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Year in Review - Part 2 of 3

Train derailment, scoreboard controversy mark mid-year news

Posted: January 2, 2018 10:04 a.m.
Updated: January 2, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Provided by LF-R/

A train derailed in Lugoff about 1 a.m. Aug. 5. A dozen cars, including two locomotives and at least one tanker carrying hazardous material, left the track. By Aug. 6, CSX crews had removed the cars from the track and repaired it enough for trains to slowly move along the damaged area. No hazardous materials leaked and no one was injured.

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In early May, the Historic Camden Foundation announced the Palmetto Conservation Foundation (PCF) had transferred ownership of the 476-acre core Battle of Camden battlefield site to Historic Camden. The battlefield is a National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. During the last 15 years, PCF had worked to establish a 3-mile walking trail system at the site with interpretative signage and restoration of the longleaf pines that existed during the 1780 battle. Historic Camden said it planned to continue PCF’s work and strengthen the connection between Camden’s history and the larger Southern Campaign that led to winning the Revolutionary War.

May 2 marked primary day for a special election for South Carolina’s 5th U.S. Congressional District, the seat which became vacant when former U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney became director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. Seven Republicans, including Kershaw County candidates Sherri Few and Tom Mullikin, and three Democrats vied to become their parties’ candidates (along with five third-party candidates). Archie Parnell won the Democratic nomination outright, but Republican candidates Tommy Pope and Ralph Norman ended up facing each other in a runoff. Norman came out on top later in the month. He also beat Parnell in June to become the district’s new U.S. representative.

At the end of May (and reported June 2), the Kershaw County Humane Society announced it had to temporarily suspend the intake and adoption of dogs at the Thiel-Meyer Pet Adoption Center on Black River Road due a influx of suspicious canine distemper virus cases. The center had seen what it called “seven highly suspicious cases” of the virus with one case positively confirmed. By suspending intake and adoptions, the humane society hoped to control, treat and prevent the virus from spreading. The county later held distemper vaccination clinics at various locations in an effort to combat the virus.

Also in May:

• More than 30 cyclists -- from Arizona, Colorado, the Mid-Atlantic states, Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, New York and Wisconsin -- on their way to Washington, D.C., stopped in Camden in honor of fallen law enforcement officers.

• Late in the month, the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Foundation surprised former Mothers Against Drunk Driving Kershaw County chapter president Cheryl Jones by awarding her the 2017 Leonard Price Friend of Law Enforcement Award during what she thought was a meeting where she would be giving out an award.


Following an executive session during its first June meeting, the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees voted unanimously to authorize Kershaw County School District Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan to develop a formal agreement with KershawHealth to provide district-wide athletic training services. The agreement placed KershawHealth as taking the lead in terms of serving the entire district beyond trainers funded by the district at each high school. An affiliation would continue between Lugoff-Elgin High School and Moore Orthopedic, in Columbia, through Palmetto Health, but under KershawHealth’s leadership. KershawHealth’s services are through Camden Bone & Joint.

Although Affinity Living Group of Hickory, N.C., had purchased the former Shirley property on South Broad Street in January, it wasn’t until June that the company began having the land cleared and formally announced its plans: To construct a new assisted living/memory care center. Affinity officials said the 64-bed facility would include 24 rooms for memory care residents; the remaining 40 would be for assisted living residents. It said the $7 million facility would be similar to McElveen Manor in Sumter, an Affinity property, and would employ between 50 and 60 full- and part-time workers. The company said it hoped to open in May or June 2018 but, as of December, work had yet to start at the site.

In mid-June, a Kershaw County jury awarded a total of $225,000 to an east Camden couple following a four-day trial involving allegations the S.C. Department of Social Services’ (DSS) Kershaw County office kept a 66-year-old man in a skilled nursing facility against his and his wife’s wishes. The jury determined an individual caseworker falsely claimed the man was under DSS’ care and was in the process of obtaining a custody order when that, in fact, never happened. That claim allowed the caseworker to place the man in a Fairfield County nursing facility when she had no legal authority to do so. In effect, the couple’s lawyers successfully argued the caseworker by-passed the court system in order to unlawfully confine the man. That, in turn, led to injuries the man suffered in the nursing facility, where he stayed for 40 days the jury agreed he should not have spent.

Also in June:

• The Camden Police Department arrested Willie Lee Quattlebaum, 37, of Columbia, in mid-June for the May 25 armed robbery of TitleMax on West DeKalb Street. The department said Quattlebaum was likely linked to similar robberies in other jurisdictions.

• The Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office created an “internet exchange safe zone” in its headquarters’ parking lot on Ridgeway Road in Lugoff. The idea is -- with video monitoring -- to have a safe place where transactions involving large sums of money, items of high value or even child custody exchanges can occur.


In early July, Kristin Cobb announced she would step down at the end of the month after 10 years as executive director of the Fine Arts Center (FAC) of Kershaw County and would become the director of the Harbison Theater at Midlands Technical College. Cobb’s history with the FAC went back beyond her tenure as executive director, having been actively involved in productions and events during her high school years after moving here from Texas. She became marketing director in 2004 and tapped for the executive director’s position three years later. Rose Sheheen served as interim director before the FAC board hired Woody Goff to the post at the beginning of November.

A number of notable people passed away in 2017. One was Jimmie Green, who -- in addition to working as a certified public accountant -- served on Kershaw County Council for one term starting in 1969 and then served on Camden City Council from 1992 to 2000. Green died in mid-July at the age of 81. He was remembered by many as a “wonderful human being by longtime friends such as Frank Goodale, Peggy Mays and former fellow city councilman Vernon Hammond, who credited Green with having a “calming effect” on council. At the time of his death, the city of Camden had been planning a Leaders Legacy bench ceremony for Green and his brother, H. Davis Green.

The Kershaw County School District’s decision to loan $90,000 to Camden High School (CHS) to purchase and install a large digital scoreboard to install at Zemp Stadium stirred up a bit of controversy in July, which spilled into August. As word spread, opponents to the plan began posting comments on Facebook intimating that funds generated from a bond approved by voters in 2016 were being used to fund the purchase of a “jumbotron.” Referendum funds are only being used for safety and safety-related upgrades at any of the high school’s stadiums, along with new school construction and renovations. The district made it clear no referendum funds were used for the scoreboard and that CHS would have to pay the $90,000 -- which came from existing cash on hand -- within eight years.

Also in July:

• The city of Camden completed its lighting project at I-20 Exit 98 ahead of schedule, making it the only lighted exit between Clemson Road in Richland County and the city of Florence.

• Palmetto Citizens Federal Credit Union announced it would build its first branch in Kershaw County at the corner of West DeKalb Street and Battleship Road in Camden. In other business news, a Charlotte, N.C., company announced it would refurbish and reopen the Burger King  on East DeKalb Street.

• About 100 Bonds Conway descendants visited the Bonds Conway House on Fair Street at the FAC in late July, getting a chance to learn more about their famous ancestor and receive a specially-crafted gavel made from the Lafayette Cedar tree in front of the Kershaw County Courthouse.


A freight train derailed in Lugoff in early August, sending a dozen cars of the track and damaging a building. Unlike an Amtrak passenger train derailment, also in Lugoff, almost exactly 26 years earlier, no one was injured. During the derailment’s immediate aftermath, officials indicated the train struck a bulldozer that may have been deliberately placed there. Later in the month, CSX Railroad’s police department and the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office announced they were offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever placed the bulldozer on the tracks. 

Another major passing took place in August, that of respected businessman and former public servant Max Ford after a long battle with cancer. Friends, such Tom Cooper, Kershaw County Council Chairman Julian Burns, former chairman Steve Kelly Jr. and former C-I editor Glenn Tucker all said Ford had a strong devotion to family; savvy business acumen; an easy going, friendly honest demeanor; deep faith; and a love of life. Born in North Carolina in 1941, Ford’s family moved to Camden in 1949. After graduating from the University of South Carolina, he became a journalist, working with The State, United Press International and North Charleston Banner. He later became president of Midlands Printing and went on to serve on numerous boards and commissions before being elected to Kershaw County Council in 2000, serving for six years. The governor appointed him interim council chairman in 2010.

The sky went dark in Elgin at 2:42 p.m., we wrote of the Great American Eclipse that took place Aug. 21. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people gathered at Elgin’s Potter Community Park, which was within the eclipse’s path of totality where the Moon completely covered the Sun’s disc for 104 seconds. People came from elsewhere in South Carolina, but also from California; Florida; Georgia; Maryland; Massachusetts; New York; North Carolina; Virginia; and Quebec, Canada. Similar events took places at other spots in Kershaw County, including Historic Camden.

Also in August:

• City officials and others broke ground on the new Hampton Inn being built on Sumter Highway (U.S. 521) not far from I-20 Exit 98, marking the first new hotel to be built in Kershaw County in 15 years.

• Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews announced he would not run for a third term in 2018, launching a flurry of candidacy announcements. So far -- in the order of the announcements -- Donald Branham, Lee Boan, Jack Rushing, Eric Tisdale and Anthony Bell, all Republicans, said they would run in the June 2018 primary.

• Lugoff-Elgin High School (L-EHS) filed and lost appeals with the S.C. High School League, protesting it being transferred into an expanded 5A athletic region, The denials mean the school will play 5A teams starting in the fall of 2018.

• The Bethune Chicken Strut returned in August following a several years hiatus, thanks to the efforts of Bethune Police Chief Joey Cobb and his wife, Stacy.


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