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“A” is for Aiken

South Carolina A to Z larger logo

“A” is for Aiken (Aiken County; 2020 Population 31,041). Incorporated in 1835 and named for railroad president William Aiken, Sr., Aiken owes its existence to the South Carolina Railroad, its personality to its erstwhile “winter colony” of wealthy northern sports enthusiasts, and its economic vitality and relatively cosmopolitan spirit to the U.S. government’s massive Savannah River Site nuclear weapons facility. In the 1890s the arrival of wealthy northerners led to a growing colony of visitors whose lives centered around horses and golf. Little changed in Aiken until the 1950s when the cold war spawned the Savannah River Plant. The quiet town of some seven thousand grew to over forty thousand well-educated transplants. However, Aiken managed to preserve much of its charm, retaining unpaved streets in the “horsy” section and taking pride in its heritage.

Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.