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

Cerrusite, an ore of lead, from the Gibbes Collection.  This and many other natural specimens can be seen and researched on  McKissick Museum's new online site.
Courtesy of McKissick Museum, University of S.C.

A growing new website is now available that enables both scholars and the public to access photos and information about the natural history of South Carolina. 

File graphic "no cell phones" symbol
Pixabay

Just as business is conducted with cell phones every day in the Palmetto State, illegal business is also conducted daily - by convicts with cell phones smuggled into South Carolina prisons.  

The “Lincoln School” was the first public school for black students in Sumter. The school was built in the late 1800s and started as a frame cottage with four classrooms. By the 1950’s, the school acquired an additional twenty classrooms, a cafeteria, a gymnasium, a library, and a band room. The last graduating class under the name of Lincoln High School was the class of 1969.  But nine years before the name change, in 1960, Lincoln would be one of 17 high schools in the state to participate in a national survey.

IAAM president Michael Moore at Gadsden's Wharf in Charleston
Victoria Hansen

For as long as he can remember, Michael Boulware Moore has known the story of Robert Smalls;  a slave who not only gained his freedom by commandeering a Confederate ship and turning it over to Union forces, but later served in the South Carolina State Legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives.

Moore didn’t read about Smalls in school. Such bravery by slaves during the Civil War wasn’t always taught.  Instead, he grew up hearing personal stories from relatives like his grandmother.  Robert Smalls was his great-great grandfather.

Presidents of South Carolina's eight HBCUs
Thelisha Eaddy/ SC Public Radio

There are eight historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in South Carolina. These institutions of higher education in the United States were established before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the intention of primarily serving the African-American community.

The Real I.D. is dentified by the gold star in the upper right corner.
Photo courtesy S.C. Dept. of Motor Vehicles

Many people enjoy traveling by air.  But after Oct. 1, 2020, they won't be able to board a commercial airplane in the United States, UNLESS they have the new "Real ID."  The new ID will replace current drivers' licenses and ID cards, and will be needed for people to gain entry to certain secured federal buildings and all military posts, as well as to board planes.

File
iAmMrRob via Pixabay

As hackers become more sophisticated at burrowing into business computers to steal everything from money to social security numbers and medical records, the need for protection grows ever more dire.  One way to help mitigate the damage, if not protect information from being stolen, was virtually unknown a decade ago.  But in the past five years or so, cyber insurance has become a must-have bulwark against hackers.

Courtesy of the Artist

Greenville artist Renato Moncini is a native of Italy, but between his journey from his homeland and his long residence in the South Carolina Upstate, he served more than a decade as what some call the "first artist of space."

Ann Marie Luc was just a year old when her mother gave her away in Vietnam.   She was born to a Vietnamese woman and an American father serving in the Army during the Vietnam War.  She had been passed between several families and had four different names by the time she was 17 years-old.   That’s when she moved to the United States with a birth certificate she says was not her own.

“A lot them buy and sell us,” she says of the adoptive families.  “A lot them just use us to come here."

It would be decades before Ann knew she had a sister, born during the war as well.

South Carolina to See a "Super-Wolf-Blood Moon"

Jan 18, 2019
Stages of a total lunar eclipse,  July 27, 2018. The first image was taken not long after moonrise, image at the center at about the maximum, last image on the right at the end of the eclipse.
Bernd Thaller [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr

Sunday, Jan. 20, South Carolinians will get a rare treat from the sky, as three events come together to form what some are calling a Super-Wolf-Blood moon.  A wolf moon is simply a traditional name for the full moon in January, and happens, obviously, every year.  However, this year it's occurring at the same time as a super moon, which S.C.

Late S.C. Hero Recalled World War II Exploits

Jan 10, 2019
T. Moffatt Burris, who died Jan. 4 at age 99, participated in numerous battles during World War II to help save the world.  He recalled some of those experiences in a 2016 interview with South Carolina Public Radio.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

South Carolina lost one of its heroes Jan. 4 when World War II veteran Moffatt Burris died at age 99.  He was one of many heroes who helped save the world from tyranny in the 1940s.  He fought to liberate Sicily and at Anzio to free Italy.  But perhaps his most memorable exploits, described in his memoir "Strike and Hold," came as  paratrooper who participated in Operation Market Garden, a failed attempt to hasten the end of the war with a massive troop jump into Holland. 

Protestors against offshore drilling gathered last month outside Charleston's Federal Courthouse
Victoria Hansen

It’s a campaign promise made during an ad last fall as he treaded water in the Atlantic Ocean.  Now Congressman Joe Cunningham is swimming hard against the powerful currents of Washington, as he tries to make good and protect the South Carolina coast from offshore drilling.

The first time politician announced Tuesday he will introduce the, "Coastal Economies Protection Act", as soon as he gets back to Washington, to prevent opening the Atlantic and Gulf Coast to drilling and seismic air gun blasting. 

Midlands Teenager is Champion Fiddle Player

Dec 31, 2018
West Columbia teen Ella Thomas plays gospel with her family, here, as well as classical with the South Carolina Youth Philharmonic and bluegrass with the band Palmetto Blue.  Thomas was last year's South Carolina Junior Old-Time Fiddle Champion.
Courtesy of the Artist

West Columbia teenager Ella Thomas is somewhat of a whiz with a violin in her hand. Whether she's playing classical with the South Carolina Youth Philharmonic, bluegrass with the band Palmetto Blue or gospel with her family band, her skill with a fiddle and bow last year earned her the title South Carolina Junior Old-Time Fiddle Champion.

From her Camden home, Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker can monitor the goings-on around the world by flipping through the TV news channels and keeping an eye glued to her Post, which she reads daily along with the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.  Parker is one of the most widely-syndicated columnists in America, read in more than 400 media outlets twice a week.  Like her colleagues, she started as a newspaper reporter – in her case, in Charleston – and moved through the ranks of various papers until an editor realized she had a voice “and I have difficulty keeping my voice

The inside of David Jones' practice balls are ribbed to give them strength.  The two halves are fused together by friction.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

David Jones and his son Brantley are baseball fans.  Brantley played as a youngster, and was so enthusiastic about batting practice that his older brother, who didn’t like the game, was forced by circumstance to invent a pitching machine so he wouldn’t have to pitch to his brother for hours every day.  That machine, created as a school science project when he was only 11, and Brantley just 9, became the foundation for a business. 

Modern chimney sweeps use high-tech equipment to keep chimneys and homes safe and clean.
Chimspector

Where the old image of the chimney sweep is a skinny guy with a big brush covered with grime and soot, the modern chimney sweep is much cleaner and uses high tech equipment in the 21st century, according to two Columbia sweeps.  There are about 30 chimney sweeps in the state, and they keep busy.   Sweep Drew Stein says dense plastic rods with brushes now are inserted into chimneys and spun with a drill to clean soot and creosote – a flammable byproduct of burning wood – from chimneys, which prevents dangerous chimney fires. 

And the winner is...
Vern Hart [CC BY-NC-SA 2.0] via Flickr

Candystore.com keeps an eye on the candy tastes of America, producing an interactive map of each state's favorite candies at various seasons of the year.  At Christmas, many states' favorite is candy canes, others prefer reindeer corn or Hershey Kisses.  According to the website, South Carolina's favorite Christmas candy is a classic:  M & Ms.  

A portrait of Judge J. Waities Waring hangs in the courthouse that bears his name.
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

When Charleston journalist Brian Hicks first heard the story of U.S. District Judge Julius Waties Waring, he knew what he must do; write a book about it.  He says the son of a Confederate soldier became an unlikely civil rights "hero," and that's a word Hicks doesn't often use. Yet, Waring's name is still fairly unfamiliar, and he was an eighth generation Charlestonian.

NY MTA [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr

Trivia games have been popular at South Carolina bars and restaurants for years, and the taste for trivia shows no sign of slowing down.  Nearly every night, teams of friends can be found competing for prizes by conjuring often-useless bits of little-known information from their memories.

10,000 More Kids in SC Now Without Health Insurance

Dec 5, 2018
Nick Youngson [CC BY-SA 3.0] Alpha Stock Images

Data from a new report indicates the number of uninsured children in the United States has increased for the first time in nearly a decade. According to the Georgetown University Center for Children and Family, between 2016 and 2017, the number of uninsured children increased by about 276,000. In South Carolina, that number is 10,000. Joan Alker is Executive Director of the Georgetown center, she spoke with South Carolina Public Radio about why these numbers are important.

Richland Library staff preparing to use the new empathy lab.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

Virtual reality and simulation tools are helping people in the Midlands "exercise their empathy muscle." Richland Library has a mobile empthy lab that travels to its various branches, giving customers the chance to "try on" someone else's life and see things from a new perspective. 

Binky is the breed standard for the Carolina dog, and has been given the registration number 1 by the American Kennel Club.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

A breed of dog that came to North America with man thousands of years ago over the Bering land bridge and was  overlooked in the South for many years has recently been saved from extinction with the help of a pair of Aiken breeders.  What is now called the Carolina dog, a common "yaller dog" of the South, was rediscovered by University of Georgia professor I. Lehr Brisbin in the 1990s and introduced to Billy Benton and Jane Gunnell, who became fascinated with the largely-unnoticed dogs - most of which had become wild - and began breeding them. 

Wynton Marsalis Jazzes Up the Holidays

Nov 28, 2018
Wynton Marsalis plays holiday songs with the jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra
Frank Stewart for Jazz at Lincoln Center

Ask Wynton Marsalis to name his favorite holiday song and he might tell you, “The Christmas Song” by Mel Torme.  Then he’ll likely explain it’s personal.  When Marsalis first moved to New York, he played in a show with Torme.  He was 18 years-old.

“The contractor thought I was only a classical trumpet player,” Marsalis recalled.  “He said this boy can’t play.  I don’t know why he’s playing this gig, and Mel heard me play and said, this boy can play.  Leave him alone.”

V.C. Summer Units 2 and 3 Aerial View, Jan. 2017.
SCANA

The question of who will pay for the failed V.C. Summer nuclear reactor project is now in the hands of the seven-member S.C. Public Service Commission, the state’s official utility rate setting authority.

Last week, the PSC completed three weeks of contentious hearings on how much South Carolina Electric and Gas Co. should be allowed to charge its over 700,000 electric ratepayers for the abandoned reactors.  They’ve already paid in over $2 Billion.

Lumapoche [CC0 1.0] via Pixabay

You may say to- MAY-toe and I may say to-MAH-toe, but the 1930s pop song "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" demonstrates playfully that there are often various ways to pronounce certain words.  Even numbers are subject to differences of opinion. 

A South Carolina resident figures in the story of  a Vietnam veteran's search for the man who saved his life when PBS and SCETV begin the second season of We'll Meet Again, hosted by Ann Curry, Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 8 p.m.  The program focuses on reunions of people whose lives have crossed at pivotal times.  The searcher is Dave Johnson, whose helicopter was shot down in Cambodia during the war.  Surrounded and under heavy fire, Johnson and five others were rescued by another helicopter crew led by pilot Bruce Grable.

Historians Observe Centennial of World War I's End

Nov 9, 2018
Suresnes American Cemetery, Suresnes, France
U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Ben Sowers/Released

Nov. 11 is Veteran's Day, which was once known as Armistice Day. It's also the 100th anniversary of the original Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1918, on which ended World War I, then known as "the Great War," or - with hope, but sadly, not truly - "The War to End All Wars."

Literary Classic "Frankenstein" Turns 200

Oct 30, 2018
A detail from the frontispiece of the 1831 edition. Steel engraving (993 x 71mm) to the revised edition of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, published by Colburn and Bentley, London 1831.
Theodore Von Holst (1810-1844) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Halloween brings out the ghoul and monster in both kids and adults, and a perennial favorite is Mary Shelley's ground-breaking character, Frankenstein.  Acknowledged as the first science fiction novel, Frankenstein has hit another milestone this year: first published in 1818, it turns 200, and has enjoyed popularity virtually from the moment of its first printing.  University of South Carolina English professor and Shelley expert Paula Feldman said the story speaks to the mysterious fears of our nature, and thus has remained popular through the centuries.  She revealed that the inspiration

The Citadel Encourages Diversity through Listening

Oct 25, 2018
Citadel faculty and members of the media take part in the school's first CitListen session.
Victoria Hansen

It’s been a little more a than year since the Citadel started  its Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Center.  One of the goals is to help the once all-male military college in Charleston acknowledge its history in perpetrating racism and continue to evolve into a more inclusive community.  The school is now holding what it calls CitListen sessions to encourage change through conversation.

Early childhood expert and author Helle Heckmann talks to educators and community members at an education summit in Florence
Victoria Hansen

A conference thousands of miles away in California has inspired an early childhood education public awareness campaign in Florence.  That’s where district one teachers heard a woman from Denmark talk about serving children’s needs so they are better able to learn and grow.  The speaker was author and early childhood education expert Helle Heckmann.

Pages