Tut Underwood

Reporter, Producer

Tut Underwood is producer of  South Carolina Focus, a weekly news feature. A native of Alabama, Tut graduated from Auburn University with a BA in Speech Communication.  He worked in radio in his hometown before moving to Columbia where he received a Master of Mass Communications degree from the University of South Carolina, and worked for local radio while pursuing his degree.  He also worked in television. He was employed as a public information specialist for USC, and became Director of Public Information and Marketing for the South Carolina State Museum. His hobbies include reading, listening to music in a variety of styles and collecting movies and old time radio programs.

Ways to Connect

File: An information packet from last year's Economic Outlook Conference at USC.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Like the stock market, which has reached all-time highs in recent weeks, consumer confidence is high.   And that same optimism is fueling the economic outlook for South Carolina for 2018.  Economists Joey Von Nessen and Doug Woodward participated in a recent conference in Columbia, in which they predicted slow but steady growth of the economy in the coming year, at a rate of 2.1 percent.  Personal income should be rise to 4.3%, up from 3.8%, said Von Nessen.  The experts said large companies have brought many jobs to the state, turning around the general wisdom that small business historica

This is the way the new Real I.D.s will look when they are available to South Carolinians between the end of the first quarter of 2018 and Oct. 1, 2020.  The gold star in the upper right corner denotes the card as a Real I.D.
Photo courtesy S.C. Dept. of Motor Vehicles

The Real I.D. Act of 2005 was passed by Congress in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks to standardize government-issued identifications, like drivers' licenses, for security purposes.  Beginning in 2018, South Carolinians will be able to get a Real I.D., which they must have by Oct. 1, 2020, in order to do activities such as board a commercial airplane, visit a secure federal building or a military post. 

Cola Ukulele Band rehearses for an upcoming performance.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Over the past decade or so, the ukulele has grown tremendously in popularity among a wide variety of people, helped by its use by popular artists such as Jason Mraz and Ingrid Michaelson.  The trend hit the Midlands recently when University of South Carolina music student Tim Hall got a grant to start the Cola (not Columbia, though that’s where it’s located) Ukulele Band.  Since its beginning, the band has attracted members of all ages, from elementary school children to grandparents. 

Travel, history, ghosts and more are among the many subjects of the USC Press' books.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

The Palmetto State has a prestigious name in the world of publishing: the University of South Carolina Press. Because it’s a non-profit, it can publish scholarly books on important subjects that would not make a profit for commercial publishers, according to Suzanne Axland. But that doesn’t mean the press doesn’t publish for the general interest. It prints a wide variety of books on art, history, Southern culture, beautiful photography and more, even novels, says Axland.

World War II veteran Marvin Veronee of Charleston with a photo book, for which he wrote the text, on the Battle of Iwo Jima.  Veronee was in the battle as a 19-year-old sailor.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

In February and March 1945, one of the most significant battles of World War II took place:  Iwo Jima, just 760 miles from Tokyo itself.  Among the 70,000 marines assigned to the operation was 19-year-old Marvin Veronee of Charleston, a navy gunfire officer who went ashore with the Marines to call in fire from warships stationed off the coast when he found good targets.  75 years later, a 93-year-old Veronee recalls his  duties in the battle, his narrow scrape with a Japanese banzai charge ( a suicide attack), and his sight of the first (not the second, world-famous) American flag raised on

Beautician Carol Ann Porter works on her favorite client, "Santa Cotton."
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Most men don’t frequent beauty parlors, but Arthur “Cotton” Erskine of West Columbia visits his every day from Thanksgiving to Christmas to prepare his hair and long beard for a role he’s portrayed for years: Santa Claus.  “Santa Cotton,” as he is known, becomes the Jolly Old Elf for events such as Christmas parades, private photo sessions and store appearances, sometimes with as many as six appointments a day.  He is “Ho Ho” to his grandchildren, and here he discusses the fun of  dealing with children, and the unusual requests they sometimes have of Santa.  Erskine’s hairdresser and the co

StockSnap [CC0 1.0] via Pixabay

USC Retail Department Chair Mark Rosenbaum is excited by this year’s holiday shopping season.  A decade after the great recession that started in 2008, he said retail sales in the state and nation are back to 2007 levels.  The stock market’s record highs are just in time for retail and for consumer confidence, he said. 

catlovers [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

Tigers are rapidly disappearing in nature because of poaching and habitat destruction, according to Dr. Brett Wright, dean of Clemson University’s College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences.  In 2010 there were an estimated 3200 tigers still roaming India and other Asian countries.   This alarming figure caused Clemson to contact the other major "tiger mascot" universities – Auburn, LSU and Missouri – and form the U.S. Tiger University Consortium to help increase the number of tigers in the wild. 

Newly planted seedlings grow near fully grown trees of various sizes at Mike McCartha's Christmas tree farm in Gilbert, S. C'
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Mike McCartha and Bryan Price are tow two men who essentially make their entire year's livings in one month.  They're Christmas tree farmers.  It takes year-round to grow Christmas trees and successfully market them. Growers like McCartha and Price say they like seeing smiling faces returning year after year. 

Chris Pracht (right) during his 2017 induction into the National Auctioneers Association Hall  of Fame.
Courtesy of the National Auctioneers Association

Nationally-known auctioneer Chris Pracht of Anderson has run auctions in more than 30 states and three countries over his four-decade career.  His reputation among his peers is such that he was elected to the National Auctioneer’s Association Hall of Fame, one of only four South Carolinians to achieve the honor in the Association’s long history.

illustration of a male figure in a Santa who is holding a battery that is "low" on power
3dman_eu [CC0 1.0] via Pixabay

Cries of “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah” or “Happy New Year” can ring hollow for those afflicted with the phenomenon known as holiday depression.  Psychologist Fred Medway says holidays are so charged with memories that if one experiences, for example, a loss or other unhappy event during the holiday season, it can trigger sad memories in future seasons.   According to University of South Carolina nursing professor Sue Heiney, symptoms of holiday depression can include sleeplessness, change in appetite, sadness and not being able to enjoy anything, even things a person once took pleasur

Tattoos are a growing trend among people from many walks of life in South Carolina.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Since tattoo parlors became legal in South Carolina in 2006, they have ridden a growing wave of popularity.  No longer the province of sailors or convicts, tattoos are being worn by doctors, ministers, even grandmothers.  Tattoo artist Scot “Spyder” Kudo says the range of tattoo designs is as endless as the imaginations of his clients. 

These Narragansett turkeys are raised by University of South Carolina professor Joe Jones.  Though he keeps his flock small, the quality of the meat is far superior to mass produced turkeys.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

From 9 to 5, Joe Jones of Blythewood is a professor of marine science and environmental science at the University of South Carolina.  After 5, he becomes a farmer, raising sheep, pigs, chickens, and especially Narragansett turkeys, which makes him popular around Thanksgiving.   He and his wife keep their flock small, preferring quality over quantity.  Jones and his wife Amanda talk in this story about the difference between homegrown birds and the corporate, mass-produced turkeys most people consume (hint: price and flavor have a lot to do with the difference).  There are challenges to rais

Poster for "Eight Days a Week."
Apple Corps

The 2017 Ron Howard documentary film “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years” highlights the cultural phenomenon of Beatlemania in the 1960s.  The movie captures America’s excitement as John, Paul, George and Ringo stormed the country at the forefront of the most popular musical revolution of the century, the British Invasion.   

Poet Ray McManus conducts a poetry workshop at a high school in Blythewood.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

University of South Carolina – Sumter English Professor Ray Mcmanus is a poet who can’t sit still. He travels the state conducting workshops in poetry much as a missionary would: But the message he brings to the people – that is, students from elementary to high schools – is that poetry isn’t the exclusive realm of artsy, smart people; it’s accessible to everyone, and it’s already in their lives if they take notice.

Christina Miles cools chocolate in a mold from her vat of liquid chocolate.  The Columbia chocolatier uses chocolate from Belgium and France to make her own unique candies, and hand-paints them with icing.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Chocolate is one of life's great treats for most folks.  Traditional, mass-produced chocolate candies have been enjoyed for generations, but lately, specialists have been making chocolates in South Carolina.  Columbia chocolatiers Christina Miles and Joseph Vernon have developed their own unique varieties of chocolates. 

Richland County meteorologist Ken Aucoin checks the weather several times daily to give accurate reports to county emergency managers.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Weather is constantly monitored in South Carolina by meteorologists for TV stations and the National Weather Service. But to keep people informed of—and protected from—threatening weather, Richland County has a unique advantage as the only county in the state, and perhaps one of few in the nation, to have its own meteorologist. Ken Aucoin is both the county’s meteorologist and an emergency manager, thus making the county uniquely positioned to respond quickly to bad weather.

Watching the Winds

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Richard Rothwell, via Wikimedia Commons

Frankenstein is a classic of fiction, movies, and other media, and also a Halloween staple. The novel has not been out of print in the two centuries since it was published in 1818. USC English Professor Paula Feldman, an authority on the life of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, talks about the real- life tragedies in Shelley's life that caused her to wish she could bring the dead to life again, and the dreams that inspired the writing of the classic book that is regarded as the first science fiction novel.

A nurse instructs students on the use of IV medications.
Photo courtesy University of South Carolina

Nursing has been described as a virtually recession-proof occupation, one that will always be in demand.  Even so, the heads of nursing departments at both the University of South Carolina and Midlands Technical College decry the critical need for bedside nurses, in spite of the fact that their nursing programs are full.   They cite bedside nursing is physically demanding, and added to 12-hour shifts, night and weekend work and new positions in other areas of nursing as reasons for the shortage.

Mr. and Mrs. Mark Cain sign their wedding certificate before friends at the Columbia Fireflies ball park.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

A recent wedding at the home of the Columbia Fireflies minor league baseball team would seem unusual to most people, but to a group of University of South Carolina students, it’s just part of a class.  The wedding planning class is included in the curriculum of the Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management program, and for at least a decade has had the dual advantage of giving students experience in all the details that go into planning a wedding and providing the bride and groom with a free wedding and honeymoon.  The catch?  They must give the students total control over everything.  But s

Glen Ward
Courtesy of Glen Ward

Humorist and inspirational speaker Glen Ward left a comfortable job at a bank 25 years ago and took a leap of faith into a venture he’d long been doing as a  sideline – public speaking, including both inspirational messages and impressions of well-known personalities.   It worked out, because a quarter century later, he travels the country bringing South Carolina humor to 36 states and counting.  Whether he’s imitating famous Palmetto State politicians such as former U.S.

The South Carolina State Fair's midway rides at night.
Nathan Harper [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] via Flickr

The South  Carolina State Fair has rolled around every fall since 1869.  Begun on Columbia’s Elmwood Avenue as an agricultural exposition, historian Rodger Stroup and fair manager Gary Goodman say it has kept its agricultural and mechanical roots while expanding through the years at its present location on Rosewood Drive, where it moved in 1914. 

These ladies have the responsibility of judging baked goods at the South Carolina State Fair, and they take their work seriously.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

(Originally aired in 2016) - Eating cupcakes, pies, cakes, and cookies is a pleasure for most folks, but for judges at the South Carolina State Fair, it’s also a responsibility.  Judges Laurie Aker and Mae Wells say because baking contestants work hard to prepare their entries, they should also be diligent in evaluating each entry to get the fairest (no pun intended) and most accurate result in determining winners.  Here they give their criteria for judging food, and for a judge’s qualifications.      Aker lists some common mistakes made by some cooks, and judge supervisor Brenda Turner tel

Pixabay

In 2015, 753 people took their own lives in South Carolina.  Reducing that number is the goal of the state’s chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  The Foundation holds six "Out of the Darkness" walks around the state each October, in Greenville, Myrtle Beach, Charleston, Columbia, Aiken, and Hilton Head-Bluffton.   In this story we talk with two women who have suffered the suicides of loved ones and have found healing by participating in the walks, discovering that helping others cope with their losses helps them, as well.

A vintage microphone.
HutchRock [CC0 1.0] via Pixabay

From his beginnings in radio in Darlington in 1960 (which he lied his way into at the urging of his mother), Woody Windham has become a South Carolina radio icon.  He has enjoyed a long career in Columbia and Charleston, both solo and with his brother Leo.  It would not be too big a stretch to speculate that millions of South Carolinians may have grown up listening to "Woody with the Goodies" on a variety of stations in the Midlands and Lowcountry and beyond. 

American Alligator, Alligator mississippiensis.
National Fish and Wildlife Service

Once-endangered, alligators have made such a comeback under federal and state protection that hunting them is now allowed by the state during a one-month season.   Many have also intruded enough into human space to become tagged as “nuisance alligators,” which must be removed by state or private personnel.  Jay Butfiloski, alligator and fur-bearer expert from the S.C. Dept. of Natural Resources, says a nuisance alligator is simply a gator in a place where someone doesn’t want it to be, whether it’s a private pond or a shopping center parking lot. 

Watchmaker Todd Waites works with tiny parts to get big results in repairing watches at Wristwatch Doc in  Cayce, SC, near Columbia.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

With competition from cell phones and an attitude of replace-not-repair toward many items, watch repair has become a rarer trade.  There are now fewer watchmakers (or repairers, to us general public types) in the United States than ever before.  Cayce watchmaker John Gawronski says that makes for a greater demand, and his staff is always busy.  He is sought out because not only does he have the skill, but also millions of rare watch parts gathered by buying out retiring watchmakers or jewelers.  There are opportunities for younger watchmakers if they’re willing to work, says Gawronski, and

U.S. Army Bell UH-1D helicopters airlift members of the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment from the Filhol Rubber Plantation area to a new staging area, during Operation "Wahiawa", conducted by the 25th Infantry Division, northeast of Cu Chi.
James K. F. Dung, SFC; U.S. National Archives Catalog:530610

Acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns’s new documentary The Vietnam War airs this week on SCETV.  As a companion piece, we talked with Vietnam veterans Wade Fulmer and Jim Knight, as well as historian Fritz Hamer, who pointed out that Vietnam was the most unconventional of wars the U.S.

U.S. Marines with Company G, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, direct a concentration of fire at the enemy during Operation Allen Brook, 8 May 1968.
Official Marine Corps photo 371490, via Wikimedia Common

Acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns’s new documentary The Vietnam War airs this week on SCETV. In this segment, we continue our talk with historian Fritz Hamer and Palmetto State veterans Jim Knight and Wade Fulmer. Knight recalls many small firefights and one really big one – the TET offensive of February, 1968. Hamer said even though TET was a military disaster for the the North Vietnamese, it was a propaganda bonanza.

The exact nature of the crescent which adorns the corner of the South Carolina state flag has been the subject of debate for years.  Is it a moon, as many people say?  Two state historians say it sure looks like one, but according to the flag's creator, t
Wikimedia Commons [CC0 1.0]

South Carolina is widely acknowledged to have one of the most beautiful state flags in the country.   Created by Col. William Moultrie, the flag features a palmetto tree, which became a beloved icon of the state.  But what about that crescent shape in the corner?  Many people call it a moon but is it really?  

Pages