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Orangeburg City Council votes to remove Confederate monument, John C. Calhoun Drive name

Orangeburg City Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday to remove the 127-year-old Confederate statue located in Memorial Plaza.

The resolution says, “The City of Orangeburg recognizes that the legacy of slavery, institutional segregation and ongoing systemic racism directly deepens racial division, and the City of Orangeburg is committed to the elimination of racial division and the promotion of racial equity and justice and desires to express this commitment through this resolution.”

The resolution notes that the statue will be immediately removed once the city is authorized by the South Carolina General Assembly.

The Heritage Act of 2000 requires a two-thirds vote by the General Assembly to change or remove any local or state monument, marker, school or street erected or named in honor of the Confederacy or the Civil Rights Movement.

State legislators previously told The T&D that the General Assembly will discuss repealing the Heritage Act in January 2021. Repealing the law would allow decisions on the changing or removal of structures to be made on the local level.

Councilman Richard Stroman said that citizens have contacted him regarding the location of the statue once it is removed. He said people have asked for it to be moved to the Orangeburg County Historical Society on Bull Street at the city’s expense.

The 33-foot granite statue, which was designed by Theo Markwalter of Augusta, Georgia, is topped with a bronze replica of Capt. John D. Palmer of the Hampton Legion. The statue was erected in 1893.

Council also unanimously passed a resolution to rename John C. Calhoun Drive. Calhoun, who served as a state senator and vice president of the United States, was a supporter of slavery.

City Attorney James Walsh stated that renaming the road would also fall under the Heritage Act.

A committee of no more than 10 individuals will be formed with the task of submitting three names to the council for the purpose of naming the road, Walsh said.

Stroman stated that he would like for the city to offer support to business owners along John C. Calhoun Drive.

“Renaming John C. Calhoun Drive, it’s going to cost the people that operate businesses there a lot of money to change the name of the address of their business. If that happens I think we should give some kind of support to that. I would just like to say I don’t think it should be a person’s name,” Stroman said.

“The public maybe should vote on that. The public should have some input on it,” Stroman said.

John C. Calhoun Drive is a 1.3-mile portion of U.S. Highway 301 which begins at the intersection of Magnolia Street and Old Edisto Drive and ends at the intersection of Five Chop Road.

According to the T&D archives, John C. Calhoun Drive was opened for business in 1954.

People were able to submit public comments to city officials on the changes. Many of the comments were against the removal of the monument, while some writers stated they are in favor of the removal.

One citizen against the removal wrote, “I do not want to see the statue removed. It’s part of our history for the people in Orangeburg County. Both white and black fought for the Confederacy in the Orangeburg District.”

The writer said, “let’s show the rest of the world that the home of one of the first African American University’s is willing to honor everyone’s heritage and not just a few.”

A citizen in favor of the removal also suggested streets be renamed as well.

“I am in support of the resolution to remove the Confederate Monument located in the downtown square of Orangeburg, SC. Moreover, please amend the resolution to include the removal of the street names John C. Calhoun Dr., Stonewall Jackson Blvd., Russell St., as well as the removal of any other landmarks/tenants deem inflammatory or derogatory towards people of color,” the comment said.

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UNSUNG HEROES: RMC staff uses tech to combat spread of germs and viruses

During the worldwide health crisis, fighting off any transfer of infections and cross-contamination from the COVID-19 virus has been crucial.

The Environmental Services Department of the Regional Medical Center has taken the disinfection process to the microscopic level to ensure their staff and patients are well taken care of.

With the use of TRU-D, or the Total Room Ultraviolet Disinfector, the team has worked to make RMC a clean and sterile working environment to slow the spread of the virus and protect front-line caregivers.

Tru-D is a UVC light machine that enhances the terminal cleaning of patient-care areas.

In 2011, the Regional Medical Center became the first hospital in South Carolina to acquire the use of TRU-D technology.

Tru-D is used on a regular and proactive basis in the surgical suites and in rooms upon discharge of patients who had infections of resistant organisms.

Joselito Tabora, director of environmental services, said surface disinfection is a priority at RMC since germs and viruses can live anywhere.

“After completion of a terminal cleaning of a patient room, Tru-D is brought in to disinfect at the microscopic level using ultraviolet technology,” Tabora said.

He said staff members have taken it upon themselves to ensure teamwork is maintained.

“They understand they all have to work together and to keep each other safe by following cleaning protocols,” Tabora said.

Calhoun County contributing to RMC Express

ST. MATTHEWS – Calhoun County Council has agreed to help with the Regional Medical Center’s effort to open a new facility for patients with lesser ailments and issues.

Joann Raglin, an environmental service tech who has worked at RMC for eight years, said her passion is being able to take care of people.

“I am very dedicated to making sure each room I enter in the Emergency Department is cleaned properly and safely,” Raglin said. “Due to COVID-19, I sometimes see anxiety in our patients. I look at my role as being able to help ease those concerns.”

“When people see clean rooms, they feel better,” she said.

Doris Fields, environmental services lead tech and an 18-year employee at RMC, said she loves taking care of the community.

“Because I am from here, I feel like I’m always taking care of extended family members,” Fields said. “A clean hospital is the first thing people notice when they walk in the doors.”

RMC announces first-ever Nadia Thomas Award

In recognition of the vital role played by Emergency Medical Services, Regional Medical Center recognized all EMS professionals during National EMS Appreciation Week in May.

Fields takes pride in making sure the rooms are thoroughly cleaned.

“We’ve added extra measures to assure we are cleaning rooms safely and timely due to COVID-19,” she said. “All EVS staff wear masks and wear other PPE required materials to make sure each room is safe for the next patient.”

The biggest hurdle to overcome at the onset of the virus was the sudden unavailability of needed cleaning chemicals and PPEs.

“Fortunately for us, we saw the threat early and immediately bumped up our orders for supplies to eliminate depleting what we have and continue our ability to clean the environment,” Tabora said.

The staff has felt pride in helping the Orangeburg community and combating the virus head-on.

Tabora said they have felt their importance knowing their contribution to maintaining a safe environment helps keep this virus at the minimum.

“I want everyone to feel welcomed,” Raglin said. “Our first impression is our best impression.”

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Orangeburg group seeks faster removal; new coalition says state law doesn’t protect Confederate statue

A newly created group is hoping the City of Orangeburg can remove the Confederate monument from downtown’s Memorial Plaza without waiting for state lawmakers.

Orangeburg Revitalization Coalition members are considering legal action to show that the city’s monument is not covered by South Carolina’s Heritage Act.

"We still feel like it can happen and it can be done,” coalition Executive Director Natalie Able said Tuesday.

Orangeburg City Council agreed Tuesday to remove the monument once it receives approval and authorization by the South Carolina General Assembly. The coalition gathered outside city hall before council’s meeting.

The state’s Heritage Act of 2000 requires a two-thirds vote by the General Assembly to change or remove any local or state monument, marker, school or street erected or named in honor of the Confederacy or the Civil Rights Movement.

But Orangeburg attorney Skyler Hutto, a consultant for the coalition, says the monument may not be protected by the Heritage Act.

“It is not a standard monument as it might be understood that would have been erected by a government to commemorate something or other,” Hutto said.

"We think it was a piece of art commissioned and given to the city that does not really fall within the standard lines of the act," Hutto said.

The paperwork has not yet been filed requesting a declaratory judgment on the matter.

State legislators previously told The T&D that the General Assembly will discuss repealing the Heritage Act in January 2021.

In addition to the removal of the Confederate monument, the coalition is also advocating for the change of road names such as John C. Calhoun Drive and Stonewall Jackson Boulevard, to name a few.

The coalition was formed about two weeks ago based on conversations around the social unrest currently going on throughout the country.

Able said the organization formed June 14 with about eight members and now has grown to over 2,500 members.

"Our vision it to invigorate the city of Orangeburg and to bring people together,” she said. "Our first goal is to remove the racial restraints. That is why we are suggesting the statue be removed as well as the street name."

Able says the Confederate monument can be located out of public view.

"I feel it is time for changes here," Able continued. "People don't want to look at it. It is a symbol of oppression."

Able says while the removal of the monument will not eradicate racism, it is a step in the right direction.

“I feel like when the statue was placed there, we did not have a voice. Now we do and we need to stand up and say, ‘We don't want to look at it every day,’” she said.

Eventually, Able said the group would like to see the Confederate flag removed from the corner of Russell Street and John C. Calhoun Drive. The flag is owned by the Sons of the Confederate Veterans and sits on private property.

"Once I moved out of state, you don't see it. But when I moved back here and somebody pulls up behind me and it is on the front bumper of their car, it is that feeling you get," she said. "I don't think people realize that it is a feeling of almost terror. I feel that is what it is a symbol is of: hate and terror."

Coalition President James Glover said the removal of the monument “would be a step forward for the black community in Orangeburg."

As an African American male raised in Orangeburg, Glover said he has personally experienced racial profiling and different experiences with law enforcement or casual citizens.

But he says the monument is a constant reminder to him of oppression.

"Having a statue such as that on the square that symbolizes a man that fought to keep slavery, that is a reminder every day," he said.

Glover said the statue is not about heritage.

"Their heritage, their ancestors represented evil," Glover said. "Their ancestors fought to keep my ancestors slaves. Why would you want a statue like that?"

Voices to keep monument

Some of the people who gathered outside city hall on Tuesday are against removing the monument.

Orangeburg resident Jeannette Jeffrey said, "If you are going to take that statue, you need to take every statue of this county and take them down. What is good for one, should be fair for another."

She said that would include the Martin Luther King Jr. statue near the county courthouse.

"I love Martin Luther King and that man did a lot of good," she said. "I pay homage to that man.

"I pay homage to the Confederate statue. Leave the statues alone."

Jeffrey said the Confederate statue is not a symbol of racism.

"That is a symbol of gentlemen and ladies that fought and gave their life for their beliefs," she said.

Jeffrey is also concerned if the statue does come down there will not be peace, saying the government cannot try to appease one group but should serve all.

"This is not just one group's home, this is everybody's home," Jeffrey said. "I feel like they should put it on a November ballot. Bring it before the voters."

Orangeburg resident Sandra Wiles says she is also for leaving the statue where it is, saying that taking it down will not change hearts.

"Taking down anything is not going to change anything," she said. "Two wrongs don't make a right."

"If you offend me, it is not up to me to try to get back at you because you offended me," she said. "It is up to me to try to find a way we can compromise and you can understand where I am coming from."