The top ten stories of the year
-- And Triumph.
10 Laurens County makes preparations to observe the 250th Anniversary of the American Revolution. There are more important battle, skirmish and raid sites here than anywhere else in Upstate South Carolina. Plans call for a 14-site driving and bicycling trail.
9 Litter has plagued Laurens County for years. This year, they did something about it - the County and Cities have similar anti-litter ordinances, Law Enforcement has an arrest and fine tool, and the Chamber will become a Keep America Beautiful affiliate.
8 The Echo Theater lights its marquee. With funding from the movie “Burden” and private donations, the former Redneck Shop will become a center committed to racial reconciliation.
7 H20 Blue decides Clinton is not the place to build a wastewater residue holding center, after citizens-led protest; and the Clinton City Council decides now is not the right time to sell land on Hwy 72 for residential development, despite bids from two buyers.
6 Laurens County Development Corporation “blindsides” one of its board members, the City of Clinton, with a decision to move from an office between Clinton and Laurens to a second-story office in downtown Laurens. Proponents say it increases visibility and vibrancy; opponents say that, like the hospital and the chamber, the Development Office needs to be equi-distant between the two cities.
5 Jon Caime has his contract terminated by a majority of the Laurens County Council, and they never said why. It likely had something to do the Emergency Medical Service because it too gets a new director. The Interim City Manager for Clinton, Thomas Higgs, becomes the Laurens County Administrator; the city hires Rebecca Vance as its Interim City Manager.
4 Champ, the dog, gets his day in court as the woman accused of starving him gets a 90-day jail sentence. Champ was rescued from Laurens County and made his way to New York City, where the international media including People magazine picked up his story. By the time Elizabeth James, who got the dog from her then boyfriend, was sentenced, the international media had moved on to other things.
3 William Ryan Looper avoids the death penalty by pleading guilty to murdering his then girlfriend’s 2-year-old son, in a 2018 incident that rocked Clinton and local law enforcement. In June 2018, authorities were called to a house in response to a possible child death. Officers found the 2 year old unresponsive and having visible bruising across much his body. The child’s mother said Looper had beaten him, and Brantley was pronounced dead at the scene. Looper said he had been beating the child for two weeks and he “did not know why,” a report said; he also confessed to sexually abusing the child with a sex toy. At the same time as Looper’s guilty plea, it was reported that his father, William Harold Looper, was arrested and charged with multiple sex crimes involving 3 victims.
2 Clinton High School Football lights up the City - the Red Devils are County Champs, second place in Region 3, AAA, winner of two playoff games including against a No. 1 seed, Lower Richland, and places 11 players on the All-Region Team, 14 players on the All-County Team. Jykorie Gary is Laurens County Player of the Year, and Corey Fountain is Laurens County Coach of the Year (co-coach of the year for the region). Three Red Devils compete in statewide all-star games. Tommy Spangler, who led Presbyterian College Football as head coach to a 4-3 spring season, comes over to coach the Clinton secondary’s ballhawking defense. The Varsity Red Devils finish 11-2; the Junior Varsity Red Devils finish their season undefeated.
1 Kevin Kelley quits PC Football - the high school coach brings in a no-punt, onside kick, go for two philosophy that can’t hold up against competition on a level equal level to the Blue Hose. After overwhelming their first two opponents, PC lost by 72 points in its third game (against a former conference opponent) and it never got better. No Interim Head Coach was named after Kelley tweeted his resignation - a move that might have reassured some players and kept them out of the transfer portal. Starting quarterback Ren Hefley (out of Arkansas by way of Michigan) announced Dec. 5 his intention to transfer - he threw 39 touchdown passes, 10 in his first game - 2nd most in FCS, but also 127 interceptions in Kelley’s one dimensional offense.
An ESPN writer labeled Kelley’s season at Presbyterian College No. 9 in the Top 10 worst football moments of 2021, nationally. The coach gave a lot of interviews when he brought his “new and innovative” style of play to college football at the NCAA Division 1 level, but he did not endear himself to long-time PC Football fans when he said this about players who second guess him: “I say to all these guys, so what if you’ve been running that play to the outside your whole college career? And so what if you’ve been running that pass route the same way your whole college career? And so what if you don’t like me being your coach. Because guess what, you won 14 games in four years! This program has won one conference championship in hundred years of playing football. It’s never won. Ever. So, what are you hanging on to? You should be willing to run Duck Duck Goose if I want to run it!” The people who remember scholarship football and PC’s South Atlantic Conference Championships, Coaches Cally Gault, Bob Strock, and Elliott Poss, Harold Nichols’ Conference Coach of the Year season, and very spirited long-time Turkey Day, Bronze Derby rivalry games with Newberry College, located just 20 miles down the road, certainly did not buy into that assessment of their Blue Hose from the new head coach coming in from Arkansas.