A look back at the year
2021 -- Tragedy ...
2021 - A Look Back
Significant dates during the past year:
Jan. 6 - City of Clinton to issue $14 million revenue bonds, on a 30 year pay back, to renovate the Police and Fire Departments and finish the Recreation Complex - $6.5M for Police/Fire and $7.5M for Recreation.
Jan. 13 - Luke Rankin, Garrett McDaniel, Diane Anderson and David Tribble, Laurens County Council, and Vickie Cheek, Coroner, take their oaths of office. Later, McDaniel resigns to take a position in housing with the Biden Administration, and Shirley Clark is elected for the remainder of his term.
Laurens County’s Covid infections near 4,300 - now it’s 12,338 (Dec. 21 number).
Jan. 27 - Civil rights advocates celebrate the work of Laurens County residents two days before the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. observance and four days before President Biden is sworn in as President.
Feb. 3 - Since school began in August, 35% of Covid in District 56 is at Clinton High School; the worst day was Dec. 28 - 9 infections.
Feb. 14 - Consultants tell Clinton City Council building a Recreation Complex is do-able on a “beautiful piece of property.”
March 3 - 9 SC Press Association awards are won by The Clinton Chronicle, including 3rd Place General Excellence in its category - the 5th excellence award in 6 years for the local newspaper.
March 10 - District 56 announces it will offer Covid vaccines to teachers, with Self Regional.
City incumbents Danny Cook, Robbie Neal and Ronnie Roth are re-elected.
March 17 - Laurens County Council puts Jon Caime on leave, and names Dale Satterfield as interim county administrator. Also, Kevin Uldrick is named director of the Emergency Management Service. Before the year is out, Thomas Higgs comes over from the City of Clinton to become the new Laurens County Administrator (August).
Thornwell announces reinventing its dormant farm - Lush Acres Farm is up and running today.
March 24 - District 56 announces $750 Covid bonuses for employees.
Clinton City Council begins discussion of sale of Hwy 72 property, at the city’s gateway from I-26, to a developer. Another bid on the property is made, and the sale for residential development is suspended indefinitely.
March 31 - Three discussions are held behind closed doors as Laurens County Council decides what to do about Jon Caime (his contract was terminated and he now works for Anderson County).
Clemson Summer Scholars Camp announces scholarships for Clinton High School students. CHS Science Olympiad Team heads for Nationals, a virtual event after being set for Arizona State.
April 7 - Unity Walk has citizens pledging support for police and for civil rights. It’s part of the nationwide Spring of Reckoning after the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minnesota and other high-profile civil rights matters.
April 21 - Harold Nichols replaces Gene Simmons at the Clinton YMCA as executive director. Nichols is a Presbyterian College alumnus and former football head coach. Simmons started at the local Y on June 1, 1977.
April 28 - New QT gas station and a Food Lion in the former Bi-Lo grocery become major players in Clinton’s economy during a post-pandemic economic revival.
District 56 announces free breakfast and lunch for all students for the next 4 years, meaning a major savings for families’ bank accounts.
May 5 - Michael Henry Miller of Fountain Inn dies after catching on fire on his motorcycle during a Laurens County Sheriff’s Office traffic stop. Teen friends Jasmine Peake and Maddie Simmons die together in an ATV accident in Joanna.
Clinton High boys tennis bounces back from a Covid postponed season to an 11-0 mark headed to the AAA State Playoffs.
May 12 - Presbyterian College announces the hiring of Kevin Kelley as football head coach - he tweeted his resignation after a 2-9 fall season.
May 15 - District 56 announces that it is a National Beta District of Distinction, one of 24 districts to receive the distinction.
May 26 - The District 56 Board decides on a new budget, avoids a property tax hike for the 7th consecutive year.
June 2 - Elizabeth James gets a 90 day jail sentence after conviction on a misdemeanor ill-treatment of animals charge in the Champ case.
The Echo Theater’s marquee is lighted for the first time in 25 years - it will become a civil rights reconciliation center (the former Redneck Shop in downtown Laurens).
June 9 - Clinton City Councilman Danny Cook says he has been accused of dirty tricks in an anonymous letter. It involves a difference of opinion over selling land on Hwy 72 for residential development.
Authorities identify Jeremy Ferguson as a suspect in a stabbing at Hot Spot, Hwy 221, Laurens, and Devon Rhys Neal as a shooting suspect in a fatal incident at Countryside Townhouses in Clinton.
June 16 - Outstanding academic competition teams are commended by the District 56 Board at Clinton High School and Clinton Middle School, and a successful spring season is celebrated by the CHS Athletic Booster Club.
June 23 - Clinton High School conducts its second consecutive spring outdoors commencement at Wilder Stadium.
Tammy Stewart resigns from the District 56 Board to become a reading interventionist. Her spot is earned by retired educator Teresa Corley in a special election.
June 30 - Laurens County and the Cities of Laurens, Clinton and Fountain Inn sign a pact to enforce litter laws and commit resources to the Chamber of Commerce in an ongoing fight against people who trash the county.
July 7 - In Gray Court, Fibertex breaks ground on its North American headquarters, and that investment should put Laurens County over the $100 Million mark for 2021.
The Revolutionary War returns for a lecture series at the Laurens County Museum. By year end, a citizens committee will have asked the Laurens County Council to give it more than $660,000 for a comprehensive program to commemorate the 250th Anniversary of American Independence starting in 2026.
July 14 - A City of Clinton - Laurens County Memorandum of Understanding is signed for Capital Sales Tax projects - a new Clinton Library, a renovated Martha Dendy School/Recreation Center, and water, sewer, and street projects in Clinton. The Capital Projects Sales Tax was approved by a majority of Laurens County voters, Nov. 3, 2020.
July 21 - Residents in and near the City of Clinton are concerned after SC DHEC posts to the site a notice about a wastewater residue transfer station on Hwy 56. H20 Blue eventually decides to go somewhere else.
July 28 - Laurens County Development Board announces it will move from the Professional Park to the Midtown Building in downtown Laurens - a move that board member, the City of Clinton says “surprised us.” Officials including Mayor Bob McLean and County Council Member David Tribble express objections, but there is no move to reconsider the action.
Aug. 4 - Laurens County Water & Sewer Commission announces a health emergency at Lake Rabon, saying a potential cancer-causing chemical is present because of an algae bloom.
CVB Inc., doing business as Malouf Companies, will acquire the former Michelin distribution center near Laurens, and establish its East Coast distribution headquarters (it’s a home furnishings company).
Aug. 11 - The SC General Assembly votes for a budget proviso that says schools cannot require masks without a risk to their state funding. This was done during a lull in Covid cases - now on the upswing again because of the Omicron variant.
Clinton High School returns to football practice for a season that eventually will result in an 11-2 mark and its best since the 2009 State Championship.
Aug. 18 - Laurens County Council Member Luke Rankin says he is organizing a protest against Self Regional on a requirement that its employees be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Aug. 25 - Rosemont Plantation in Laurens County will get an expansion of 133 acres in an effort by the SC Conservation Bank and the Rosemont Preservation Society. It is the home of Ann Pamela Cunningham, the woman who saved Mount Vernon and is announced on her 205th birthday.
Sept. 1 - Covid number tops the previous high, as District 56 has 9.1% of its population in Covid quarantine on Aug. 23.
Sept. 8 - Laurens County Council announces it bought the former Winn Dixie in Laurens for $750,000 and is relocating the Veterans and Voting offices from the first floor of the Historic Courthouse in downtown Laurens. Phase 2 of the Historic Courthouse renovations - at $3 million - is a Capital Sales Tax project.
Laurens City Administrator Gary Coleman announces his retirement - he was appointed to the post in January, 2011. Laurens City Council agreed Dec. 21 to offer the post to Eric Delgado of Abbeville.
Sept. 15 - Presbyterian College School of Pharmacy adds the Pfizer Covid vaccine to its vaccination program through its Wellness Center. In late October, PC is in the news again with the inauguration of its 19th President, Dr. Matt vandenBerg, and a week’s worth of announcements related to the college in Greenville, Laurens, and Clinton.
Sept. 22 - First Presbyterian Church, Clinton, dedicates a marker to the African-American portion of its cemetery. Small, on-ground markers are on-site but this is a much larger marker that commemorates people who were enslaved.
Sept. 29 - In-person festivals make a comeback - the first weekend in October Squealin’ on the Square in Laurens and the third weekend in October Rhythm on the Rails in Clinton, despite persistent COVID-19 and low vaccinations rates.
Oct. 6 - A coalition of Laurens County governments, agencies, and businesses join together to employ the differently-abled - an effort marked by a proclamations signing at Laurens District High School.
Oct. 13 - Clinton High and District 55, Laurens, schools are disrupted by a lockdown - the same day of a deadly school shooting in Texas. More disruptions follow, fueled by Snapchat and TikTok including just after a deadly school shooting north of Detroit. In one incident, District 56 seizes a replica gun apparently brought to Clinton Middle School.
Nov. 3 - District 56 aims to put “its best foot forward” during a virtual accreditation visit - results in early 2022.
Nov. 10 - Laurens County Council votes in favor of having the state audit the results of the 2020 elections in which President Trump carried Laurens County and South Carolina. Opponents say it’s divisive. Proponents say it will restore voters’ confidence. It’s part of a nationwide audit the vote effort for every state urged by Trump from his Florida headquarters.
Nov. 17 - William Ryan Looper avoids the death penalty by pleading guilty to murder and sexual abuse in connection with the 2018 death of Brantley Smith, age 2, at a house near Clinton. He was sentenced to life in prison (life for murder, 60 years for criminal sexual conduct, 20 years for unlawful neglect of a child, sentences to run concurrently).
The boy’s mother, Jessica Blake Smith, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 3 consecutive 10-year sentences on allegations of unlawful neglect of a child or helpless person. Her sentencing was done Dec. 9 in criminal court.
Nov. 24 - Muffin Mam baking facility in Laurens abruptly closes and files for bankruptcy. It does not own the Hunter Industrial Park building which development officials say “shouldn’t be vacant for long.” County officials have petitioned the bankruptcy court, and had the county council adopt a resolution to have the business pay its 2020 and 2021 taxes.
Dec. 1 - Interior of Clinton’s public works department is smoke-damaged by a fire in the rear of the building. No damage estimate or investigation results have been released to the public.