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

 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.

Map: SC Revenue and Fiscal Affairs

Next week state officials expect the U.S. Census Bureau to officially estimate that the state’s population has passed the five million mark.  In fact, they believe the state reached that milestone back on June 8th.  Officials estimate that the state is growing by 157 people a day making it one of the fastest growing states in the country.  And it’s growing really fast.  It took 67 years for the state to grow by a million people, from one million to two million. It took just 17 years though to grow from four million to five million people.

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. 

Can Chatbots Connect You to City Government?

Dec 8, 2017
Bratton Riley CEO of Citibot
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

Bratton Riley has a true appreciation of city workers, whether they're picking up our trash or keeping us safe.  The 44 year-old has had a bird's eye view as the son of former Charleston City Mayor Joe Riley.  But he knows not everyone shares that appreciation.  Dealing with government can be difficult.  So he's created a chatbot called Citibot  in hopes of making it more accessible.

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.

More than 75 organizations from across country attend Fort Jackson career fair.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

Before a service member transitions out of the military, the Department of Defense requires they complete a pre-separation counseling session. Fort Jackson's Solider For Life Transition Assistance program manager says its the beginning of 12-month period that prepares service members and their family for life outside the military.

Federal Highway Administration

The five major interstate highways that crisscross South Carolina are part of its social and economic lifeblood.  Since 1982, when Ronald Reagan was President, there have been plans for a sixth interstate, I-73 which would run from the North Carolina-South Carolina state line near Bennettsville through the Pee Dee to the tourist Mecca of Myrtle Beach. Over the years there have been a number of proposed routes for the new federal highway, questions about how best to pay for it, and concerns raised by environmental groups.

Flooding from Hurricane Irma near Charleston Harbor
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane season comes to a close this week, officially ending November 30.  It was one of the most active and costliest to hit the United States, with 17 named storms and 10 hurricanes, six of which were major with winds of 110 milers per hour or more.  With such monster storms as Harvey, Irma and Maria, many are still struggling physically and mentally in the  aftermath.  The Medical University  of South Carolina in Charleston is now researching the impact of those hurricanes on mental health as it develops a new smart phone app.

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.   

'Gator on Durham Creek, Berkeley County
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

Ron Russell has been catching alligators in the Lowcountry for nearly 30 years.  Each fall, people hire him as a guide for the state's public hunt.  But this year, he says gators, especially the big ones, were harder to find.

"We've harvested the heck out of them with all three programs the last 12 years," said Russell.  "I think it's going to start showing up we can't maintain this every year without it actually hurting the population dramatically.  I've already seen the decrease in population just in this area."

Mayor Steve Benjamin of Columbia commemorated his city's commitment to the Sierra Club's Ready for 100 Campaign in May.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio.

Since President Trump announced the U.S. would exit the Paris Climate Agreement back in June, redoubled support for the agreement has come from the local level, with mayors from around the nation pledging their cities' support for the Agreement.

Steve Bannon poses fo rpictures at Citadel Republican Society fundraiser
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

Streets were blocked for hours and police appeared ready, high atop Johnson Hagood Stadium as former presidential advisor Steve Bannon arrived in Charleston Friday  to speak at a student fundraiser just off the Citadel campus.  People with several civil rights groups peacefully gathered across the street from the Holliday Alumni Center where inside there was a party and the guest of honor relived the glory days of helping get Donald Trump elected president.

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.

Dean Kilpatrick, Ph. D. - Director of the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, MUSC.
MUSC

Dean Kilpatrick marks a milestone not by looking back, but by building for the future.  He's the director of the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.  As the center celebrates 40 years, it is also opening the nation's first and only Mass Violence and Victimization Resource Center.

"We will definitely have our hands full as far as coordinating this," said Kilpatrick.  "But we're just very happy to have the opportunity to serve.

SC Attorney General Alan Wilson announced new program to help veterans, active duty military, and members of the reserves.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio.

Attorney General Alan Wilson announced a new program that will help Veterans, active duty military, and members of the reserve get free legal help. The program is called V.A.L.O.R., which stands for Veterans, Active/ Reserve Legal OutReach. Wilson said the program will better connect veterans and members of the military with legal help they need and may not know where to get or may not be able to afford.

50 years ago, Columbia resident Jack Van Loan was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. Recently, Van Loan spoke with South Carolina Public Radio about the six years he spent in captivity. Today, the retired Col. of the U.S. Air Force is preparing to serve once again, this time as Grand Marshal in the City of Columbia’s 39th annual Veterans Day Parade.

WATCH: Sights and sounds from the 2016 City of Columbia Veterans Day Parade 

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