Kershaw County Councilman and Camden-Kershaw County NAACP Chapter President Sammie Tucker Jr. received the Bobby T. Jones Humanitarian Award from the Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce on Friday night. The chamber created the award following Jones’ death in 2017 to honor his impact on the entire Kershaw County Community, including his support of the chamber, work at The ALPHA Center, as a state transportation commissioner and educator.
“The award recipient may be anyone who serves the Kershaw County community but does not have to be a resident of Kershaw County or be a member of the chamber,” Executive Director Amy Kinard said. “We know that Bobby wouldn’t want restrictions on who is recognized, but instead would want to celebrate anyone who contributes to our community.”
With Teresa Wardlaw, owner of award sponsor Cool Care Heating & Air, Kinard announced that Tucker “has demonstrated courage, is willing to sacrifice for the benefit of others, and encourages a cooperative spirit.”
According to Kinard, Tucker was born and raised in the county and graduated from Camden High School in 1984. He joined the Navy as a submariner and then served in the Naval Reserves as a military police officer. In 1992, Tucker returned to Kershaw County and worked as a S.C. Highway Patrol trooper until 1998.
Voters in District 2 elected Tucker to Kershaw County Council in 2005. He is now the longest-serving councilman with 14 years, and currently serves as vice chair. He has also served as a coach with the Kershaw County Recreation Department for more than 20 years and runs a business teaching county youth how to drive safely.
“Sammie’s cooperative spirit is most evident in his leadership and participation in the NAACP,” Kinard continued. “Under Sammie’s leadership, the local group has become more involved in the community, not only working on, but improving, social events such as the family and friends day, voter registration drives, and the local Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. Rev. Marion Bennett shared, ‘Sammie is concerned with how all people get along and how they’re faring in the community.’”
Kinard noted the presence of Jones’ wife, Mary, and daughter, Susan. She said Mary Jones said that Tucker “has been a true friend of the Jones family for many years, and still visits and communicates with me on a regular basis. He is intellectually gifted and a team player.” Susan Jones, Kinard said, added that her father and Tucker are “two selfless leaders and lifelong friends (who) have always shared their love of people, community and service.”
President’s and Nettles awards
Later during Friday’s program, held at 833 South Broad in downtown Camden, Chamber President Kimberly Dixon announced the winner, appropriately enough, of the President’s Award, given annually to an individual or individuals who have contributed significantly for an extended period of time or have made significant contributions to the betterment of the community and a long-term commitment to improving Kershaw County and making it a better place for all our citizens and visitors. Dixon explained that members are asked to make nominations, but that the president -- in this case, she -- ultimately decides who to recognize.
Along with award sponsor KershawHealth’s interim CEO, Sue Shugart, Dixon announced that this year’s President’s Award went to Kathryn Johnson, director of LiveWell Kershaw.
“Even though she hasn’t been in Kershaw County for very long, she definitely has a long-term commitment to make our community a better place for all of our current and future residents,” Dixon said. “If you don’t know Kathryn Johnson, you need to get to know her. Kathryn joined the Community Medical Clinic team as an intern while still in graduate school at USC’s Arnold School of Public Health. As an intern, she worked in the last year of a three-year pilot project for LiveWell Kershaw.”
Dixon said that due to Johnson’s skills and talent, she was later hired as the LiveWell Coalition’s director.
“Since then, Kathryn has stepped up to the challenge required of the Healthy People, Healthy Carolinas program supported by the Duke Endowment. She has been strategic and intentional in her work to improve access to quality healthcare and encourage Kershaw County residents to take ownership of the health of the entire county, acting together to reduce chronic disease and obesity,” Dixon said.
She added that Johnson has brought together a wide variety of the county’s leaders and citizens, not only leading meetings, brainstorming sessions and focus groups, but leading a group of high school students to create plans for their individual schools on how to model healthy living and encourage others to do the same.
“From this group, each school has implemented healthy activities, such as brain breaks, and the distribution of fruit at dismissal time,” Dixon said.
Johnson was also a member of the All-America City delegation that traveled to Denver, Colo., where Kershaw County became one of 10 All-America award recipients, and the only county to do so.
“She helped share the story of Kershaw County’s teamwork and efforts to improve health,” Dixon said. “While you might be thinking, this is all a part of Kathryn’s job, I believe it’s much more than that. Kathryn has a way of supporting, guiding, encouraging and rallying people that is impressive for someone so young.”
Outside of work, Dixon said Kathryn is a member of the Kiwanis Club, supports the Junior Leadership Steering Committee as its secretary and is a recent appointee to the chamber board.
“Her commitment to betterment of Kershaw County through these activities and her volunteer time are why Kathryn is deserving of this award,” Dixon said. “However, we know that this is just the beginning of the things Kathryn Johnson can and will accomplish for our community. And, so, we look forward to even more great things to come. Kathryn’s ‘six-word story’ is ‘speaking softly and living loudly’ and she has certainly made a ‘loud’ impact on our community.”
Dixon also presented the William F. Nettles Award to James Plemons with ServPro of Kershaw and Lancaster counties.
The Nettles award is given to a volunteer who has gone above and beyond for the chamber during the past year and is given in the memory of William F. Nettles Jr., a long-time businessman and chamber supporter. Virginia Locke, vice president of human resources at award sponsor First Palmetto Bank, joined Dixon in presenting the award to Plemons.
“Not only has (Plemons) volunteered business time and personnel, but also stepped in when we had the need for a last minute presenting sponsorship,” Dixon said. “More specifically, (he) and his team helped us clean out years of storage from the Robert Mills Courthouse, move items to storage and then move items to our new office. These were not easy tasks and took days to accomplish, but the wonderful volunteer gave willingly and often. Words cannot fully express our appreciation for (Plemons) and his team.”
The chamber also handed out its business partner of the year award, this year, conferring the honor to two businesses. It also presented its small, mid-size and large business of the year awards.
• Business Partner of the Year Awards (for contributing significant time and/or resources to the Kershaw County School District during the current school year, sponsored by Central Carolina Technical College) -- Thomas Anderson, owner, Potter’s Computer & Repair Service; and FJ Rabon Construction owners Ashleigh and Ben Rabon.
• Small Business of the Year Award (sponsored by First Citizens Bank) -- Professional Development & Training Services, Kesha Hayes, owner.
• Mid-Size Business of the Year Award (sponsored by Cantey, Tiller, Pierce & Green) -- Cool Care Heating & Air, Teresa and Kenny Wardlaw, owners.
• Large Business of the Year (sponsored by AT&T) -- KershawHealth, Sue Shugar, interim CEO.