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Orangeburg photographer Cecil Williams is scheduled to receive the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Award for the Arts, the state’s highest arts honor.

Williams said he was overwhelmed, when he learned that he will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.

“It was a very, very wonderful experience and a surprise to get a phone call,” Williams said.

The awards are presented by the South Carolina Arts Commission, and Commission Chairman Henry Horowitz said that the recipients are individuals who have had a large impact on the state.

“It is an honor and privilege to recognize individuals and organizations who live out the service, commitment and passion that help the arts thrive in South Carolina,” Horowitz said via press release.

“Each of the Verner Award recipients makes a tremendous contribution not just locally, but they are honored for broad impact on the state’s arts community and beyond. These are outstanding ambassadors for our state,” Horowitz added.

Williams thanked Dr. Bobby Donaldson, Bud Furrillo and Dr. Leo Twiggs for supporting him and submitting his name as a possible recipient of the award.

When he began his career as a journalist, winning awards weren’t his focus, Williams said.

“I really never looked at trying to do something to win an award. What I think might have happened along the way, and the reason I have been successful in receiving some recognition, is the goals were seemingly divine obsessions to me,” Williams stated.

“I wanted to reach higher, and wider, and longer to bring about something,” Williams said. “Almost every task or thing that I’ve ever embarked upon, I think was larger than me.”

The Orangeburg native and Claflin University alumnus is a photographer, videographer, publisher, author, architect and inventor.

Williams began his professional career at the age of 15 as a freelance photographer, working for publications such as JET and the Afro-American. Williams is widely known for his photographic documentation of the civil rights movement.

Williams is a recipient of the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest civilian honor, and the Governor’s Award in the Humanities.

The Verner Awards will be presented at South Carolina Arts Awards Day sponsored by Colonial Life on May 1 at the University of South Carolina Alumni Center.

Other categories for the award and those being honored are:

• Artist -- Tyrone Geter, Columbia

• Individual -- Kathleen (Kathi) P. Bateson, Hilton Head Island

• Arts in education -- Simeon Warren, Charleston (Individual)

• Arts in education -- S.C. African American Heritage Commission, Hartsville (organization)

• Business -- Hampton III Gallery, Taylors

• Government -- Florence County Museum, Florence

• Organization -- Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston

• Organization -- Columbia Stage Society (Town Theatre) Columbia (Special Award)

For more information, visit SouthCarolinaArts.com.

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Contact the writer: bharris@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5516

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Staff Writer

Bradley Harris is a Government and Sports Reporter. The Irmo, SC native is a 2018 graduate of Claflin University and recipient of the 2018 South Carolina Press Association Collegiate Journalist of the Year Award.

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