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The C.F. Evans story begins in the years following World War II when Clarence Felder Evans, an Army veteran, joined his cousin, Fred Evans, to learn as much as he could about construction.

Buoyed by the baby boom, their company, Evans Construction, fielded requests from families seeking to build homes of their own in Orangeburg, Holly Hill, Aiken and other South Carolina communities.

The growing company at that time provided quality craftsmanship, hired and supervised talented employees, and encouraged a sense of pride in their work that is still present today.

While Clarence Evans passed away in March 2010, the company he founded continues to thrive.

Today, C.F. Evans has grown all over the Southeast, employs 70 and has received both state and national recognition.

For his legacy and impact on the Orangeburg business community, Evans was one of four men (and the only one recognized posthumously) honored Thursday night at the Orangeburg Country Club for their contributions to Orangeburg County’s economic development and community enrichment.

Evans -- along with Creston native Luther “Luke” C. Kissam IV, chairman, chief operating officer and president of Albemarle Corp.; and Danny Mixon, owner of Mixon Seed Company, Inc. -- were inducted into the Orangeburg County Business Hall of Fame.

Sen. John W. Matthews Jr., D-Bowman, received the Lifetime Achievement Award. The Orangeburg County Economic Development Partnership held the event.

Complete with fine foods and fine wines, the event was also filled with laudatory and sometimes humorous tales of the night's honorees. Past stories of fishing and hunting were interspersed with accolade bestowals, including praises of visionary leadership, integrity and hard work.

Johnny Evans, current C.F. Evans president and CEO, says the recognition for his father is "well deserved" and quite an honor.

"He was very active in the community not only in Orangeburg but in Calhoun," Johnny said. "He did a lot behind the scenes for people that not everyone knew about. That is just the way he was."

He once said that he only needed one bed to sleep in and one plate of food to eat, so he felt compelled throughout his life to give and do whatever he could to help those in need.

Upon receiving the award, Mixon described it as one of the "greatest honors I have ever had.

"I am very overwhelmed but under-deserved," he said. "There are a lot more people here that deserve it. It is hard to believe I am on the same plane that some of the people who already got it."

Kissam, who downplayed his importance accepting the award on behalf of Albemarle, said the honor was especially sweet due to its source.

"Any time you are being recognized in your hometown means a lot because all of these people in Orangeburg are so integral to what I was able to do," Kissam said. "It forms the core of my values, the core of my beliefs. To me it means a great deal."

Kissam said the first job he had was with C.F. Evans Construction. He cited the irony of that fact now.

"To be able to go in with someone that I admired and love like Mr. Clarence is almost unbelievable to me," Kissam said. "It is almost embarrassing because I just don't feel like maybe let's wait a little while to see how the game plays out because we are still dealing cards right now."

Matthews said the honor is humbling.

"I did not expect it, but I try to do those things that are in the best interest of this county and to improve economic development and education," he said. "I have been doing that for 42 years and I will continue to do that."

The awards were presented by the OCDP, a public/private partnership focused on assisting the Orangeburg County Development Commission in development.

The criteria for selection into the Orangeburg County Business Hall of Fame includes: the significance of the impact made as a business leader, the concern demonstrated for improving the Orangeburg community and the display of ethics in all business dealings.

The criteria for selection of the Lifetime Achievement Award includes an individual dedicating his or her life to a worthy cause or impacting society or the lives of others. The award is open to civic, educational, institutional and political leadership.

Orangeburg County Development Commission Executive Director Gregg Robinson said the men honored "truly embody what we hope for in the future."

"It is the core character of honesty and hard work and diligence and the things you want to instill in future generations," Robinson said. "If these award winners tonight stay and raise their family in Orangeburg County, isn't that a success story in itself?"

Here is more about each honoree.

* Danny Mixon, owner of Mixon Seed Co. & Mixon Warehouse

Wholesale field seed distributor Mixon Seed Co. arrived in Orangeburg in December 1972 as Dublin Seed. The company had its origins in Dublin, Georgia.

The company's market at that time was eastern Georgia and South Carolina.

In September 1985, Mixon Seed was formed. It has now grown to include six states from Alabama to Virginia. The company also has a plant in Albany, Georgia.

The company wholesales corn, cotton, soybeans, peanuts, millet, wheat, rye, oats and grasses.

South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers praised Mixon for his "entrepreneur spirit."

"He has a great keen analysis of what the landscape is," Weathers said." He projects very well. There is no harder working person. When I am on my way home coming around the bypass sometimes late at night and late afternoon. There are still two cars out there at Mixon Seed. That is Danny's and Debby's (his wife)."

Others described Mixon as a proven leader who "gives back" to his community as a "go to person."

Mixon recalled coming to Orangeburg with a 1969 Ford and a 1972 Chevrolet.

"The Lord has blessed us," he said. "I am high on Orangeburg. We got a lot of things that need to change but it is changeable."

The company receives product from the likes of Monsanto and Dupont and redistributes the product to agricultural retailers such as Helena Chemical, Meherrin Chemical and Crop Production Services.

The company employs 30 today in Orangeburg, according to the Orangeburg County Development Commission.

* Clarence F. Evans, founder C.F. Evans Construction (posthumously)

C.F. Evans graduated from high school In Orangeburg in 1940 and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943 as a member of the 245th Engineer Combat Battalion.

Upon returning to the U.S. from the European Theater in 1945, he founded C.F. Evans & Company at the age of 25, building many churches, schools and other buildings across the state.

He led the company as president until his retirement in 1989.

Johnny Evans noted how his father grew up during the World War II era and was a part of a generation that started off with nothing and "built their business the right way."

"A lot of these businesses are still strong and growing and are doing well," Evans said.

Clarence Evans was a member of Cameron United Methodist Church, a church he built, for his entire life.

He was a former director of First National Bank, the predecessor to South Carolina Bank & Trust, and he was a board member of the Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College Foundation. He was a trustee on the board of the Epworth Children's Home and he was a Freemason.

Johnny Evans shared a business situation.

"There was a job coming up on and there was a  school building," Evans said. "He wanted to bid on the school building and their was a bid bond."

Evans related how his father went to the banker in Holly Hill and asked to borrow $10,000 for one day. 

"He went to the bank in Cameron, put it in the bank and then he had an accountant do a  financial statement that showed $10,000 in the bank," Evans related. "He gave the money back to the banker and went to the bonding company and got a bid bond on the job. He was awarded the job and that is kind of the way he really got started."

The story received applause and some laughs.

Evans left behind a well-run company.

Johnny says while the business has been in Orangeburg for decades, the company's growth has exploded outside of South Carolina.

The company's growth kicked into high gear when it began to specialize in the construction of multifamily dwellings.

In addition to the company's workmanship, its treatment of employees has also been recognized.

This year, for the eighth consecutive year, C.F. Evans and Co., was named one of the Best Places to Work in South Carolina by the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce.

Evans says the reason for the frequent recognition is due to maintaining core values where employees are supported and allowed to grow and "follow their dreams."

"We are all the time trying to get better," he said.

* Luther “Luke” C. Kissam IV, chairman, chief operating officer and president of Albemarle Corp.

Luther C. “Luke” Kissam, IV, 52, grew up in the Town of Creston in the 1960s, an avid Clemson football, basketball and baseball fan.

When he was not watching his favorite teams, Kissam could be found in the fields of his Creston home and riding motorcycles.

When he was not at home, Kissam was receiving his schooling through Wade Hampton Academy, now Orangeburg Preparatory Schools. He graduated in 1982.

Following graduation, Kissam went on to The Citadel, where he graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1986. Three years later, he graduated magna cum laude from the University of South Carolina School of Law.

Kissam and his brother, Keller, also became regimental commanders at The Citadel. This was the first time brothers shared the honor.

Following graduation, he went to work as general counsel for the Columbia law firm Nexsen Pruet Jacobs & Pollard.

After a few years there, Kissam went to work as general counsel for Greenwood Mills in Greenwood.

It was in Greenwood where he met his wife, Kathyrn, who at the time was working with the Monsanto Co.

Kathyrn was transferred to St. Louis, so Kissam got a position with Monsanto as an associate general counsel and as vice president, general counsel and secretary of Merisant Co., which was formed from Monsanto’s tabletop sweetener business.

The rise to the top for Kissam was swift.

In just six years, he worked his way to the top of the corporate ladder to serve as executive vice president of the Louisiana-based Albemarle Corp., a global provider of specialty chemicals.

It was the first time in the company's 15 years of operation that someone with local connections reached such a top level corporate position.

In his role, Kissam oversaw all aspects of the company’s manufacturing, legal and administrative business matters.

In addition, Kissam oversaw Albemarle’s worldwide health, safety and environmental functions as well as the company’s global efforts to drive continued operational efficiences and productivity improvements.

Kissam continued to work his way up the corporate ladder, being named the CEO of Albemarle in September 2011 and president in March 2013.

In 2016, Kissam became the company's chairman. Albemarle employs about 4,000.

Kissam is the son L.C. Kissam III and former Orangeburg Preparatory School teacher Maud Kissam.

He and his wife have three boys, Cole, Henry, and Griffin.

* Sen. John Matthews Jr. -- Democratic state senator

A Bowman resident, Matthews graduated from then-South Carolina State College, Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College and Lincoln Electrical Institute.

He was elected to the S.C. House of Representatives in 1975, where he served until 1984.

Matthews has been a member of the state Senate since 1985.

Matthews is a Democrat who represents District 39, which includes Orangeburg, Calhoun, Colleton, Dorchester and Berkeley counties.

He serves as a member of the Agriculture and Natural Resources; Banking and Insurance; Education; Ethics; Finance; Fish, Game and Forestry, and Interstate Cooperation committees.

Sen. Brad Hutto, who introduced Matthews, noted he is the longest-serving African-American member of the General Assembly in the history of the state.

Hutto noted there was unanimous agreement in the Senate in 2004 to have Matthews' portrait hang in the Senate chambers into perpetuity for his accomplishments and leadership.

Hutto related a story of how Matthews went to college and met all these new students who said their parents were either in banking or medicine.

"John was wondering what he was going to say when they got to him. John said, 'My family is in textiles.' They said 'really.' He said, 'Well, we picked a lot of cotton.'"

The comment brought a round of laughter.

Hutto noted that during the civil rights movement, communities looked out for future leaders from humble beginnings.

"He has been that leader for us for many, many years," Hutto said. "He is my friend, he is my mentor. He is a true visionary. He has dedicated his career to those things that will make Orangeburg an industry leader in South Carolina as we move forward."

Matthews said there are a few things in life that are of paramount importance: a quality education, "cathedral thinking" approach to life, and making sure one's neighbor is "better off."

"The great cathedrals of the Bible were not built by one generation, they were multigenerational," he said. "The first generation of workers know when they were working that we would never see their work complete but they did it anyway."

Matthews has received numerous awards, including S.C. State's Distinguished Alumni Award; Orangeburg County Democrat of the Year; induction into the South Carolina Black Hall of Fame; South Carolina Primary Health Care Legislator of the Year; and the U.S. Small Business Administration's Minority Business Advocate of the Year.

He has also served on a number of boards, including the South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus; the Orangeburg County Legislative Delegation; Southern Regional Educational Board and the Governor's Middle Grades Task Force.

In 2004, a 500-acre industrial park on U.S. 301 near U.S. 176 was named for him.

He and his wife, Geraldine, have five children. Matthews attends Pineville United Methodist Church.

Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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Business Reporter

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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