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Year in Review - Part 3 of 3

Passings, new race and Kendall Mill celebration mark latter part of year

Posted: January 4, 2018 11:10 a.m.
Updated: January 5, 2018 1:00 a.m.


Hurricane Irma threatened a large swath of South Carolina, causing the school district to suspend classes and even the C-I offices to close early. Having crept up the East Coast over the course of a week, Irma didn’t actually reach Kershaw County, but managed to leave a few marks anyway. The biggest problem was trees -- and not just downed tree limbs. In Camden, the top half of a tree on Cantey Parkway broke off, bringing down a power line, and downed trees blocked streets in Lugoff and other parts of the county. The power went out in portions of Camden for several hours, and Camden High School was used as a shelter, housing 31 people from the county and even from out of state.

Pay Wylie is remembered as an outstanding and influential teacher, musician, community icon and friend. Wylie, the former band director at Camden Middle School (CMS) and founder of the Camden Community Concert Band, passed away in mid-September at the age of 76. He also served as the “voice” of the University of South Carolina Marching Band, often intoning “Keep your seats, ladies and gentlemen” at Williams-Brice Stadium. Born in Greenville, Wylie graduated from Furman University, served in the U.S. Army as an officer in the adjutant general corps and taught at various schools before coming to Camden in 1972. In addition to being band director at CMS, he assisted with the Camden High School Scarlet Regiment marching band. Wylie retired in 1997.

The inaugural Revolutionary Run Half Marathon took place Sept. 23, starting and ending at Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site, winding through downtown Camden and the historic district. The 13.1-mile race attracted racers and their families from 25 cities in nine states in addition to from around South Carolina. Approximately 260 runners participated, with 70 from Kershaw County and 182 runners from elsewhere. The race generated a net income of $9,200 for Historic Camden, and plans are already being made for the September 2018 event, which will add in a 5K race in the hopes of attracting 500 participants.

Also in September:

• The potential developers of 23 acres of land between Campbell Street and Ehrenclou Drive petitioned the city of Camden to rezone the tract from general business district to residential R-6 zoning, which would provide for the smallest lot sizes allowed in the city. In October, the developer and Quaker Cemetery agreed to a small property swap in order to create a greater buffer between the historic cemetery and future neighborhood.

• During a Camden City Council meeting, Ken Simmons, of KBS Associates, presented a plan to convert the former remaining wastewater treatment plant lagoon into an educational/recreation wetland environment with access to the Wateree River.


The city of Camden celebrated the completion of major street and utility renovations in the Kendall Mill Village community by hosting a special tour of five homes and a performance by the Camden Community Concert Band in Kendall Park. The tour and concert served several purposes for the Kershaw County Historical Society: highlighting the restoration and renovation of older homes and structures and urging others to do the same; awaken memories and awareness of the community’s rich history; and encourage interest in an upcoming exhibit at the Camden Archives and Museum (Jan. 30-Aug. 11) focusing on the history and people of Camden’s early textile mills.

October saw the passing of two major education figures in modern Kershaw County history: Amy J. McLester and Bobby Jones. McLester died early in the month at the age of 83, leaving behind a legacy that stretched over 40 years and included teaching, being the first African-American female principal of a county district school and, with her late husband Thomas E. “Daddy Mac” McLester, supporting a scholarship for graduating African-American high school students. More than that, she served as a role model and guide for dozens of women in education in Kershaw County.

In addition to education, Jones was involved in politics and public service, community activism and children’s advocacy, working for many years as a counselor at The ALPHA Center. As an educator, Jones started at Midway Elementary School, first as a teacher and then as principal. In politics, he was a long-time member of the county’s Democratic Party, served three terms as a S.C. Highway Commissioner and guided political campaigns (including for Kershaw County State Sen. Donald Holland). Most of all, current State Sen. Vincent Sheheen said, Jones “loved being around people, loved bringing them together,” especially through his wry, down home wit, even writing his own obituary that invited everyone to “attend his relocation celebration.”

Also in October:

• The Health Services District of Kershaw County signed a new management agreement for The Karesh Long Term Care Center with White Oak Management Inc. KershawHealth’s parent company, Regional Care Hospital Partners Inc. (a merger of Capella Healthcare and another company) had run the Karesh wing after the formerly public hospital went private. White Oak is scheduled to take over management of Karesh on Feb. 1.

• The Bethune Lions Club celebrated 65 years of service to the community with a banquet at the Bethune Woman’s Club, during which State Sen. Vincent Sheheen presented resolutions honoring members Carroll King and Merrill Brown for their long years of service.


The city of Camden and Kershaw County officially opened the Sweet Gum Trail in early November -- a paved, connecting walking and biking path between Woodward and Scott parks. The 10-foot-wide, 2/3-mile trail is the first of a series of projects designed to connect to other trails, parks and greenways across the county. Future trails may connect to the proposed educational/recreational wetland at the city’s former wastewater treatment plant lagoon. The city has already determined what it will work on next: resurfacing Scott park’s dirt walking trail as an 8-foot-wide asphalt trail that will easily connect to the Sweet Gum Trail.

Camden Middle School (CMS) celebrated with 8th Grader Anthony Lyles when he learned he is one of only 10 students across the entire country to receive a “Be Fearless, Be Kind” award for his support of CMS’ Special Olympics Champion Unified School program (formerly known as Project Unify). Special Olympics recognized Anthony for leading fellow mainstream students in working and playing sports with special needs students. As a result, the school will receive $1,000 in Anthony’s name to help support the program, which special needs teacher Ashley Middleton said would be used, mostly, to offset transportation costs.

Also in November:

• The Kershaw County Job Readiness Training (JRT) program, housed in the Jackson Teen Center, was honored as the No. 1 JRT site in the state, honoring the work of director Roberta Langley-Mayes and her charges in going beyond merely getting teens jobs at business in the community.

• In a somewhat unusual piece of crime news, a Kershaw County Grand Jury declined to indict Kenneth Cordell Rainer, 42, of Elgin, for the May 9 shooting death of a man never identified by the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO).

• In other crime news, however, an incident at Club Sauce on U.S. 1 North outside Camden took place during which several people reportedly fired 30 rounds of gunfire, striking at least one man who was taken to the hospital. Although the KCSO said it had identified a person of interest, there have been no verified arrests.


As the year began to wind down, December brought news that:

• Kershaw County School District students will have unequal semesters for the 2018-19 school year in an effort to have the first semester end before that year’s winter break while still providing 90 days of instruction;

• the city of Camden is in the process of annexing another piece of commercial property at I-20 Exit 98 that could be developed;

• a group called Friends of Zemp is raising funds to provide enhancements to the stadium beyond those allowed by the November 2016 referendum;

• the school district and county council’s joint ad hoc committee had come up with a preliminary growth funding formula to deal with projected enrollment increases; and

• the city of Camden honored former Mayor Tony Scully and his wife, Joy, with a Leaders Legacy bench at Kirkwood Common during the best-attended such event since the program began several years ago.


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