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King Hagler, Joseph Kershaw statuary to be unveiled at Town Green

Camden native honors father’s legacy through gift to city

Posted: October 16, 2012 5:08 p.m.
Updated: October 17, 2012 5:00 a.m.

John Hagins Jr., a Camden native who is now a notable Greenville attorney, is making a gift of the statues being unveiled Oct. 25 on the Town Green to the city of Camden. Hagins Jr. is doing so in honor of his father's legacy. John Hagins Sr. opened Camden's Belk department store in 1934 and led the retail outlet until 1985.

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After a nearly year and a half wait, the city of Camden will celebrate the unveiling of a pair of life-size statuary of two of the city and county’s most notable figures on the Town Green on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 25.

City officials are inviting the public to the 3 p.m. unveiling of statues of Native-American leader King Hagler and Col. Joseph Kershaw, one of the founders of what would become Camden. The statues are being dedicated and donated by John A. “Johnny” Hagins Jr. in honor of the his late father, John Argis Hagins Sr. They are the creations of local artist Maria J. Kirby-Smith.

The bronze statues will depict the two Colonial-era figures exchanging gifts.

According to a city of Camden press release, King Hagler assisted the people of Camden and militia of South Carolina in their struggle during the French and Indian War. In 1826, King Hagler was immortalized in iron in the form of the city’s beloved weathervane atop the town clock tower. To this day, he is remembered as the “Patron Saint” of Camden.

Kershaw came to what is now Camden in 1758 and established a store called Pine Tree Hill in the then-named township of Fredericksburg. According to the press release, many believe because Kershaw’s company owned the land where the township was located, that he had a hand in planning the earliest “town” here. By 1798, a legislative act recognized a report regarding the boundaries of present-day Camden and credits Kershaw with much of its planning.

Hagins Jr., a managing partner with Covington, Patrick, Hagins, Stern & Lewis in Greenville, is a Camden native who said he wanted to do something to give back to the city where his father found so much success.

According to the city’s press release, Hagins Jr. is a former member of the S.C. House of Representatives and former president of the South Carolina Bar Association. His father, Hagins Sr., opened Camden’s Belk department store in 1934, leading the business until 1985. During those years, the store grew from a downtown storefront in the 1000 block of Broad Street to 1144 Broad St., now used as the Kershaw County Government Center and Camden campus of Central Carolina Technical College. Hagins Sr. also served as a board member of First National Bank of South Carolina; president of the Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce; president of the Camden Merchants Association; and as a member of Lyttleton Street United Methodist Church, where he was a member of the board of stewards.

Hagins Sr. passed away in 1995.

Hagins Jr. came up with the idea of having Kirby-Smith create the statues around the same time that Camden resident and philanthropist John Rainey decided to have Kirby-Smith create a separate pair of statues for the Camden Archives and Museum. Rainey is funding statuary, again life-size, depicting a fictional meeting between two of Camden’s most notable figures, baseball Hall of Fame inductee Larry Doby and Bernard Baruch, who helped fund what is now KershawHealth nearly a century ago. Those statues are slated to be installed in April.

Hagins Jr. said he hadn’t met Rainey before they independently came up with their ideas, but have met since then.

“John Rainey and I have gotten to be friends over this,” Hagins Jr. said.

Known for his cutting wit both in and out of the courtroom, Hagins Jr. noted the differences between himself and Rainey.

“While he goes for the throat,” he said of Rainey’s public battles with Gov. Nikki Haley, “I go for the funny bone.”

Hagins Jr. also said he is quite pleased with Kirby-Smith’s work.

“I didn’t know anything about her before this. I assumed she lived in Oregon or California. Then I looked her up (on the Internet) and saw she was from Camden,” he said.

Camden Mayor Jeffrey Graham recounted at a recent Camden City Council meeting of how Hagins Jr.’s involvement in the project came to be.

“We had strolled through the Town Green while it was under construction, and he expressed to me that he wanted to do something,” Graham said. “As a Camden native, he wanted to give something back to the community. He said he was impressed with what was going on.”

The mayor said Hagins Jr. was part of a renaissance in Greenville some 25 years ago.

“He wanted to make a similar contribution to what the community’s done with the Town Green. The only cost to the city is the foundations and they will become city property once placed there,” Graham said.

The Oct. 25 unveiling will take place at 3 p.m. on the west side of the Town Green near the alleyway to Broad Street.

According to other information forwarded by the city of Camden, Hagler and Kershaw are so important that the effort to determine what would be inscribed on the statutes became a community project for local historians. The inscriptions, to be revealed at the unveiling, are the collaborative work of at least seven historians, archivists and educators -- who also determined the spelling of King Hagler’s name.

“King Hagler and Joseph Kershaw looked into the future and envisioned, planned and protected our community,” city officials said. “We all celebrate their foresight and contributions, and John Argis Hagins’ legacy with the unveiling of these works of art.”


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