South Carolina Focus

SC Focus is a regular feature of South Carolina Public Radio.  As its name suggests, the segment focuses on the Palmetto State and its people.  It covers a wide variety of subjects, from South Carolina's war veterans to scientists, musicians and other topics, both serious and whimsical.  SC Focus can be heard at various times throughout the week during our news program on all South Carolina Public Radio stations.

Ways to Connect

   In a vault at the University of South Carolina’s Thomas Cooper Library reside numerous collections of rare books and papers from some of the world’s great writers – F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Robert Burns, to name a few.   Elizabeth Suddeth, director of Rare Books and Special Collections, takes us to the vault and talks about how the library attracted these collections, and its growing reputation as a destination for researchers and a magnet for prestigious literary collections. 

  Charles Courtney Tew was an educator, a soldier and, in 1846, was the first graduate of The Citadel.  As a Colonel of the 2nd N.C. Regiment, he was killed at the battle of Antietam,  His sword, a present from his students at the Arsenal in Columbia, was taken from him and disappeared for a century and a half.  David Goble, director of the Citadel’s Daniel Library and Museum, and Citadel historian Steve Smith discuss the mystery and trace what is known of the path that brought the rediscovered sword back to the military school – from Canada! 

  Some flood victims who applied for relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency received letters of ineligibility.  But FEMA’s Carl Henderson that may just mean some detail was omitted , and he encourages people who have received these letters to visit their local disaster recovery center and talk with FEMA representatives.  Some may be eligible after all.

SBA Disaster Loan interview. (File Photo)

    Even if a survivor of the recent floods in South Carolina doesn’t plan to accept a loan from the Small Business Association, he or she is encouraged to apply, because the application may make them eligible for other assistance.  Homeowners, renters, small businesses and even nonprofits may benefit from loans for disaster-related damage.

FEMA Offers Free Legal Services to Flood Survivors

Nov 3, 2015

  In the wake of October’s historic floods, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is offering legal services at no charge to people who can’t afford a lawyer. FEMA Public Information Officer Carl Henderson says the legal problems people may encounter could vary from disputes with contractors to insurance claim issues and more.

Survivors who have flood-related legal issues and cannot afford a lawyer should call 877-797-2227 ext. 120 OR 803-576-3815 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

  Number 38 on the Summerville High School football team has a different approach to the game. That’s because #38 is different, a first for the Green Wave: she’s a girl. Emaleigh Tuggle came to the team as a kicker, also having played on the school’s girls’ soccer team. She talks about what it’s like being the only girl on the team, and her coach, Joe Call, discusses what he saw in her that convinced him she’d make a good addition to the team. They both think more girls should, and most likely will, play football.

File photo. A polo match.

  Though unseen by some, the large horse community of South Carolina has made polo a big industry in Aiken County. Tara Bostwick likens Aiken’s Whitney Field to the polo equivalent of the Augusta National golf course, a bucket-list destination for polo enthusiasts worldwide. She says the sport is not as much for the wealthy as it may appear, but it does generate a huge economic impact for the area. Retired player Tiger Kneece, who has started a kids’ polo program, also talks about what it takes to play the sport.

Russ McKinney gives an update of the continuing saga of the changing North Carolina/South Carolina border.  Some residents are unsure exactly which state live in.

  Frankenstein’s monster is a classic of fiction, movies, and other media, and also a Halloween staple. The novel has not been out of print in the two centuries since it was published in 1818. USC English Professor Paula Feldman, an authority on the life of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the author of “Frankenstein,” talks about the real life tragedies in Shelley’s life that caused her to wish she could bring the dead to life again, and the dreams that inspired the writing of the classic book that is regarded as the first science fiction novel.

  Over an incredible 63 years, John McKissick coached the Summerville High School Green Wave to an amazing 621 wins, the most of any football coach at any level, as well as 10 state championships. He retired in June of this year, and just turned 89. In this South Carolina Focus segment, the legendary coach talks about his work ethic and his philosophy of football, as he is praised by a former player and the new coach at Summerville, Joe Call – who happens to be McKissick’s grandson.

Maria Contreras-Sweet

  Maria Contreras-Sweet, head of the U.S. Small Business Administration, came to South Carolina to meet with local officials, residents, and business owners to talk about the ongoing recovery efforts after the historic flooding. Working alongside FEMA, the SBA offers disaster relief in the form of low interest rate loans for homeowners, renters, and business owners.

File: Fair Ride
Susanna Berggren

  One of the fall traditions in South Carolina is a visit to the South Carolina State Fair. Part of the tradition for many is eating food that we don’t normally eat. Today we talk with vendors of such delectable – and sometimes weird – foods as elephant ears, chicken with Frosted Flakes, deep fried candy and doughnut burgers, and find out why the South Carolina State Fair is one of their favorite fairs.

Erosion caused by Hurricane Joaquin at North Myrtle Beach.
Courtesy of

  The recent rains, floods and storm surge produced by Hurricane Joaquin caused many areas of South Carolina’s beachfront to erode. Folly Beach lost approximately 400,000 cubic yards of sand to the storm.

Nicole Elko, executive director of education group South Carolina Beach Advocates, tells why wide beaches and high dunes are important not only for tourism, but for the protection of beach property and infrastructure. Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin explains the hierarchy of storm damage and the mixed blessing of sea turtle nesting areas in rebuilding the beach.

Overflow from this normally small creek caused flood waters to wash out a portion of Bluff Road.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

    As flood waters continue to recede in South Carolina and the threat to roads, dams and property is diminishing, the water can still pose a hazard to the many South Carolinians who get their water from private wells. Robert Yanity and Dr. Linda Bell of DHEC say that illnesses from contaminated water can still pose a danger.

Gov. Nikki Haley in press conference at the SC Emergency Management Division. (File Photo)

    It's been almost two weeks since the first rainfall from this month's torrential storm hit the state. And, with the exception residents and businesses who suffered substantial losses, the state seems to be back on it's feet. All major highways are open, schools have re-opened, only a few hundred people remain in the seven shelters that are still open, and Columbia's water problems have been corrected.

On Wednesday, Governor Nikki Haley thanked the citizens of the state for getting through it, saying "We know that we are coming to brighter days."

  Insurance agents have been in great demand since the recent floods that swept the state. Agent Courtney Young has been busy representing her clients with the insurance companies. She tells us that while most people in the Midlands don’t have flood insurance, FEMA can step in to help those without flood coverage. She reminds policyholders to make sure they have plenty of documentation with their claims – photos of the damage, receipts if they’ve already started repairs - and to keep large items for insurance adjusters to inspect, even if they’ve been removed from the house.

Labrador Retriever
Karsten Paulick/File

The recent flood took a toll on not just the human population: many pets were lost in the storm as well. Fortunately, Midlands animal adoption centers have ways to reunite many of these animals with their owners. Their representatives have some advice for pet owners to make it easier to find their pets– and keep them healthy – in the event of future severe weather events.

DOT workers fill the washed out bridge approach on Bluff Road at I-77.
Tut Underwood

  Road crews from the S.C. Dept. of Transportation are scattered across the state, repairing roads and bridges as swiftly as possible, though it will be months before all are back in service.

Gov. Nikki Haley in press conference at the SC Emergency Management Division. (File Photo)

   Governor Nikki Haley says that, in the wake of historic flooding, the state is now moving " from a massive response situation to a massive recovery situation."

FEMA Disaster Assistance Interview

    On this South Carolina Focus, Laura Hunsberger talks with Ryan Deal, FEMA External Affairs Officer, about how FEMA decides which counties are eligible for individual aid. The bottom line from Deal and Governor Haley: Everyone who had damage or losses from the floods should register with FEMA as a first step. Call 1-800-621-3362 or visit to register.

  As waters from the recent flood rush from the Midlands toward the coast, the South Carolina Department of Transportation already has 200 engineers in 35 teams inspecting roads and bridges to assemble a priority list of what needs doing first, as troopers from the Department of Public Safety work to keep people safe and observing road closings.

Some smaller jobs are already being done, says DOT spokesman Pete Poore, who adds that the department has a resource little known to most – a small supply of pre-cast concrete and steel bridges to speed some bridge replacements.

Secretary Jeh Johnson with Governor Nikki Haley (left) and other South Carolina officials.
U.S. Coast Guard

  Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is visiting South Carolina today to meet with federal, state and local officials and assess the flooding and recovery efforts. He is scheduled to travel to Columbia and Charleston, but Congressman Jim Clyburn says he hopes to show the Secretary other areas affected by the flooding.

Extended Version:

  Newscast Version:

As people are digging out from the effects of the state’s historic floods and keeping an eye out for what’s next, they may not be aware of the storm’s effects on another phase of South Carolina life:  its wildlife. 

  The South Carolina Department of Transportation will begin roadside debris pick-up on Monday. Residents should sort items by category.

Aerial view of the Charleston, S.C. area, Oct. 5, 2015.
U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Lehmann

  Major flooding is possible near the mouths of several coastal rivers. Gov. Haley warns that the flooding, expected in the Georgetown, Pawleys Island, and Givhans Ferry areas, could last for days. 

U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham says the state will need assistance beyond what FEMA can provide, and hopes to bring in federal highway dollars and block grants to help. U.S. Representative Jim Clyburn says that many of the road and bridge failures have occurred because past neglect of infrastructure. Russ McKinney reports.

The cleanup process has  begun for many Midlands residents following the historic rain and floods that hit the state over the weekend.  Hampton Oliver and Tammy Moshier recall their rescues by good hearted strangers, the damage to their homes and what they’ve learned from an experience they hope no one will go through again.

(File Photo)

  Shelters across the state have taken in hundreds of displaced people during the flooding, and communities have come together with donations for people who had to evacuate. To find out how to help or what items are needed most, visit ( or call 1-888-585-9643.

The corner Of Wentworth and Barre in Charleston at low tide October 7, 2015.
Courtesy of Jessica Hofford

  Russ McKinney outlines Governor Haley's press conference and the concern for flooding as coastal rivers being to rise.

  Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is visiting South Carolina today to meet with federal, state and local officials and assess the flooding and recovery efforts. He is scheduled to travel to Columbia and Charleston, but Congressman Jim Clyburn says he hopes to show the Secretary other areas affected by the flooding.

Forest Drive near Four Paws, Columbia Classical Ballet and other businesses were heavily damaged by floodwaters in South Carolina's October flood.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Though the sun is out and some flood waters are receding, there is still danger from ruptured streets, bridges and dams across the Midlands and across much of South Carolina. In the Midlands, authorities including the Columbia Police Dept., Richland County Sheriff, Columbia Fire Dept., the military and even SLED are teaming to comb the area and offer assistance to those in distress.