Dec. 17, 2017
Sen. John Matthews was one of four men honored for their contributions to Orangeburg County’s economic development and community enrichment.
The late Clarence Felder Evans, founder of CF. Evans company, Creston native Luther “Luke” C. Kissam IV and Danny Mixon were inducted into the Orangeburg County Business Hall of Fame.
Matthews Jr., D-Bowman, received the Lifetime Achievement Award. He 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 Orangeburg County Economic Development Partnership, a public/private partnership focused on assisting the Orangeburg County Development Commission in development.
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?"
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.
He 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.