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Camden’s Leaders Legacy program kicks off with first set of benches

Posted: July 16, 2013 4:58 p.m.
Updated: July 17, 2013 5:00 a.m.
Photos courtesy of Johnny Deal/Bowtie Photography

Members of the late Mayor Austin Sheheen Sr. gather at the bench honoring him near the Camden Archives and Museum. They include (front row, left to right) Fred, Austin, Rose and Bob Sheheen, (back row, left to right) Thomas Bishop, Margaret Bishop, Olivia Bishop, Robert Spring, Maria Spring, David Bishop, Anthony Sheheen, Austin Sheheen, Vincent Sheheen and Amy Sheheen.

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Friday, more than 80 people crowded into the Camden Archives and Museum to help dedicate the first five benches in the city of Camden’s new Leaders Legacy recognition program. City officials moved the ceremony indoors due to a rainy forecast. Luckily, the rain held off long enough for honorees and their families to have their pictures taken at each respective bench outside.

Those being honored include former Camden mayors James Anderson, Phil Minges and Austin Sheheen Jr.; local physician Paul T. Joseph Sr.; and community leader Ruby Minton. Former Mayor Jeffrey Graham nominated the first five honorees, approved by council last fall.

The 2 p.m. ceremony included a welcome by Camden Urban Forester Liz Gilland; an invocation by Rev. Ellis White Jr., pastor of Camden First United Methodist Church; and opening remarks by current Mayor Tony Scully.

“Some of those we recognize today -- Ruby Minton and Paul Joseph and Mayor Minges -- are still actively contributing, although not necessarily taking their bows, and they will, and they should,” Scully said. “Others, as we well know, Mayor Anderson, whose daughter, Penny, honors us with her presence today, and Mayor Austin Sheheen Sr., have passed on.”

Scully quoted Shakespeare’s Julius Caeser regarding how “the good is often interred with their bones.”

“Maybe so, but I choose to believe otherwise. I choose to believe that our dead heroes remain with us if we open our hearts and that when we remember the good that people do, when we hold them close in memory and spirit, when we recognize them, as we do today, they challenge us to a higher standard,” he said.

The mayor then noted that those in attendance were close to the recently installed statuary of philanthropist Bernard Baruch and baseball Hall of Famer Larry Doby. He also noted that they were near the historic Reynolds, which once served as the Confederate Medical Dispensary, where President Abraham Lincoln’s brother-in-law, Dr. George Todd, once worked.

“We need a marker there, and we’ll get one,” Scully said. “We need to remember our wars, however tragic, so that we learn from those who struggled for their principles and we learn about their sacrifice. And learn to question what must be questioned.”

He also noted the existence of a plaque honoring Sara Kenndy von Tresckow, who worked with Andrew Carnegie to create the very space they were standing in, the Carnegie Library portion of the archives.

“Finally, whether we were born here or came late, because we choose to live here, we have entrusted our souls and our hearts to Camden -- and because of that we are, in so many ways, all of us, descended from Mrs. Von Tresckow and Mr. Baruch and Mr. Doby and Mayor Anderson and Mayor Sheheen. And we are, in so many ways, joined at the hip with Mrs. Minton and Dr. Joseph and Mayor Minges,” Scully said, turning the program over to Graham, who made his nominations based on the impact they have made in the community.

“People may not know who these individuals are in the future, but these benches showcase a living legacy for current and future generations,” Graham said.

According to city officials, honorees are individuals, either living or deceased, who have exemplified a positive manner, integrity and strong character. Officials said they hope publically honoring these individuals will encourage others to also make similar opportunities.

Graham said he sees the program as an opportunity to honor individuals as well as beautify the community by adding the benches throughout the city.

Each of the honorees, or their representatives, spoke near the end of the program. They then headed outside to have their pictures taken. The benches honoring Anderson, Minges and Sheheen are located on the Laurens Street side of the archives; those honoring Joseph and Minton are in the northeast quadrant of Monument Square under a live oak.

Affixed to each bench is a plaque with the each honoree’s name engraved on it. Future benches will also be placed in areas such as a park, green space or municipal building. Those wishing to make nominations may do so by going to the city’s website, clicking on “City Government” near the top of the page and then choosing “Leaders Legacy Recognition Program” in the left-hand navigation bar. There, they can find a link to a nomination form. According to the website, each bench costs approximately $2,300 to install.

For more information, call City Manager Mel Pearson at 432-2421.


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