscule sampling of South Carolina specialty foods. Year-round, specialty foods please palates across the state.

From Anderson to Charleston, from Blythewood to Columbia to Wadmalaw Island, Mt. Pleasant, and points in between, specialty foods bring joy to many. Specialty foods—unique and high-value food items made in small quantities from high-quality ingredients—enhance South Carolina’s stature as a state known for fine foods.

Providing specialty foods is demanding. Suzy Ellison, executive director of Specialty Foods for the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, applauds specialty food providers’ courage and entrepreneurial sprit. “South Carolina Specialty Food Association members have a true passion for their products,” said Ellison. “So much is involved in starting any business, especially in the food industry. Blood, sweat, tears, and desire are among the first requirements.”  Read the rest of this entry »

S.C. House candidate is running to abolish his own job

Michael Stewart
Carolina News and Reporter

John Crangle, Democratic candidate for S.C. House District 75, has spent much of his adult life advocating for reforms in government, giving him a unique perspective on how to make the legislature better serve the people.

John Crangle is a Democrat running for the South Carolina House of Representatives, but he is already planning to wipe out his own legislative chamber if elected.

After spending decades rooting out corruption in the State House, the longtime face of the watchdog organization Common Cause in South Carolina, has seen first-hand what he considers to be incompetence at the highest level.

“I’ve been going over there since 1987 and most legislators don’t know anything about the actual process,” Crangle, 77,  said. “Whatever the majority leader tells them to do, that’s what they do.”

Crangle plans to tackle the problem with a radical solution. He wants to abolish the South Carolina House of Representatives and establish a full-time Senate as a unicameral legislature. He believes the House has become a training ground for future senators.

“Quite frankly, the quality of senator on average is higher than in the House,” Crangle said. “It’s kind of like the difference between Double-A baseball and Class A baseball, though in this case it may be more of Double-A to college.”

According to Crangle, combining that inability to perform the job, with what he says is a continued culture of corruption in the State House, results in an inefficient and wasteful legislature.

Adopting a unicameral legislature would mean South Carolina. would join Nebraska as the only other state with one legislative body. In 1934, Nebraska approved a constitutional amendment abolishing the House of Representatives and in 1937 “the Unicameral” met for the first time.

Nebraska’s legislature is made up of 49 senators, each chosen by a single-member district or constituency a nonpartisan election. What this means is the top two vote-getters in each primary are entitled to run in the general election, regardless of party affiliation.

John Hibbing, a professor of political science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, says that Nebraskans, on the whole, are happy with their form of state representation.

“It works pretty well and the differences are maybe less than they would appear to an outsider,” Hibbing said in a telephone interview. “I think if there was a proposal to change back to two-house legislature, it would probably fail.”

The Nebraska Legislature differs slightly from what Crangle hopes to accomplish in South Carolina. Nebraska senators still spend only 60 to 90 days a year in the capital, Lincoln, performing legislative duties, far from the full-time scenario Crangle envisions.

And the different demographics of the two states make it hard to project whether voters would be as pleased as they are in Nebraska.

“There’s a strong populist tradition here,” Hibbing said. “I think Nebraskans are a little bit proud of it, something unique as the only one in the union.”

To get to a one-house general assembly, Crangle will have to navigate the complicated process of amending the South Carolina Constitution. Scott Huffmon, professor of political science at Winthrop University, says that may look easier than it actually is.

“We do have one of the most amended constitutions of all the state constitutions in the United States of America,” Huffmon said. “But that is because we have one of the oldest, still functioning ones. It’s not technically among the easiest to amend.”

John Crangle’s proposal would dissolve the South Carolina House of Representatives, getting rid of what he considers as simply “a stepping stone” to becoming a Senator.

Phil Cheney, the only Independent candidate for governor, thinks Crangle’s idea is very interesting but he isn’t completely on board.

“A unicameral legislature sounds like a good idea to me, but I think the Senate was designed to be a part-time job in South Carolina,” Cheney said. “It was for those who were retired or had other sources of income, and I really think we need more retired folks to hold seats.”

Crangle’s reforms don’t stop at just abolishing the House. He’d also limit the influence of money on elections by banning campaign fundraising in non-election years. He says this would reduce a number of conflicts of interest within the legislature.

“It’s like an auction house over there when you have leadership that’s taking money from their own campaigns,”  Crangle said. “They’re taking caucus money too. It’s very easy to corrupt from the top down.”

While Crangle’s proposal has precedence in government, there is skepticism that it will get any traction.

“Oh, I don’t think the House is really going to like that very much,” Gov. Jim Hodges, who held office from 1999-2003, said in a phone interview. “Maybe John wants to get the idea out there so people will talk about it.”

Crangle may find that his plan to abolish the House of Representatives has resistance even inside the Democratic Party. Don Fowler, former national chairman of the Democratic National Committee doesn’t think it’s viable.

“I think there is wisdom in having two bodies,” Fowler said. “Every state but Nebraska has two, the U.S. Congress has two and I think the U.S. Constitutional Convention of 1787 was wise in creating a House and Senate with different tenures, different geographical areas and people that they represent.”

Don Fowler thinks John Crangle’s proposal of a unicameral legislature in South Carolina is interesting, but says that the history in America of a bicameral system points that it is the better way.

Just getting seated in the State House will be a challenge for Crangle. District 75 is solidly Republican, voting in Rep. Kirkman Finlay III, R-Richland, the last three election cycles. Crangle is also severely out-funded by his opponent.

“It’s an uphill struggle for me,” Crangle said. “It’s a gerrymandered, Republican district and I’m going up against a guy who is worth $50 or $60 million, so it’s a David-versus-Goliath situation.”

He’s not interested in mudslinging to get ahead.

“My campaign is not personal attacks,” he said. “I know Kirkman’s mother and I knew his father for years as well. This is strictly about reform ideas that I think have been needed for a long time.”

And his campaign is solely focused on those reform ideas. While he may have an opinion on other issues, Crangle believes the government must be fixed to streamline solutions to other problems.

“I’m not going to talk about distracters, like the Confederate flag or abortion,” Crangle said. “We’re spending $22 million in excess on the House a year, that’s money that could be used to solve things.”

That attitude is unsurprising to many of the people who are familiar with John Crangle’s past work.

“You can use any frank metaphor you want along the lines of an uphill battle to describe this election,” Huffmon said. “My guess is that he views this as a chance to get a broader platform to try and force those in power to acknowledge issues he cares about.”

But Crangle wants it to be clear that he is not running a sideshow campaign. He wants to win, but in order to do that he knows the political climate must be right.

“I think I have a chance because you don’t have a presidential election going on,” he said. “I’m going up in a year where I think the governor’s race is up for grabs more than most years and that will motivate a lot more Democrats to vote. It’s an uphill struggle, but if God’s on your side then it works miracles.”

For Crangle, this election is, hopefully, the culmination of a lifetime of work boring into the deep roots that corruption has taken in politics. He is the author of “Operation Lost Trust: And the Ethics Reform Movement.” It’s a 607-page magnum opus on the 1989 FBI sting operation in the South Carolina General Assembly, that saw multiple legislators indicted for accepting bribes.

After wading through that political dirty laundry and witnessing a similar scandal almost 30 years later, in which almost half a dozen current or former legislators were indicted in a special prosecutor’s investigation, Crangle knows that it’s one of the most difficult tasks to fully accomplish.

“The nature of the corruption has changed,” he said. “Corruption is like bacteria. You can treat it with an antibiotic, but eventually it builds a resistance.”

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Keeping the legacy of baseball’s “second man” alive

By Michael Stewart
Carolina News and Reporter

The U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp of Larry Doby in 2012, honoring his role in pioneering racial integration in Major League Baseball.

CAMDEN, S.C. – The small city of Camden, tucked away about 45 minutes northeast of the state capital Columbia, is the birthplace of an often overlooked pioneer in racial integration. Larry Doby, the second African-American player to play major league baseball, was born here and spent the first 14 years of his life in this place he always called home. 

Earl Benedict, a lifelong Camden resident, felt the influence of the game-changing second baseman as a child, even though he never saw Doby play in a game.

“Certainly, when I played ball, I thought of Doby as one of the main people to be,” Benedict said. “I don’t know if emulate is the right word, but he was in my mind at times.”

Doby, who died in 2003, was a phenomenon in his time but seemed to fall through the cracks of baseball history in comparison to Jackie Robinson, who broke professional baseball’s color barrier in  1947. Robinson’s story has been documented in hundreds of stories, books, documentaries and in the popular motion picture, “42.”

But the African-American Cultural Center of Camden is trying to pique interest in Doby’s story as the first black player in the American League.

On the field, Doby was a seven-time all-star, the first black player to get a hit and homerun in the World Series, and was the first black player to win the World Series in 1948 with the Cleveland Indians. Unlike Robinson, who spent a year in the Brooklyn Dodgers farm system, Doby went straight to the majors from the Negro League’s Newark Eagles. He made his debut on July, 5 1947, three months after Robinson played his first MLB game.

These accomplishments, plus the immeasurable social contributions Doby’s presence in the league created made him a logical choice for National Baseball Hall of Fame honors. But he dropped off the ballot in 1984 after running out of eligibility.

Doby had to wait until 1998, when he was 74, to get the call that he was a member of baseball’s most prestigious club. The Veterans Committee, which looks at long-retired players, managers, umpires and executives, elected him.

Doby opened his induction speech by saying: “I’m from a little town in South Carolina called Camden.”

The free museum has been running a comprehensive exhibition of Doby since Feb. 24, complete with photos, memorabilia and an hour-and-a-half long documentary on his life, which ends Aug. 30.

Located on York Street, the African-American Cultural Center of Camden is showing an exhibit on the life of baseball great Larry Doby. It will run until Aug. 30.

The exhibit is open Monday, Wednesday Friday, 1-4 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Gwen Shannon volunteers at the Larry Doby exhibit on Monday’s and despite her aversion to baseball, she decided to donate her time to Camden’s most accomplished athlete in its history.

“I can’t stand baseball!” Shannon laughed. “It’s more about the history. I was really unfamiliar with him, but once they decided on the exhibit it intrigued me to come and see someone like Larry Doby, and I’ve learned so much about him.”

Elizabeth Robinson, a former middle school teacher, also volunteers at the African-American Cultural Center of Camden. She hopes it will raise Doby’s profile and fill in some of the historical gaps for school children who visit.

“It will be promoted through the schools but it will be hard to have field trips because they normally do whole grades at a time and this is such a small space,” Robinson said. “But what they can do is have small groups like gifted classes, special education classes and after-school clubs.”

Elizabeth Robinson volunteers at the African-American Cultural Center of Camden on Wednesdays and she says her time learning about Larry Doby has sparked her previously minimal interest in baseball.

Elizabeth Robinson, like Shannon, was not a baseball fan before she volunteered at museum. But after forgetting her phone and crochet needles one day while volunteering, Robinson toured the exhibit and found herself more absorbed than she thought she’d be.

“I am more interested in baseball now and I have more respect for Larry Doby,” Robinson said. “The other night I was flipping through the TV and I stopped at baseball and I never would have done that before.”

While he was not as well-known as other pioneering black stars of the mid-twentieth century like Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and Don Newcombe, Doby was a player of similar caliber and experienced the same level of racism as his counterparts.

Doby’s teammate from 1947 to 1955, Al Rosen told Cleveland Plain-Dealer columnist, Russell Schneider in his 2002 book, Tales from the Tribe Dugout, that Doby put up with everything Jackie Robinson did, and more.

“Jackie was a college-educated man who had been an officer in the service and who played at the Triple-A level. Jackie was brought in by (General Manager) Branch Rickey specifically to be the first black player in major league baseball,” Rosen said. “Larry Doby came up as a second baseman who didn’t have time to get his full college education, and was forced to play a different position in his first major league season.  I think because of those circumstances, he had a more difficult time than Jackie Robinson did. I don’t think he has gotten the credit he deserves.”

Even Earl Benedict, who has always called Camden home, says Doby was not his ball playing  idol.

“I was a fan of Monte Irvin and Willie Mays more than Doby,” Benedict said. “Because I liked the Giants and the National League.”

Larry Doby’s entire baseball career was marked by being second in line to break racial barriers. Not only was he the second black player in MLB,  he was the second black manager. Doby became the interim skipper of the Chicago White Sox June 30, 1978. This was almost three years after the Cleveland Indians named Frank Robinson their manager.

Bob Heere, associate professor of sport and entertainment management at USC, was born and raised in the Netherlands and didn’t know much about baseball until he moved to the United States. And he had never heard of Doby.

“I know Jackie Robinson. I’ve seen the movie, I teach him in my intro to sport management class, but here’s this other guy who entered the league just a few months later and who was arguably just as successful,” Heere said. “So holy crap. Why don’t I know about him?”

Heere, coming from a different background on how society views success in sports was able to offer a theory on why Doby has been left behind in the history books.

“America is obsessed with individualism so they’re looking for that great individual and they attribute so much to him,” Heere said. “We all know who was the first man on the moon but we don’t even care about the second man. Anyone outside of the United States would just name the three astronauts collectively.”

While he was living, Larry Doby never complained about the lack of attention he receive during and after his playing career, despite his stunning accomplishments. Ten years after his death, Camden unveiled a statue in his honor in front of the city’s archives. 

Larry Doby was honored as a distinguished native of Camden with this road sign on November 24, 2002. The road marker stood at U.S. 521 and I-20.

“I was never bitter because I believed in the man upstairs. I continue to do my best. I let someone else be bitter. If I was bitter, I was only hurting me,”  Doby told Fay Vincent, former commissioner of MLB, in a 2003 article published in the New York Times.

One thing Doby was firm on was his South Carolina heritage and he never let anyone mistake his Southern origins.

Jerry Izenberg, journalist for the Newark-Star Ledger, followed Doby throughout his career and on multiple occasions he saw him correct reporters on his hometown.

“Larry made sure they knew,” Izenberg said in Pride Against Prejudice: The Larry Doby Story, the film on display at the African-American Cultural Center of Camden. “One time I heard him stop a reporter before an interview and say ‘I’m not from Paterson, I’m from South Carolina.’”

Larry Doby’s pride in his hometown of Camden is being reciprocated by the efforts of volunteers like Elizabeth Robinson. She hopes that Doby’s story, and his relative lack of fame can teach young African-American athletes how past sacrifices shape today’s society.

What the students have got to learn, she said, “is what they (black baseball players) went through to make your life what it is today.”

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Practicing portraits and friendship for 23 years

By Karie Grace Duncan
Carolina News and Reporter

Trahern Cook has been painting portraits with the About Face group for nearly 10 years.

Laughter and conversation fill the room when the About Face group breaks for snacks and conversation. Then, after the brief social time, quiet descents and only pencil or brush strokes can be heard.

“Even if I’m standing in here with 20 other people, when I’m painting, I’m by myself. I’m alone in what I’m doing,” said David K. Phillips, a professional oil painter who organizes the About Face sessions. “So, when the break comes, we’re with our friends.”

During several 5-minute breaks, the artists indulge in snacks, wine and conversation. “Artists normally work better with a little libation,” David K. Phillips said.

The About Face Drawing Sessions are held each week, drawing in a group of artists from professional to novice who want to hone their portrait skills in a non-classroom setting.

During the sessions, the group breaks several times for wine and snacks that they bring to share.

“Painters usually work better with a little libation,” Phillips said.

The group has been around for 23 years, starting with just five artists meeting in a home office until they outgrew the space.

About eight years ago, About Face became part of the Columbia Museum of Art’s outreach groups. The group now meets at 701 Whaley while the museum is under construction.

In each session, artists paint or draw portraits of live models, including a model who poses in the nude. Phillips typically recruits models that he or the artists know, but anyone is welcome to suggest a new model.

“But this is a wonderful group of artists, and if somebody tells me they have someone that would be a great model, I’ll hire them,” said Phillips.

Phillips says he welcomes input from the group and trusts their judgment.

“In 23 years, we’ve only had to ask 2 or 3 people to leave for their behavior,” said Phillips. “A lot of people want to paint the nudes, but they don’t know how to behave in front of the nudes. We’ll tolerate some misbehavior, and then we’ll ask them to leave.”

Barbara Yongue paints oil portraits professionally but prefers to draw in charcoal during the About Face Drawing Sessions.

Professional portrait artist Barbara Yongue has been participating in the group sessions for 15 years.

“We’re all friends and have been friends for a long time; so it’s almost like coming to a party every time we get together,” said Yongue.

Unlike when she’s creating her commissioned oil portraits, Yongue works in charcoal during the sessions because it’s faster.

“In this situation, you’re not challenged to present as the person who’s commissioned you would like to be presented. I’m free to do my own interpretation,” Yongue said. “It’s freer.”

Yongue welcomes newcomers to join About Face; she hopes she can learn from them just as they would learn from the group.

“They’re in the best group in Columbia if they want to learn how to draw from life,” said Yongue. “That’s what makes a person a good artist, not drawing from photographs. It adds more vitality to your work. Even if you have to work from a photograph later on, working from life will carry over into working from a photograph.”

Susan Edwards has been with the group for almost three years. If you are not a professional artist, she says About Face is a great experience to practice and get better.

“I needed a dedicated time. If you’re ever going to get any better, you need to practice and do something regularly,” said Edwards. “So, making a commitment to a group was a way for me to do that.”

But Gerard Erley, a professional artist who normally paints landscapes and won best of show in the 2017 SC State Fair Fine Art contest, says the sessions can help anyone.

“I need the practice, too,” said Erley. “It doesn’t just happen.”

“Right now, my goal is to keep this running for the next 40 years and see how old I can get,” said Phillips.

And if you’re ready to dip your brush in the paint and give it a try, your first visit with the group is always free.

“You’re always our guest for the first time, no matter how tight the money is. Somebody’s going to bring something to eat, and we’ll have enough to pay the model,” said Phillips.


Why your Christmas tree could cost more this year

By Taylor Estes

If you usually buy a real Christmas tree to celebrate your holiday season, you might be out of luck this year.

Tree farms across the nation are reporting that they don’t have enough supply to meet the rising demand for live Christmas trees. According to Steve Penland, secretary of the South Carolina Christmas Tree Association, this is the biggest shortage he has seen in a few years.

“The popularity of the live, or real, Christmas tree has started evolving. We’re seeing that generation Y is looking to go back to tradition and do things like they did when they were young, like pick out a tree with the family. Demand is going up,” Penland said.

Bryan Price, owner of Price’s Christmas Tree Farm in Lexington, has also seen an increase in the demand for his trees in the past few years.

“We now open before Thanksgiving to meet demand every year, it’s what the customers expect,” Price said.

Price’s Christmas Trees is a family-owned business that was started by Bryan Price’s father in 1984. Bryan Price and his wife, Leah Price, grow their own trees on their family property, but they normally order their Fraser fir trees from North Carolina to be sold at their lot.

“We were warned by the company that sends our Fraser firs back in the summer that supply was going to be short and prices were going to go up,” Bryan Price said. “I suspect it is due to rising demand, as well as a few other reasons like wildfires, storms, and the lack of business back in the 2000s.”

Live Christmas tree sales were at all time lows then and the industry is still feeling the effects of the shifting change in demand.

“Back in the early 2000’s many Christmas tree farms went out of business because no one was buying the trees,” Penland said, agreeing with Price. “After that, farmers began planting less trees to stay even with the low demand.

“Prices are up 10 to 20 percent in some locations and certain tree types will probably be more expensive than others due to higher demand,” Penland said. “I just hope prices stay affordable for those wanting a tree.”

It takes five to seven years for a tree to reach maturity, and fir trees, which tend to be the most popular, take even longer. The combined higher demand and lowered supply of trees from the effects of previous years have people buying their trees earlier than usual.

“Already in North Carolina, which is the number two producer of Christmas trees in the nation, we’re seeing trees selling out,” Penland said.

The number one producer of Christmas trees is in the Pacific northwest, with Oregon and Washington producing the leading number of trees. Tree farmers in both states have reported similar shortages in tree supply.

“It’s unfortunate to see, and we hate to have to raise the prices on people for the Fraser firs from North Carolina,” Price said. “However, I can’t say I’m not happy to see more people buying real Christmas trees. I think our farm would make my dad proud if he was alive today.”

Click here to see more about Christmas trees.

Saving Trinity, Part III

The Decades Astonish & Steal

By Tom Poland

Author’s Note: This three-part story portrays a church in danger of collapsing and the people who love it. France’s Gothic cathedrals inspired architect George Walker’s design for Abbeville’s Trinity Episcopal Church. The church contains rare 19th-century American stained glass and a chancel window attributed to William Gibson, America’s father of stained glass painting. A rare John Baker “tracker” organ was in use for a while. Among Trinity’s illustrious members and clergy were Rev. William Porcher DuBose, founder of the University of the South’s School of Theology, John A. Calhoun, nephew of U.S. Vice President John C. Calhoun, and Armistead Burt, former Speaker of the House in the U.S. Congress. The outlook is bleak, but determined people are fighting to save this treasure of a church. If you’d like to donate to Friends of Trinity Abbeville visit

May in a door now closed (Photo by Bill Fitzpatrick)

A notice on the front door warns that you look at the church at your own risk. The church stands empty. Closed. Nothing new. Trinity Episcopal closed during the Great Depression. “When my mother and aunt came back here to live in retirement, they tried other churches and it just didn’t work,” said May. “So, they got some friends who had grown up in the church with them and reopened the church. The first service was on November 1, 1948.”

October marks the 175th anniversary of the church’s founding but all these years later no singing, no praying, nothing takes place in the church. The hammering of woodpeckers shatters the silence.

What needs to be done? A lot. The first thing the church needs is to stabilize its steeple. “It’s hanging by a thread,” says Jean. May said the church steeple is a bird condominium. “One day an owl came to church. Another day a squirrel came to Sunday service. As the squirrel walked down the aisle, as all the ladies drew their feet up, the preacher stopped his sermon and blessed it.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Saving Trinity, Part II

The Decades Astonish & Steal

By Tom Poland

Author’s Note: This three-part story portrays a church in danger of collapsing and the people who love it. France’s Gothic cathedrals inspired architect George Walker’s design for Abbeville’s Trinity Episcopal Church. The church contains rare 19th-century American stained glass and a chancel window attributed to William Gibson, America’s father of stained glass painting. A rare John Baker “tracker” organ was in use for a while. Among Trinity’s illustrious members and clergy were Rev. William Porcher DuBose, founder of the University of the South’s School of Theology, John A. Calhoun, nephew of U.S. Vice President John C. Calhoun, and Armistead Burt, former Speaker of the House in the U.S. Congress. The outlook is bleak, but determined people are fighting to save this treasure of a church. If you’d like to donate to Friends of Trinity Abbeville visit

May’s home (Photo by Bill Fitzpatrick)

Owing to the need to save money for their daughters’ college tuition, it took May and her husband fifteen years to move to Abbeville After her mother died. That was in 1977. “We came and never looked back,” she said. Her husband took early retirement and she quit teaching first grade. “No more,” she said, but more was in store. A school in the country urgently needed a teacher. “I pitched in and ended up teaching four more years, but that gave me four more years of retirement money.”

She never said so but May went from loathing to loving this old home. Like the sequoia out front, the home’s roots run deeply. The site where she lives has had two homes on it. J. Foster Marshall, who died at the Battle of Second Manassas, built the first house, which burned in 1880. The present house rose from its ashes. Among its features: a staircase with steps crafted from pine strips flanking black walnut, a musket over a fireplace, a stout sideboard graced by crystal, and a 2014 Stewardship Award from South Carolina Historic Preservation for the Preservation and Maintenance of Robertson-Hutchinson House and Documents.  Read the rest of this entry »

Saving Trinity, Part I

The Decades Astonish & Steal

By Tom Poland

Author’s Note: This three-part story portrays a church in danger of collapsing and the people who love it. France’s Gothic cathedrals inspired architect George Walker’s design for Abbeville’s Trinity Episcopal Church. The church contains rare 19th-century American stained glass and a chancel window attributed to William Gibson, America’s father of stained glass painting. A rare John Baker “tracker” organ was in use for a while. Among Trinity’s illustrious members and clergy were Rev. William Porcher DuBose, founder of the University of the South’s School of Theology, John A. Calhoun, nephew of U.S. Vice President John C. Calhoun, and Armistead Burt, former Speaker of the House in the U.S. Congress. The outlook is bleak, but determined people are fighting to save this treasure of a church. If you’d like to donate to Friends of Trinity Abbeville visit

May, but don’t call her Miss May (Photo by Bill Fitzpatrick)

August 31. Rain from Harvey’s remnants made the driving tough along Highway 34. The wipers met out a metronome-like beat as log truck after log truck slung sheets of water across my windshield, a clattering collision of water against glass. My destination? Abbeville, South Carolina to meet photographer-writer-historian Bill “Big Sky” Fitzpatrick. A gusty, gray rain seemed fitting for a mission to see who and what might halt the crumbling of historic Trinity Episcopal Church.

I met Bill at the Belmont Inn and we made our way to the home of a woman who understands the importance of saving landmarks. May Robertson Baskin Hutchinson. Later May, daughter, Jean Robertson Hutchinson, and Bill and I would walk the grounds at a church, beautiful still, but crying for salvation.

May, Abbeville’s matriarch, turned 95 April 5. Her 95th birthday raised $11,000 for Trinity Episcopal Church. “Seems like the whole town came,” said May. “It was amazing.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Kevin Harvick Clinches Championship 4 Berth With Texas Win; Martin Truex Jr. Advances Based On Points

By Hunter Thomas,

FORT WORTH, Tex. – Kevin Harvick chased down and passed Martin Truex Jr. on Sunday to win the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway and clinch a spot in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

With just 10 laps to go, Martin Truex Jr. slipped a little exiting Turn 2, and that hiccup allowed Kevin Harvick in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Mobile 1 Ford to complete the race-winning pass as he went around the Furniture Row Racing driver on the outside. Harivck led 38 laps during the race, and the win marked his first at Texas Motor Speedway in 30 starts at the 1.5-mile track.

“Today we had to earn it,” said Harvick in Victory Lane. “To be able to pass the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) car for the win is something that is huge for our confidence and team knowing we need to go to another 1.5 mile at Homestead to race for the championship. I am really proud of everyone on our Mobil 1 Ford. This thing was a hot rod today.”

Although Truex Jr. hung on for a second-place finish, he clinched a spot in the Championship 4 on Sunday based on points. Truex Jr., the driver of the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Toyota Camry has such a large lead over the cutoff position that no matter where he finishes at Phoenix International Raceway next weekend, he will compete for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He joins Martinsville winner Kyle Busch and Harvick in the Championship 4.  Read the rest of this entry »

The play’s the thing: Three SC theaters connect communities to stage with contemporary, creative works


By Debbie Clark

When Jim and Kay Thigpen founded Columbia’s Trustus Theatre 33 years ago, they had the radical notion that the city was hungry for contemporary theater. They were right.

Now, Trustus and other playhouses across the state provide settings where theatergoers can settle in to be challenged, informed and sometimes shocked, into thinking of critical issues of the day.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Ran As Hard As He Could In Final Race At Talladega Superspeedway

By: Sarah Sedwick/

TALLADEGA, Ala. – After what he called a lucky day, Dale Earnhardt Jr. managed to avoid several accidents to finish seventh during his last race at Talladega Superspeedway, a track that has been synonymous with the Earnhardt family.

Sunday’s Alabama 500 marked the first time Earnhardt Jr., driver of Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Mountain Dew Chevrolet, started on the pole in 35 starts at Talladega Superspeedway. During qualifying on Saturday, Earnhardt Jr. reached a top speed of 190.544, which held off Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 24 NAPA Chevrolet by .035 seconds.

Earnhardt Jr. has had a thriving record at Talladega Superspeedway throughout his career. In the early 2000s, he won five races, which included two in the 2002 season. Earnhardt Jr.’s total wins then rose to six in 2015, marking Talladega Superspeedway as holding the most wins of his career at a single track. He holds 12 Top-5 finishes and 17 Top-10 finishes at the track. Overall, he has led 967 total laps at Talladega Superspeedway.

“I just wanted to come in here and be considered talented, but to be great at anything was beyond my imagination,” said Earnhardt Jr. “I appreciate people’s compliments on my plate driving and the success we’ve had at all the plate races.”

Throughout Sunday’s race, Earnhardt Jr. led a total of seven laps. Earnhardt Jr. also received two penalties; one for pitting before pit road was open, right after a major wreck on lap 26, and the other for speeding while entering pit road on lap 52.

As if dealing with penalties weren’t enough, Earnhardt Jr. narrowly escaped four accidents, all in Turn 3.  Read the rest of this entry »

South Carolina State Fair brings stampede of cattle competitors to Columbia

By Delaney McPherson

Hundreds of ranchers from across the state flocked to the fairgrounds to show their cattle, horses and other livestock in competition as the South Carolina State Fair opened Wednesday morning.

Beth Rogers points out which cows are Guernseys and which are Holsteins. Her cows compete under two farm names, Twin Ridge and Double Ridge, depending on which breed they are.

The fair has categories for dairy cattle, junior dairy cattle, beef cattle, junior beef cattle and junior beef showmanship, as well as other competitions featuring animals from horses to rabbits. The cows are judged on their demeanor, body frame and shape, and in the case of dairy cows, their ability to give milk.

Beth Rogers and her husband own Double Ridge and Twins Ridge farms where they raise dairy cows for their twin granddaughters to show. While this year they brought one cow to the fair to sell, the real joy in raising livestock is the opportunity to show the cows.

“The girls wanted to get involved because they loved 4-H, they got involved in the 4-H program and then next thing you know they had rabbits. Next thing you know they wanted a cow so, we just enjoy it,” Rogers said. In addition to the one cow they are selling, the Rogers family brought 10 cows total to the State Fair.

For Tim Tinsley, a man who has spent his life working and traveling with cows, showing them is a family affair. He started raising and showing cows through the Clemson 4-H program, which teaches youths how to raise and care for livestock, and he has passed that experience on to his children.  Read the rest of this entry »

Bright lights, sweet confections as the South Carolina State Fair opens

By Caroline Davenport

Jason Burroughs and Chasity Lynch are excited for the fair crowd to visit their newly renovated trailer and taste the freshly prepared candy apples, caramel corn, cotton candy and lemonade.

Gate attendant Pat Roberts directs workers and vehicles through the State Fair gate in front of the rocket during preparation week. She said it will close Wednesday morning when visitors are allowed to enter the park.

A fair worker inspects this roller coaster, making sure everything is bolted down and ready to run smoothly for opening day Wednesday.

The gates of the fair grounds opened Wednesday for the 148th South Carolina State Fair. For South Carolinians, the fair marks autumn’s arrival even as temperatures hover in the high 80s. The fair hosts exhibitions from every county in the state, but it’s not unlikely to bump into people from all across the country and world.

“When you see it at night, it’s really pretty lit up,” said Chasity Lynch, who runs a candy cart with husband Jason Burroughs.  They travel year round with Stuart Confections Inc. This is the couple’s first time at the South Carolina State Fair.

“We love what we do… we make some of the best product on the Midways,” Burroughs said. He has worked with the company for 20 years and said the boss’s caramel recipe is award-winning and hasn’t ever been shared with anyone.

Lynch and Burroughs are looking forward to serving the South Carolina crowd in their newly renovated trailer. “I hear it’s going to be shoulder-to-shoulder and we’re going to be packed at all four windows on both of our wagons, so I’m looking forward to it,” said Burroughs.

The couple arrived Monday and completed setup only three hours later. They have another candy wagon yards away, and a location in Virginia selling anything from daiquiris to pizza. Not only do they have an impressive setup record, they sell a lot of candy apples on the average weekend. “We sell anywhere from 300-500 bags of cotton candy, and 40 bushels of apples, so it could be around 3,500 per day,” said Lynch.

The customers are what make the job most rewarding, and both Lynch and Burroughs say giving away treats to the children brightens their day. “I have a lot of fun working here, but the best thing in the world is handing a little kid their candy apple or bag of cotton candy and seeing that smile, because it just lights their face up,” said Lynch.

Burroughs also recalls a recent stop in Virginia when he was carrying a cart of apples away during shutdown. “I see this little boy crying because he really wanted a candy apple, and I’m towing a wagon with three racks of apples on it, so I said ‘here you go, bud.’ You know what, that’s what I live for. To see that little kid just light up. I love it,” he said.