South Carolina Focus

SC Focus is a regular feature of South Carolina Public Radio.  As its name suggests, the segment focuses on the Palmetto State and its people.  It covers a wide variety of subjects, from South Carolina's war veterans to scientists, musicians and other topics, both serious and whimsical.  SC Focus can be heard at various times throughout the week during our news program on all South Carolina Public Radio stations.

Ways to Connect

USC's Maxcy College is home to students of many nations.  The International House builds lifelong bridges of friendship and understanding, and prepares many American and foreign students for international careers.
Photo courtesy International House, University of S.C.

The halls of the University of South Carolina’s Maxcy College reflect the voices not only of many students, but of many languages.  Maxcy houses the University’s International House, a living-learning experience for approximately 200 American and international students.  The students derive many benefits from life in International House, from culinary and cultural events to speakers and grant and research opportunities.  Faculty principle Dr.

The inside of David Jones' practice balls are ribbed to give them strength.  The two halves are fused together by friction.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

David Jones and his son Brantley are baseball fans.  Brantley played as a youngster, and was so enthusiastic about batting practice that his older brother, who didn’t like the game, was forced by circumstance to invent a pitching machine so he wouldn’t have to pitch to his brother for hours every day.  That machine, created as a school science project when he was only 11, and Brantley just 9, became the foundation for a business. 

Former Slave Honored at James Island's Pinckney Park

Feb 27, 2018
Friends and family unveil marker honoring Simeon Pinckney on James Island.
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

James Island's Pinckney Park, with its colorful playground, iconic oak tree  and tire swing, is less than a  year old.  But its history goes back 150 years.  That's when a former slave bought the property just outside of Charleston.   It's still  thick with palms and pines that back up to a tributary of Parrot Creek.  His  name was Simeon Pinckney. 

"Most of the stories  that my mother told of him was him straightening someone out for not doing the right thing," said Jerome Harris.  He is the great- great grandson of Simeon Pinckney. 

USC Law School's Pro Bono program provides student volunteers for legal services throughout South Carolina.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

It’s tax season, and many people are working with tax preparers.  But some preparers are giving away their services for free to elderly or low income clients.  They’re tax law students in the Pro Bono program at the University of South Carolina School of Law.  The Pro Bono program provides volunteer services to many causes year round: clerks for pro bono lawyers, research, wills and other areas of the law. 

Hurricane Katrina, August 28, 2005.
NOAA

Back in January, a diverse group of Midlands community members congregated at the United Way of the Midlands. Among the 20 or so assembled guests were lawyers, businesspeople, nonprofit staffers, and a vet. What they held in common was their shared action after a terrible natural disaster 12 years ago, when Hurricane Katrina battered the gulf coast.

White-hat hackers keep up with the latest tricks of cyber criminals to help them fight these "black hats" and protect the information of businesses.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Hacking, whether it’s into a bank, insurance company or an individual’s records, is a serious, and growing crime in the 21st century.  The damages inflicted by hackers in the United States alone can reach into the billions of dollars annually.

Modern chimney sweeps use high-tech equipment to keep chimneys and homes safe and clean.
Chimspector

Where the old image of the chimney sweep is a skinny guy with a big brush covered with grime and soot, the modern chimney sweep is much cleaner and uses high tech equipment in the 21st century, according to two Columbia sweeps.  There are about 30 chimney sweeps in the state, and they keep busy.   Sweep Drew Stein says dense plastic rods with brushes now are inserted into chimneys and spun with a drill to clean soot and creosote – a flammable byproduct of burning wood – from chimneys, which prevents dangerous chimney fires. 

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

Former Charleston City Mayor Joe Riley at the site of the planned International African American Museum.
The Citadel

There's no slowing down for Former Charleston City mayor Joe Riley.  The 75 year-old is as ambitious as ever, finalizing plans for the city's new International African American Museum.  He's even teaching a class about it this semester at his Alma Mater, The Citadel.

"I work hard on it every day," said Riley from his office on Broad Street.  He gazes out the window as he talks about a  past he says is rarely acknowledged.   "Across the street from me are historic buildings built during times of enslavement."

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. 

Jeremy Cannon of Cannon Ag Products is one of many farmers who is still recovering from the flood of October 2015 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
Olivia Aldridge/SC Public Radio

In September 2015, many farmers in South Carolina were looking forward to a promising harvest. The drought that began in 2014 had subsided in time for at least one crop to flourish remarkably well: by the time October rolled in, full, glistening fields of white cotton spread through rural South Carolina, just shy of ready for harvest. It seemed that farmers would see a rich reward for the stress of the long, dry months that preceded.

Charles F. Bolden, Jr.
NASA

Columbia native Charles Bolden has had a remarkable career: Marine fighter pilot, commanding general in Operation Desert Thunder in Kuwait, deputy commandant of midshipmen at the U.S.

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.  

Future drill sergeants practice their techniques on their fellow trainees at Fort Jackson. (File)
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

A new study finds South Carolina among ten states with a larger number of unfit Army recruits compared to the rest of the nation. The research comes from the Citadel, a military school in Charleston, and shows potential soldiers who are not physically fit are more likely to be injured during basic training, costing the Department of Defense and putting our nation's military readiness at risk.

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.

 Rock Hill Mayor Doug Echols.  On Jan. 8, 2018, Echols will complete a 20 year tenure as the City's longest serving mayor.
City of Rock Hill, S.C.

Doug Echols concludes his 20 year tenure as Mayor of Rock Hill, SC on Jan. 8, 2018.  He is the longest serving Mayor in Rock Hill history.  Attorney and former City Council member John Gettys assumes the Mayor's Office.  Rock Hill is a City on the move.  It is now the fifth largest in the state, and is considered a model for successful planned growth.

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.

The Inclement Weather Center is located at 191 Calhoun Street, and opens on winter nights that are forecasted at 40 degrees or below.
Olivia Aldridge/SC Public Radio

Winter is an especially difficult time of year for unhoused South Carolinians. As temperatures dip below freezing throughout the season, the threat of hypothermia is ever-present. That’s why several nonprofits in the Midlands have forged together each winter since 2014 to sponsor Columbia’s Inclement Weather Center (IWC), open from November 1 to March 31 on nights when the temperature is 40 degrees or below.

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

An historic marker honoring the 371st Infantry now stands at Childs Cemetery in Columbia.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

For those who love military history, the date September 28, now carries an additional significance. It’s the date Cpl. Freddie Stowers was killed in battle. Stowers was an Anderson County native and a member of the 371st Infantry Regiment, the first African-American unit to train at then Camp Jackson. The date now also represents the placing of the first historic marker in the country to honor and recognize this unit. 

A satellite view of Hurricane irma on September 5, 2017.
NOAA

Last month, the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane season finally came to a close. From June 1 to Nov. 30, South Carolinians were encouraged by SCEMD and other state agencies to be on high alert, especially after the severe storm impacts the state received during the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Now that hurricane season has wrapped up, we called on John Qualiariello, a Columbia-based meteorologist for the National Weather Service, to reflect.

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