Each year, the Greenwood County Democratic Party honors the legacy of three historical figures from Greenwood, South Carolina:
- State House Representative Marion P. Carnell
- State Senator John W. Drummond
- Dr. Benjamin E. Mays
These larger-than-life figures exemplified a lifetime of service to the community, the nation, and to the world. Our annual Carnell-Drummond-Mays Dinner is a celebration of their achievements and the ideals to which we, as Democrats, strive to uphold.
Marion P. Carnell
Born in 1928 in Ware Shoals, Marion Pinckney Carnell graduated from Ware Shoals High School in 1945 and then served in the US Navy for three years.
From 1957 to 2002 he co-owned and operated Piggly Wiggly stores in his home town and in Ninety Six. He served as the Representative for State House District 14 in for four decades where he acted on many committees and was known primarily for championing the causes of healthcare and higher education.
When he retired from the House in 2002, his colleagues passed a Concurrent Resolution honoring him for his many years of service, saying he was “universally known, respected, and admired for his principles and conscientiousness and as a person whose ability, intelligence, and humility have served the state so well for so many years..”
He attended Lander University, whose reputation he was instrumental in helping to grow. He received honorary degrees from various universities across the state. In 1991, the library at Piedmont Technical College was dedicated to him, and in 1992, the Carnell Learning Center opened on Lander’s campus.
The M. P. Carnell Bridge now spans across the Saluda River, linking the counties he served so admirably. He was committed to providing services to people with special needs and those whom society had forgotten.
The Marion Carnell Award is given to a person, who over an extended period of time, shows extraordinary support for community health centers, their patients, and their missions. He won many awards in his lifetime, including the Jaycee Man of the Year, American Legion Department South Carolina Legislator of the Year, and the South Carolina Downtown Development Association Special Service Award.
He was a member of First Baptist Church in Ware Shoals, past President of the Lions Club, past Commander of the American Legion, and a member of the Burton Center Foundation Board. Representative Carnell was truly a servant of the people.
See his fact page at scstatehouse.gov.
John W. Drummond
Senator John W. Drummond was a life-long servant of the people. He was a captain in the US Air Force, flying 47 missions in World War II, including close air support for troops invading Normandy on D-Day. He spent the last 10 months of the war as a POW in a German camp. Among his many World War II decorations are The Distinguished Flying Cross and two Purple Hearts.
After he returned to Greenwood, he started the Drummond Oil and the Greenwood Petroleum Companies.
He was elected to the House in 1965. In 1967, he was elected to represent District 10 in the Senate, where he served on many committees. In 1993, he became the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. He was elected President Pro Tempore of the Senate, the highest position a state senator can hold, in 1996.
He was so highly regarded by colleagues on both sides of the aisle that when an incoming Republican majority cost him his two senior positions of authority, the two parties got together and created the position of President Pro Tempore Emeritus for him. He was also the chairman for two committees honoring veterans and a special international emissary on behalf of the state.
While he had no college degree, he was awarded numerous honorary degrees from universities across the state. Both Lander and Piedmont Technical College have facilities named after him. He was an active proponent of the environment, with two educational centers named after him.
He was a member and deacon of First Baptist Church of Ninety-Six, former President of the Lion’s Club, and Commander of the American Legion. Senator John W. Drummond lived a full life, devoting the entirety of his 96 years to serving his community and his country.
You can read more details of Senator Drummond’s life:
- University of South Carolina Political Collections
- Index-Journal writeup on his passing
- A video of Senator Drummond speaking on Lessons from the Holocaust
- Fact page at scstatehouse.gov
Dr. Benjamin E. Mays
In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays in helping shape the soul of America, bridging the long road from post-slavery Reconstruction to the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and 60s. From extremely humble and difficult beginnings in Greenwood County, Dr. Mays found himself on the national stage, and on occasion, the world stage, as a leader and mentor in the constant struggle for racial equality.
Born in 1894 to former slaves in Epworth, South Carolina, young “Bennie” Mays knew he had a calling in life outside of the family cotton farm, where violent racism was rampant despite decades of “progress” since the Emancipation Proclamation. One of Mays’s earliest memories was of the Phoenix election riot in 1898 which terrorized and humiliated his parents in front of their children.
The black Baptist Church served as Benjamin Mays’s anchor and launching pad to a lifetime of intellectual and theological pursuit. In his soul, he knew that the Church of his parents had to be more than just a place of solace, one that promoted an acceptance of suffering in this life with a promise of a better world in the after. He had a conviction that God truly saw all of his creation as equal with qualities and talents that were limited only by the racial oppression of the times. He set out with determination to show that he was the equal of any white scholar or minister.
Dr. Mays’s lifetime of academics started in a high school in Orangeburg, SC where he graduated as Valedictorian. From there he went to Bates College in Maine to demonstrate that he could compete with the white students in the North. His journey continued as a teacher in Morehouse College in Atlanta, post-graduate work at the University of Chicago, executive secretary of the Tampa Urban League, National Student Secretary of the YMCA in Atlanta, and Dean of Religion at Howard University in Washington DC. In 1940, Dr. Mays accepted the position of President of Morehouse College where he remained until his retirement in 1967.
After a trip to India in 1936 as a delegate of the YMCA, Mays met with Mahatma Gandhi and wholeheartedly embraced the practice of nonviolent resistance. He spread this message among his students where the seed found root and grew in the anti-segregation movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s.
It was at Morehouse that Dr. Mays mentored many young African-American students, the most famous being Martin Luther King, Jr. Having been unable to have children of their own, Dr. Mays and his wife Sadie “adopted” King as their spiritual son, a fact that made his famous eulogy of Dr. King in 1968 so moving and painful.
Dr. Benjamin E. Mays was many things: A published author, a tireless worker, an intellectual among intellectuals, a fierce anti-segregationist, a Baptist minister, a mentor and role model to countless men and women. But first, before all of that, he was a child of Greenwood County. And even with statues and schools named in his honor, it will never be enough recognition for the imprint he left on the soul of our nation.