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

Forester Chase Folk looks over a section of Sumter National Forest in Newberry County.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

For 90 years, the South Carolina Forestry Commission has fought fires and advised landowners on how they can best manage the woodlands on their property.   According to Forest Management Chief Russell Hulbright and Forester Chase Folks, forests can be managed for timber production, wildlife protection, aesthetics, soil and water preservation, or a combination of these outcomes.  Hulbright says the public benefits from trees just from the fact that they’re out there along the highways of South Carolina.  The state is blessed to have 13 million acres covered by public and private forests, acc

Issaqueena Falls.
Joel Hatfield [CC BY-ND 2.0] via Flickr

The Blue Ridge Mountains of South Carolina are full of stories, both historic and legendary. The history of Clemson Blue Cheese began in Stumphouse Tunnel. The tunnel is near another popular tourist destination in Oconee County, Issaqueena Falls, named after a legendary Native American princess.

Dr. Cleveland Sellers
sc.edu

On Feb 8, 1968, three South Carolina State College students were killed and 27 others were wounded by State Highway Patrolmen. Civil rights activist Cleveland Sellers and Journalist Jack Bass reflect on the events which many consider a stain on South Carolina's reputation that remains, five decades later. 

A rider can find the locations of available bikes by GPS.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Bicycle sharing systems have popped up in cities – especially tourism cities - in the past few years, but a new innovation being tested at Furman University may take transportation at the Upstate college to the next level.  It’s called dockless bike sharing, and according to Dr. Weston Dripps, director of Furman’s Shi Center for Sustainability, older bike sharing systems require a person to go to a docking station to pick up the bike, and return it to that or another docking station, which may be inconvenient. 

Glen Wright leads Shape Note Singing at NEFFA.
squashpicker [CC BY-NC-SA 2.0] via Flickr

A musical tradition begun in Colonial America which flourished in the South in the late 19th to mid 20th centuries is still carried on in South Carolina.  It’s shape note singing - also known as fa-sol-la, Jubilee or sacred harp singing.  A method developed to teach music to people who couldn’t read music, the notes on the page use shapes such as round, square, and triangular to represent the various pitches. 

Sandi Morris, a native of Greenville, won the women's pole vaulting silver medal at the Rio summer Olympics in 2016.  She quickly followed this victory by becoming the American women's outdoor pole vaulting champion with a 5- meter jump in Brussels.
Courtesy of Sandi Morris, via Flickr

Greenville native Sandi Morris has been a natural athlete all her life.  At age seven, playing around at her older sister’s soccer game, she offered a boy a quarter to race her, and beat him handily.  The boy’s mother, who was sitting near Sandi’s parents, told them of a track team for kids her age.  That was the beginning that led to Morris’s silver medal for the women’s pole vault in the 2016 Rio summer Olympics.  Then, only three weeks later in Brussels, she set the American women’s outdoor pole vault record of five meters, or 16’5”, a feat which only three women in the world have accomp

Greg Wilsbacher, checking film in USC's Moving Image Research Collection.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Since 1980, the University of South Carolina has built a national reputation as one of the top film preservation archives in the nation.  Its Moving Image Research Collection has recently become the recipient of a significant national gift – the archival films of the United States Marine Corps.  Tom McNally, Dean of Libraries at the University,  says the school took the collection with no funds to preserve it, but with the faith that revenue donors could be found, which they were.  

Epworth Children's Home in Columbia will soon make available to the public a treat that its residents and visitors have enjoyed for decades: peanut butter ice cream, which has been produced at the home since the Great Depression.
Photo courtesy Riggs Partners, West Columbia, S.C.

For decades, Epworth Children's Home in Columbia has been well known in Methodist circles for two things: caring for children, and the unique dessert it has produced since the Great Depression: peanut butter ice cream.  The government sent the home large quantities of peanut butter to help give the children protein, and the cooks served it in every way they could think of, said Epworth President John Holler.   In those days, the home had a dairy, so someone suggested  trying to make ice cream with it. 

Close-up of gas nozzle refueling car.
Andreas [CC0 1.0] via Pixabay

A new gasoline tax credit that takes effect this year will give  South Carolina drivers a little relief from the cost of driving.  The tax credit can be filed for beginning in January 2019 for the 2018 tax year.  This credit is to help offset the annual 2-cent-per- gallon increase in the gasoline tax to be dedicated to road upkeep for the next five years (for a total of six years, or an eventual 12-cents per gallon).  SC Dept.

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.

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