Two influential gentlemen were presented with awards during Monday evening’s celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Camden First United Methodist Church.
The program was organized by the Camden-Kershaw County Branch of the NAACP.
The first award, created to recognize those who have carried on King’s legacy, was given to Andy James for his continued service to the Kershaw County community.
“He really was like a father figure to me,” said Sammie Tucker Jr., who is vice chairman of Kershaw County Council. “He did more than just hire me and treat me as a young man … he helped me become a good young man.” The
Tucker said James “stood the gap when no one else did” and always did what he felt was right despite what was “popular or unpopular.”
“I take pride in having him as a mentor,” Tucker said. “And let me just say one thing -- he didn’t just take care of the little black boys in his school … If you were any little boy headed down the wrong path, Mr. James would jack you up!”
James has lived in Kershaw County for 35 years and served as a teacher at Baron DeKalb Elementary, assistant principal at Camden Primary and principal at Camden, Jackson and Pine Tree Hill elementary schools. He has been a guidance counselor at the Continuous Learning Center and was elected to serve on the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees for 12 years. In addition, he’s been an active member of the Camden-Kershaw County Branch of the NAACP, the Black Caucus, Cassatt Water Board and the ALPHA Center.
“We salute you as a perfect example of Dr. King’s vision,” Tucker said.
The Rev. William Gaither, local NAACP branch president, agreed.
“We are a much improved community because of Mr. James’ contributions. He has been a leader, a visionary,” he said.
The second award of the evening went to Clifton W. Anderson. E. Mike McClendon presented Anderson with the Order of the Silver Crescent, the State of South Carolina’s highest honor for volunteerism and community service.
McClendon read aloud a letter from former Gov. Mark Sanford.
“This award is in recognition for all you’ve done to better your part of the world over the years,” he read. “As the chairman of the Kershaw County Clean Community commission you have been an extraordinary force in the dramatic improvement of the landscaping of the county… Under your leadership, grants have been acquired, volunteers have been recruited, funds have been raised from the private sector and partnerships have been forged to facilitate innovative innovations and improvements… You set a powerful example as to how one person can have a tremendous impact in the lives of fellow man.”
Gaither said Anderson was the right person for the recognition.
“Mr. Anderson is most deserving of this award because of his many contributions. But something you may not know is that he is a member of the Camden-Kershaw County Branch of the NAACP.”
After the presentation, Anderson said for the first time in his life, he was speechless.
“I think the pride here in this community is fantastic,” he said. “Martin Luther King Jr. said it beautifully when he said ‘We have to work together and live together if we’re going to exist.’”
Following the awards, the crowd enjoyed musical selections from St. Paul United Methodist Choir, Sweet Home Baptist Church Choir and Mt. Moriah Baptist Church Choir.
The Rev. David L. Montgomery of Sweet Home Baptist Church was the guest speaker. During his remarks, he discussed the parallels between King and Moses.
“Both men were called by God to a task larger than men. Both had to navigate over vast terrain and vast wilderness. Both men dared to do good. Both could have had all the riches in this world, but were called upon from on high to serve.”
King taught that “anyone can be great, because anyone can serve,” Montgomery said. “And you don’t need a college degree to serve.”
Montgomery has been the pastor at Sweet Home Baptist church for the past 14 years and is a retired school administrator.
“Dr. King was slain in the prime of his life,” Montgomery said from the pulpit. “Dr. King didn’t live his full life, but here we are being blessed with his life work and legacy today.”