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Leadership Lancaster spends day in Columbia

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A day of state history

By Jesef Williams

I didn’t realize there were so many monuments and statues on the grounds of the Statehouse in Columbia.
Prior to last week, I had visited the building only once. And that was back in high school when I played in a special band on the steps to celebrate the Christmas season.
I remember playing a few yuletide songs, seeing the governor speak on the steps and then leaving. This time – minus a saxophone to tote and free of cold weather – my visit lasted much longer and was definitely more enlightening.
My trip May 1 was one of the latest installations of the Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Lancaster program. Since November, a group of local professionals have met at least once a month to learn more about a particular facet of society.
This day was about state government and history.
We spent the first few hours at the S.C. State Museum – a multi-level building on Gervais Street that used to be a cotton mill.
The first area we toured was a room devoted to Springs Cotton Mills’ controversial advertising in the years following World War II. The exhibit, called Between the Springmaid Sheets, featured a collection of visual advertisements that were considered quite risqué at the time.
And honestly, many of them still would be today. That bold effort, though, catapulted Springs back to prosperity by the 1950s.
“The controversy drew people’s attention,” said Tut Underwood, a spokesman for the museum. “It’s interesting to see what people considered shocking in 1948.”
A Civil War gallery and a display of life as an American slave also caught my eye, as did displays about Native Americans in South Carolina and the unique Gullah culture found along the coast.
A Statehouse visit
Following lunch at the museum, we headed over to the historic Statehouse. In a cool way, I felt like a third-grader taking a field trip about history as chamber President Dean Faile served as our quasi-tour guide.
In the past, it seems as if the only thing I’d hear about regarding the outside of the Statehouse was the controversy over the Confederate Flag, which no longer sits atop the building. It still rests on the grounds in front of the Statehouse, though.
There’s a statue of George Washington in front of the Statehouse steps. On the left side of the building, you’ll find a sizable bronze-sculpted display called the African American History Monument. There’s also a replica of the Liberty Bell on the grounds, as is a display honoring Lancaster’s J. Marion Sims.
In between walking around the grounds, we met with state Sen. Greg Gregory, who represents Lancaster County. He gave us insight on some of the issues being discussed in the General Assembly.
He spoke about the need for more money for roads and a bill he’s sponsoring that would enforce mental health background checks for people wanting to buy guns.
We also heard from Darrell Scott of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce and Chuck Claunch, a lobbyist with Duke Energy.
We later entered the Statehouse, where we briefly sat in the galleries for both the House and Senate. It was neat to be in the rooms where action is taken that directly affects the daily lives of so many people.

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at (803) 283-1152