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

More and more, boxes and crates of fresh produce leaving the Palmetto State for stores and markets in other states are bearing an increasingly familiar sticker: "Certified South Carolina Grown." Ansley Turnblad, branding coordinator for the S.C. Dept. of Agriculture, says the brand encourages people to look for, ask for and buy South Carolina produce.

Food tourists get good food and a history lesson during a food tour on Columbia's Main Street.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

While most folks know that tourism is one of South Carolina’s top industries, many do not know that food tourism is a growing phenomenon around the state.

Visualizations by Ernie Wright / NASA/GSFC

It may be winter now, but big plans are being made for this summer, when portions of South Carolina will see something that hasn’t occurred here in nearly a century: a total solar eclipse.  NASA has estimated nearly one million people will come to the Palmetto State to view this exciting phenomenon.  Midlands tourism spokesperson Kelly Barbery says Columbia is well positioned to get the longest exposure to the eclipse – just over two and a half minutes – and as the third largest city in America in the eclipse’s path, it is preparing activities for the many visitors it expects. 

Man vs. Machine?

Feb 3, 2017

Even though there has been a lot of rhetoric lately about bad trade deals hurting American workers, most experts will tell you that a much bigger factor has been automation.  However, our next guest says that it’s not man vs. machine, but man and machine working together that promises to drive the future of U.S. and international business.

Mike Switzer interviews Roger Varin, CEO for Staubli Robotics in Duncan, SC.

Dr. Nori Warren loves caring for pets at 4 Paws Animal Clinic. Forced to relocate by the historic flood of 2015, she hopes to return to a new building near the original clinic later this year.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

After the historic flood of October 2015 destroyed the 4 Paws Animal Clinic in the Columbia suburb of Forest Acres, a friend came to the rescue with a temporary site for the business.  Dr. Nori Warren and her husband, Will, immediately began planning to a return to their original building, which was still structurally sound. 

Vanessa Torres gets the active participation of her Spanish students at Nursery Road Elementary School.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Vanessa Torres is a passionate advocate for teaching foreign language to elementary school children.  She says research proves that early education in foreign languages improves deductive reasoning skills, memory, self esteem and more.  Her enthusiasm in the Spanish classes she teaches is contagious, says her principal, Love Ligons.  And her fellow teachers and students’ parents are not the only ones who have noticed. 

Faces of past U. S. Presidents carved into Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota.
Aline Dassel/Pixabay

Comedian Jay Leno and others have long pointed out many Americans’ inability to identify people they should know, whether they be politicians, celebrities or historical icons. According to University of South Carolina historians Lauren Sklaroff and Kent Germany, attitudes are changing about whether there should be a certain set of people or information that all Americans should know.

BMX Supercross is a rapidly expanding sport that few have facilities for.  Rock Hill is one of those few, and reaps economic benefits because of it.
Wendy Waddle

Rock Hill was a big textile town in the 1970s.  But when that industry started to go away, the city began to look for ways to diversify and to revitalize its economy.  It found the answer in amateur sports.  Beginning with baseball and softball, the city has built facilities that have attracted teams from across the country and around the world for sports such as lacrosse, soccer, tennis, cycling and more. 

A member of the Greatest Generation Columbia's Moffatt Burriss recalls his World War II experiences.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

  Moffatt Burris of Columbia is one of the heroes who helped save the world from tyranny during World War II. He fought to liberate Sicily and at Anzio to free Italy. But perhaps his most memorable exploits came as a paratrooper who participated in Operation Market Garden, a failed attempt to hasten the end of the war with a massive jump into Holland.

  Shooting incidents around the country have not left South Carolina untouched.  The Emanuel AME Church shooting demonstrated that the Palmetto State is not immune to such violence.  To help citizens become more aware of what to do  and how to protect themselves in such a situation, law enforcement agencies are offering active shooter training to groups across the state.  We talk today to representatives of the Richland and Lexington County Sheriff’s Departments, who offer advice that could save lives in the event of an active shooter attack.

As recruits train at Fort Jackson, their weapons stand at the ready.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

As the army’s largest basic training post, Fort Jackson is a vital part of the nation’s defense. Today’s story looks at the approaching centennial of the fort, begun in 1917 in response to the need to train soldiers for World War I. Historians Henry Howe and Fritz Hamer comment on the fort’s beginnings as Camp Jackson, how it was built and its impact on the Midlands economy, as well as its prospects for the future.

  Local theater is found both in quantity and quality throughout South Carolina. Today we hear from representatives of two of them: Columbia’s Town Theater is the oldest continually operating community theater in America, and will turn 100 in 2019. It specializes in musicals, but presents other known plays as well. Across town, Trustus Theater employs professionals to bring audiences new productions that sometimes “push the envelope.” These and many other theaters across the state help their cities both economically, drawing tourism, and, of course, enrich them culturally as well.

Scam detector Frank Abagnale with the medallions he has received from organizations he has coached or helped to prevent or detect fraud.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

     Charleston resident Frank Abagnale has helped the FBI and numerous government agencies and corporations detect and stop fraud for more than 40 years. His expertise in the field comes largely from the fact that between the ages of 16 to 21, Abagnale was himself a scam artist and check forger, whose international exploits are recounted in his book “Catch Me if you Can,” and a major motion picture of the same name.

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941. A small boat rescues a seaman from the 31,800 ton USS West Virginia burning in the foreground. Smoke rolling out amidships shows where the most extensive damage occurred. Note the two men in the superstructure.
Library of Congress/U.S. Navy, Office of Public Relations, Washington.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 brought the United States into World War II.  The Commander in Chief of the U.S. Fleet, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, was blamed for the defeat, demoted for dereliction of duty and forced into retirement, along with his army counterpart, Gen. Walter Short.  In 1944, the first of 10 investigations and hearings into the Pearl Harbor defeat effectively exonerated Kimmel, but his rank was not restored because the war was on.   

A roller derby match pits the Columbia Quade Squad All Stars against a team visiting from Tampa.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

  Half party, half combat. That’s roller derby, a growing sport in South Carolina. Though most teams are women, there are some men’s teams and even juniors teams. In this report we talk to Dell Corley, coach of the Richland County Regulators, as well as two married players. Kelly Wuest of the Columbia Quad Squad All Stars, inspired her husband Mike to join the Carolina Wreckingballs when he saw how much fun she was having. All three, however, say a more important part of the sport than winning is the family-like relationship that links the players.

  Many people are fearful of a Zika virus epidemic because of the publicity the virus has received.  But South Carolina law enforcement officers are fighting a much-less-publicized epidemic – the growth of heroin addiction.  This problem, however, is largely rampant among middle class users, according to Frank Shaheen, director of the Recovering Professional Program.  

Counselors from Carolina United have worked  with thousands of flood victims in the past year, including this one in Eastover, S.C.
Courtesy Carolina United, SC Dept. of Mental Health

More than a year after South Carolina’s historic flood, crisis counselors from the state Department of Mental Health’s Carolina United program continue to find and help flood victims.  But hearing the woes of thousands of victims over a long period can have detrimental effects on the counselors as well, sometimes producing stress or depression. 

As society becomes more dependent on technology, from smart phones to driver-less cars, the need for security has grown, and not just for financial institutions. The University of South Carolina and Gov. Nikki Haley recently announced the formation of SC Cyber, a coalition of educators, industry and government designed to protect information and anticipate the problems posed by new uses of technology.

File Photo
warrenksi/Flickr

South Carolina’s voting machines were purchased in 2004.  For electronics, that’s old.  Computer technology advances quickly and needs replacing frequently.  Nevertheless, S.C. Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire and USC Computer Science Professor Duncan Buell believe that with caution, the state’s machines may get through this fall’s election with few problems. 

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 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.

The dam (foreground) of Lexington's Old Mill Pond gave way during the flood of October 2015, leaving an empty pond behind it and destruction in front.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Broken dams across the state made last year’s historic floods in South Carolina even worse.  In Lexington, three dams burst, washing debris through the city and flooding U.S. Highway 1.  The city is now seeking to reconstruct the old dams to be more resilient. Tut Underwood has the story.

Author Pat Conroy in 2013, talking with students about their entries in USC’s annual high school writing contest.
Courtesy Aida Rogers, USC Honors College.

The University of South Carolina’s honors college sponsors a writing contest each year to encourage students to write, and to get readers for these talented young people, according to college Dean Steve Lynn, who originated the program.  The incentives to enter are several.  Not only does it award cash prizes, but the best writings are gathered together each year in a book published by USC Press to give permanent exposure to young writers.   In addition, the judges are high-profile, nationally known writers. 

West Columbia's Elizabeth Gray is running marathons in all 50 states to call attention to the problem of domestic violence.   Her story has made her a finalist for the cover of Running World magazine.
Courtesy of Elizabeth Gray

Elizabeth Gray of West Columbia is a former Marine, but that didn’t protect her from domestic violence at home.  But as she escaped an abusive marriage, she discovered running, and as she crossed the finish line of her first marathon, she decided to use her running to call attention to the problem of domestic violence.  To that end, she has set a goal of running a marathon in all 50 states, and will be halfway to her goal by December.  Her efforts may gain her additional attention, as her compelling story has made her a finalist in a competition to be featured on the cover of Running World

Flooding in Forest Acres, near Columbia, SC, on Oct 4, 2015.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

People and the press have referred to last year’s historic flood as a “thousand year” flood, as if an event of this size wouldn’t happen for another millennium.  Not so, say John Shelton of the U.S. Geological Survey and state climatologist Hope Mizzell.   Surprisingly, perhaps, each year the odds of a similar flood happening, though remote, are exactly the same.  Mizzell says the “thousand year” designation, however, does have a use, as a criterion for designing certain structures which must be built to withstand great and unlikely stresses. 

Counselling
lisafx/123RF Stock Photo

On average, about two people die by suicide each day in South Carolina, which is more than twice the state’s homicide rate.   With its “Out of the Darkness” walks statewide in October and November, the S.C.

Only days after the flood, Columbia's Gills Creek was approaching normal level, but its rage left its marks, both on the vegetation pictured here, and on its many victims.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Rain can be a painful reminder to some people of the great losses suffered a year ago in South Carolina’s historic floods.  According to USC School of Social Work Assistant Professor Patrice Penney, the anniversary of a traumatic event such as the floods can cause fear, anxiety and other symptoms in survivors. And psychologist Richard Kagan tells us that these renewed feelings at the anniversary are perfectly normal behavior, but  William Wells of the S.C. Dept.

Edwin McCain and his band on stage at the Charleston Music Hall.
SCETV

In cooperation with South Carolina ETV, the Charleston Music Hall has been the scene of a growing series of televised concerts known as Live at the Charleston Music Hall. Co-produced and hosted by Mark Bryan, guitarist of South Carolina’s Hootie and the Blowfish, the series has provided four shows for ETV and South Carolina Public Radio.

Aiken County cotton farmer Carl Brown overlooks one of his field.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

American consumers buy nearly 20 billion new items of clothing a year, many of them made of Southern cotton, but 98 percent made overseas.  A University of South Carolina professor wondered about the journey of cotton from South Carolina to China and back, and produced a documentary film about the people who grow the cotton and make the garments.  In this story, Prof. Laura Kissel talks about what she learned about the cotton-to-cloth-to-clothing process while making the film, and Aiken County farmer Carl Brown discusses the changes in cotton farming over the course of his career. 

Harmony School teacher Jennifer Mancke admires the mural made by student in the flood-damaged preschool building that will require about $400,000 to repair.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

At Harmony School, a private school in the Columbia suburb of Forest Acres, children learn in a couple of portable classrooms that were pressed into service after last October’s historic flood.  The move was required because the flood rendered the school’s largest building, its preschool, unusable.  Just 2 to 4 inches from the overflow of adjacent Gills Creek was all it took to cause $400,000 worth of damage.  Director Debbie Holmes and teacher Jennifer Mancke talk about the event and the school’s efforts to raise money for its repair.  Even the school’s students are pitching in.    

Mopeds at Hawg Scooters, Rosewood Drive, Columbia. 2.	More South Carolinians are riding mopeds, and there are numerous reasons why.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

    With the opening of the fall semester at colleges across the state, a multitude of students can be seen negotiating the streets on mopeds. But they are by no means the only riders. The use of these low-power scooters is exploding across South Carolina, and the nation. Today we talk with two dealers who explain the phenomenon, as well as a rider who tells of the advantages he gets from his moped.

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