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

Each of these silver spoons has a story to tell, and Dawn Corley knows them all.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Dawn Corley of Charleston began collecting silver as a child under the tutelage of her great aunt.  As her collection grew, so did her expertise, until SCETV’s Beryl Dakers dubbed her the “Charleston Silver Lady,” a nickname which has stuck over the years.  Corley has presented programs on silver for U.S.

Flooded dunes on Sullivan's Island before Hurricane Irma hit the Carolina coast.
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

Tourists are attracted to Charleston not just for its history, but also for its beautiful ocean views and beach access. But the ocean’s rising levels also pose a major threat to coastal cities like Charleston, especially when they combine with large rain events like the hurricanes the city has weathered over past years. Since 2014, Charleston’s streets have been flooded consistently more often, from 11 days in 2014, to 38 days in 2015 and 50 days in 2016. 

A telltale red hourglass shape identifies the black widow spider, a native of South Carolina.
Shenrich91 [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

People who leave their shoes on the porch to air out would do well to shake and inspect them before putting them back on, especially if left out overnight.  According to naturalists Rudy Mancke and Chick Gaddy, black widow spiders love to shelter there.   And even in the driest closets, attics or basements, brown recluses may lurk.  These are potentially deadly spiders that have rightly earned fearsome reputations.   

Prior to May, 2017, about 500 pelican nests, and those of other seabirds, were established on Crab Bank near Charlestons Shem Creek.
Courtesy SC Dept. of Natural Resouces.

Last spring, there were approximately 500 pelican nests on Crab Bank, a sandbar near Charleston’s Shem Creek where pelicans and other seabirds have safely bred for years.  Erosion has gradually reduced the area of Crab Bank, but a storm and high tides in May combined to nearly obliterate the breeding ground.  Now only about 45 pelican nests remain, with no nests left of the roughly 1000 terns that also nested on the bank. 

The world's hottest pepper- the Carolina Reaper, grown in Fort Mill.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Many people distinguish themselves in the worlds of sports, entertainment, writing and other endeavors.  Ed Currie of Fort Mill has distinguished himself in a much hotter manner:  he holds the Guinness world record for the hottest pepper on earth, his self-developed Carolina Reaper.  He grows many varieties of peppers for the food industry, but it’s the Reaper that makes some hot-sauce aficionados rethink how tough they are.  In addition to setting people’s insides on fire, however, Currie says the pepper has other uses in the paint, medical and defense industries.

Bicycle racers from around the world fly through the air as part of the BMX World Championships held recently in Rock Hill.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Rock Hill has enjoyed a growing reputation as an amateur sports Mecca, and the city recently proved it by hosting the BMX (bicycle motocross) world championship competitions.  Men, women and children came from across the globe to compete, and the event drew 3700 riders and 20,000 spectators from 48 countries. 

May 20, 2012, eclipse viewing at Arches National Park, Utah.
NPS/Neal Herbert

People across the nation are anxiously awaiting the total solar eclipse August 21st. South Carolinians are among them, as the Palmetto State will be one of the best places in the United States to view the event.  The 65-mile wide path of totality, or area of total eclipse, will pass through Greenville, Columbia and parts of Charleston.  Lawn chairs and sun block will help people to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime event.  But two Midlands ophthalmologists remind us that the most essential  element to viewing the eclipse is proper eye protection.  The sun’s rays can burn the retinas of unprotected eyes and produce legal blindness.  Today we get good tips on safely watching the eclipse.

Nile [CC0 1.0] via Pixabay

Much of South Carolina will experience heavy traffic on and around Aug. 21. That’s the day the much-anticipated total solar eclipse will pass through the state in a 65-mile wide path from Greenville to Charleston.   Many law enforcement officers will have their hands full that day with traffic both from locals and the many visitors the state expects, some say up to a million people statewide. 

Mariah Williams helped test a new Braille guide to the Aug. 21 eclipse written by educators from the College of Charleston.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Millions of people nationwide are anticipating the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21. It will be a spectacle to behold, but some people can’t behold it: the blind. For this reason, College of Charleston geology professor Cassandra Runyon, along with fellow C of C geologist Cynthia Hall and a colleague in  Pennsylvania, developed a braille guide to the eclipse for blind and visually impaired people who want to know more about the event and what it entails.  They were aided by blind College of Charleston recent graduate Mariah Williams, who helped "field test" the book, which was printed by NASA.  Five thousand copies have been printed and distributed to libraries, schools for the blind and other service organizations nationally.

This tiny house may be only 400 square feet, but it contains a number of green, sustainable design features.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Three brand-new houses off busy Two Notch Road in Columbia seem a world away from the road’s heavy traffic.  They’re in a wooded area that a visitor would believe was in a forest miles from any city.  In addition to their unique location, the houses are different because of their size: just 400 square feet.  They’re tiny houses, part of a new back-to-basics movement that is gaining traction across the United States.  Friends Joanne Williams and Priscilla Preston thought up the houses when they met at Quaker meetings, where they talked about simplifying their lives.  They’re renting the tiny

Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

This Thursday through Sunday, August 4th through 6th, is South Carolina’s annual Tax-free Weekend, and shoppers may save between $2 million and $3 million in sales taxes.  Arthur Dunn of one Columbia Target store says it’s a busier time for his store than Black Friday, and he expects an increase in business over last year.  The weekend is big for small stores, too, like Salty’s Board Shop, where owner Paul Goff expects to sell a lot of khaki pants and other school apparel, plus book bags and skateboards.   

On Aug. 21, a total solar eclipse will be seen along a roughly 70-mile wide path through South Carolina from the Upstate through Greenville and Columbia to Charleston.
NASA/Hinode/XRT, via Wikimedia Commons

This summer’s total solar eclipse is a rare event for the Palmetto State.  Normally a total eclipse doesn’t return to the same spot for close to 400 years, but this will be the second in only 47 years for the folks in Sumter and the surrounding area.  Hap Griffin remembers seeing the last eclipse as an 11-year-old on March 7, 1970.  He said he still recalls how "blown away" he was in the backyard of a friend.   Nearby, the Rev. Joel Osborne climbed a forest tower to take in the awesome celestial  event, and it was a push along his spiritual journey, he said.

Derek W. Black on the Tavis Smiley Show in 2016.
Courtesy PBS/Tavis Smiley Show

In many schools across the nation in the last few decades, concerns over discipline have led to so-called “zero tolerance” policies.  USC law Professor Derek Black says suspension and expulsion rates have doubled under zero tolerance policies in the past 30 years.  Texas educator Dr. Nesa Sasser Hartford believes that the policies are justified in three specific areas – drugs, guns and sexual improprieties.

Inspecting the new troops at Fort Jackson.  They learn the rules quickly- or they'll hear about it.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Fort Jackson has just celebrated its centennial and, as the nation’s largest army training base, new recruits pour in regularly for basic training.  Though they’re met their first day by a pack of screaming drill sergeants, privates Jose Solis and Wallace Castillo don’t mind.  They’ve come for a purpose: to be trained and to learn to be professionals.   They view the sergeants’ yelling as part of the system, and don’t take it personally.  That’s good, says Drill Sergeant Queshawnia Franklin, because that’s how the system is designed, and after the first few weeks have provided the recruits

Heather and Dave Mann, now on dry land, with Dinghy the Sailing Cat.
Haley Kellner/SC Public Radio

Not many people would sell their homes to go sailing up and down the east coast of the United States and into the Caribbean for six years.  But Heather and Dave Mann, late of Wisconsin and now of Summerville, did just that.   Dave says they did it for the adventure, and they had plenty of those, which Heather recorded in a book about the lessons she learned from the ocean during their voyage aboard their sailboat, the Wild Hair. 

Kudzu failed to deliver on its promise as erosion control, but spread so fast it has become an icon of the South.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

A familiar sight on Southern country roads, and sometimes in towns, is kudzu.  The ubiquitous and fast-growing vine was imported from Asia as a decorative plant in the late 19th century, and promoted during the 1930s and 40s as forage for livestock and control for erosion.  According to Clemson Extension agent Dr. Tim Davis, it didn’t quite work out that way.  The plant, which can grow up to a foot a day, spread rapidly throughout the South.  But Davis and Dr.

A rolling course is rehearsed by a media member and coach, heading for the finish line at the Rock Hill BMX track.
Haley Kellner/SC Public Radio

The city of Rock Hill is becoming famous for its amateur sports facilities in everything from soccer to motocross and more.   The last week of July will see the city host the BMX (bicycle motocross) world championships, and riders from Australia to France to Brazil will come to South Carolina  to add an expected $13 million to the local economy.   Prior to that event, however, the city held race for the press to let members of the fourth estate get a feel for what goes into this growing sport. 

From space, a hurricane can appear as a beautiful cloud pattern. (Photo of Hurricane Isabel)
Mike Trenchard, Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Laboratory , Johnson Space Center, via Wikimedia Commons

The National Hurricane Center has predicted between 11 and 17 named tropical storms for this year, with 5 to 9 becoming hurricanes and 2 to 4 becoming major hurricanes of category 3 or above.  Meteorologist Mark Malsick of the State Climatology Office says the main thing storms need to get bigger and stronger is warm, shallow water.  

Tens of thousands of purple martins return to Bomb Island at dusk.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Purple martins have roosted on Bomb Island in Lake Murray every summer for decades to prepare for their annual migration to South America. Numbering at least in the tens of thousands, if not more, the birds gather at dusk in great clouds around the island as they return from a day’s hunting for beetles, dragonflies and other high-flying insects.  To naturalist Rudy Mancke, the birds are a wonder of nature. More than that, people have gathered around the island in boats each summer for years, and the phenomenon of this huge mass of birds has become a tourist attraction.

Industrial robots on an automobile assembly line.
ISAPUT [CC BY-SA 4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 Automation has been increasing in the Palmetto State’s factories for a long time, bringing with it fears of job losses for people whose jobs are vulnerable to being replaced by machines.  But Roger Varin of Staubli Robotics, which makes robots for industry, says jobs are changing, but not necessarily vanishing.  In fact, he asserts, automation creates jobs in some areas.  Peter Brews, dean of USC’s Moore School of Business, agreed.  He said what must happen to assure employment in the future is that workers must have better education and training to fill the more technically-oriented jobs

Troubles caused by the historic flood of October 2015 were accompanied by one tiny bright spot: the flood temporarily refilled the state's groundwater supplies, which had been in decline through years of drought since the 1990s.
Courtesy of Nichols resident Courtney Wilds

For many who experienced the destruction of South Carolina’s October 2015 flood, it’s perhaps difficult to imagine that the state was plagued by a drought prior to the historic rain event. Despite the monumental devastation wrought by the flood, hydrologists who study the state’s aquifers, or the state’s usable groundwater resources, have observed a faint silver lining.

Laura Wright of Saluda (right), just turned 111 years old.  Her "baby sister," Annie Belle Chappelle, is 96.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Laura Wright of Saluda recently celebrated her 111th birthday.  Friends and relatives, including her 96-year-old "baby sister," gathered to pay tribute to her long and well-lived life.  A teacher for decades, Wright said her parents prepared and encouraged her and her siblings to get an education and contribute to society.   Her friend Costena Kelly cited "Miss Laura" as a role model, saying "She always said 'be a lady.

Joseph Rackers and Marina Lomazov
Courtesy of the Artists

This week an internationally-acclaimed music event takes place in Columbia: The Southeastern Piano Festival, created and produced by University of South Carolina music professors Joseph Rackers and Marina Lomazov.  Though its name sounds regional, in reality it draws high school applicants and world-class judge/performers from all across the United States and beyond.  The producers tell us how they conceived the festival 15 years ago, and what attracts the finest applicants to vie for the 20 spots that the competition accepts.

Jesse Colin Young still tours and records music, but a half-century after the Summer of Love, he's still proud of the Youngbloods anthem of peace, "Get Together."
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

June 1967 heralded the Summer of Love, when tens of thousands of America’s young people headed to San Francisco with flowers in their hair. The Monterrey Pop Festival was the first major rock event of its kind, and brought wider attention to emerging artists such as The Who, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Big Brother and the Holding Company, with its electrifying singer, Janis Joplin. USC historian Lauren Sklaroff says San Francisco had long been a place where people who felt like outsiders could gather with others like themselves.

Not leaving a will is considered the biggest "sin" of estate planning.  Even an online form, not the best of ideas, is better than no will at all.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Perhaps as much as 50 to 60 percent of South Carolinians do not have a will.  According to attorney Bert Brannon, a will is a person’s last chance to say what he or she wants to happen to his/her possessions, so it should be taken seriously.  Brannon and Richland County Probate Judge Amy McCullough name some reasons why people put off making a will, and why not leaving a will is a really bad idea.  While It has no effect on the deceased at all, it can cause untold distress and trouble for those left behind.

Fire Ants
Marufish via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

    Fire ants are a perennial problem in the South, and in South Carolina, but science is working to control them.  Aiken County Clemson Extension Agent Vicki Bertagnalli and former Richland County Clemson Extension Agent Tim Davis both have tested ant baits before they were marketed, and say they can be 85-90 percent effective in controlling fire ants when used in the spring and fall. 

Drummer Paul Riddle
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

  

  Paul Riddle helped put Spartanburg on the musical map as the drummer for the original Marshall Tucker Band. Today he teaches drums in Greenville and can’t believe his good fortune that he’s able to work with young people while playing the drums all day. In this segment, the nationally esteemed musician recounts stories of the Tucker Band, and a longtime (20 years!) student and a fellow teacher comment on his remarkable skills and his commitment to music.

Megan Scharett, a new high school graduate from the Lowcountry, looks forward to a career in the food industry.  She has apprenticed with a prestigious restaurant in Charleston and taken many college courses at Trident Technical College through the Youth
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Today's job market is changing rapidly, and whether the field is health care, advanced manufacturing or information technology, there are high paying jobs for trained workers with a two-year associate’s degree from one of South Carolina's technical colleges. The Youth Apprenticeship Program at the state’s tech colleges acts as a "middleman" between businesses needing trained workers and students looking for meaningful careers. But not just college students.

Jovial Joe Pinner has been a familiar face, and voice, in South Carolina broadcasting for more than a half century.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Joe Pinner has been a fixture on South Carolina television since 1963. He's known from one end of South Carolina to the other - and beyond, not only as a weatherman and familiar children’s show host "Mr. Knozit" for 37 years, but as a commercial spokesman and emcee at scores of parades and festivals statewide. Today Pinner, who still pitches in at WIS-TV on Fridays at age 80-something, talks about his beginnings in radio, how he developed his familiar, booming voice, and the origins of the Knozit show.

Imperial storm troopers have become instantly recognizable "bad guys" in the wake of the phenomenal success of the Star Wars films.
Pixabay/gromit15

With indelible characters such as Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Han Solo and R2D2, George Lucas’s “Star Wars” hit theaters on May 25, 1977, and the world of pop culture would never be the same.  The phenomenal success of the film has created an industry that includes books, toys, clothing and much more, in addition to a series of monster hit movies.  Looking back on the movie’s beginnings in this report, “Star Wars” aficionado Aaron Nicewonger relates how initial doubt about the film’s chances for success allowed Lucas to retain a large percent of the merchandising for the film, making him

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