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Jill Biden visits her SC ‘prayer partner’ + vaccine mandate conflicts continue

·7 min read

Hey, everybody. It’s Chase Karacostas. Another Friday and another weekend of lovely weather is here.

The previous editor of this newsletter, Cal Lundmark, always told me I would be an excellent culture reporter. On Tuesday, I took a step into this side-career by recapping how South Carolina’s “The Bachelorette” contestant, Alec Thompson, did during his first week on the show. Spoiler: He got, like, five seconds of airtime but somehow managed to get a rose.

Also, Famously Hot South Carolina Pride arrives this weekend in Columbia. (I’ll be there. Say hello!) The massive celebration of the LGBTQ+ community includes a parade tonight and a festival tomorrow, both in downtown. And Pride isn’t just for adults. There are plenty of events for queer youth and families.

Xakwon Harris and Ben Jackson dance at OutFest in Columbia, South Carolina on Saturday, June 6, 2021. The festival took place in the Vista and hosted a drag competition.
Xakwon Harris and Ben Jackson dance at OutFest in Columbia, South Carolina on Saturday, June 6, 2021. The festival took place in the Vista and hosted a drag competition.

Here’s what else is happening this week in South Carolina.

1. ’This church changed my life.’ Jill Biden’s visit to West Columbia’s Brookland Baptist Church

First Lady Jill Biden talks Robin Jackson at Brookland Baptist Church. Dr. Biden attended the 50th anniversary celebration of pastor Charles B. Jackson. Dr. Biden and Robin Jackson are prayer partners and close friends.
First Lady Jill Biden talks Robin Jackson at Brookland Baptist Church. Dr. Biden attended the 50th anniversary celebration of pastor Charles B. Jackson. Dr. Biden and Robin Jackson are prayer partners and close friends.

First lady Jill Biden was in South Carolina on Sunday, and for at least one person, it was a big surprise.

Biden flew down from Washington to surprise Robin Jackson, her “prayer partner.” Robin and her husband, the Rev. Charles Jackson of Brookland Baptist Church, were celebrating the pastor’s 50th anniversary leading the West Columbia church, The State’s Bristow Marchant reports.

Biden developed a special bond with Robin Jackson — known as the “first lady” of Brookland Baptist — during a visit to the church in May 2019. Biden credits Robin Jackson with helping her find her faith again after the death of her son Beau Biden in 2015.

“Robin’s kindness, mercy and grace pushed past the calluses on my heart, and my faith was able to grow once again,” Biden said. “I felt for the first time that there was a path to recovering my faith.”

2. Vaccine mandates improve SC immunization rates. Federal judge refuses to block them

This section was written by The State’s Charleston reporter, Caitlin Byrd.

Last week, I reported that nearly 80 first responders were fighting COVID-19 vaccine mandates in the Charleston area. Now, a federal judge has weighed in on the matter. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge David Norton denied their efforts to temporarily stop four separate COVID-19 vaccination mandates from going into effect next month. That means the mandates will go forward as planned.

Widespread evidence shows that vaccine mandates work. Here in South Carolina, roughly 74% of Columbia’s city employees were fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, The State’s Chris Trainor reported. It’s a big jump from mid-September, when less than half of the city’s employees were fully vaccinated. The city would like for all of its employees to be vaccinated by Nov. 1, and it plans to roll out its policy regarding vaccine requirements that same day.

3. Passing of a landmark: The Herald building’s rich legacy isn’t defined by location

The former Herald building on W. Main Street is set for demolition by the end of 2021
The former Herald building on W. Main Street is set for demolition by the end of 2021

The Rock Hill Herald’s old building at 132 W. Main St. soon will be demolished and replaced by residential and retail space, restaurants, an amphitheater and a playground, The Herald’s Tobie Nell Perkins reports. The building has been vacant and in disrepair for years. The Myrtle Beach Sun News went through a similar change last year, when it moved out of its building off of Highway 17 Bypass. That building will soon become an outpost for Palmetto State Armory retailer.

But the disappearance of these landmarks doesn’t erase the impact of the papers produced by the reporters within them, writes The Herald’s executive editor, Cliff Harrington, who also saw the demolition of The Charlotte Observer’s old building.

“The occasion is not all melancholy. We say farewell to the building, not the institution,” Harrington wrote. “We at The Herald are still on duty without failing. The Herald will be the voice of your local news that it has always been. We will chronicle this region’s memories, key events and issues that touch your lives. So, to put a somewhat different spin on an old cliche: Even as things around us change, The Herald will remain the same.”

4. How will Hilton Head help relocate dozens of families out of a trailer park?

The town of Hilton Head Island is considering using federal COVID-19 relief funds to help relocate dozens of families from a mid-island trailer park that’s expected to shutter, The Island Packet’s Sam Ogozalek reports.

  • The owner of Rollers Trailer Park, located off Marshland Road, plans to redevelop the 7.2-acre property, which borders Broad Creek, along with other land he owns off Julia and Mackerel drives.

  • Forty-three mobile homes are located on the properties. Many of them don’t have the funds to relocate their homes.

“The last time I checked, we don’t have any affordable housing developers knocking on our door, ready to do projects,” Hilton Head’s Ward 1 representative Alex Brown said, “and here we’re faced with close to 50 homes that have been identified as workforce housing that we could potentially lose.”

“We’ve made the commitment that we want to sustain affordable housing on Hilton Head, and here’s an opportunity for us to do it,” he said.

5. Beautification in many forms comes to Rock Hill

Artists help paint a mural Sunday designed by Shepherd Fairey in downtown Rock Hill.
Artists help paint a mural Sunday designed by Shepherd Fairey in downtown Rock Hill.

Michael Burris and William “Q-Rock” Cureton spend a lot of time in parks and neighborhoods. But instead of playing sports or just passing time, they’re there to clean those places up. A few years ago, the two began a group called “Men on a Mission.” And starting last March, they and several Rock Hill leaders and volunteers have gone from neighborhood to neighborhood, park to park, to pick up trash.

“We’re willing to go anywhere to show people what we’re doing, so we all can take ownership in our community and beautify it, make it look better,” Burris said. “One thing that my grandmother always taught us: She would plant flowers in the yard and say, ‘You beautify your area, and you’ll take ownership of that.’ And you came through knowing, ‘This is yours.’”

Plus, a new mural painted by half a dozen artists now graces downtown Rock Hill. The painting, by the famous Shepherd Fairey, is the sixth installation of the city’s “Mural Mile” — an area of historic Old Town that seeks to make art more accessible, The Herald’s Tobie Nell Perkins reports.

  • It features a mix of reds, blues and yellows and showcases bits and pieces life in Rock Hill, all fitting together. A train, the Coca-Cola logo and the letters “RH,” all sit against a backdrop of swirling colors, flowers and a bird in flight.

What I’m reading

Can you spot the Eastern rat snake in this tree? It was seen in Congaree National Park in South Carolina.
Can you spot the Eastern rat snake in this tree? It was seen in Congaree National Park in South Carolina.
  • Don’t disturb him! Poor guy probably wanted to just take a nap. This snake tried to hide in a Congaree National Park tree ... but it didn’t work very well.

  • Months ago, I wrote about how the Myrtle Beach airport was challenged over the summer thanks to an unprecedented surge in travelers, but the airport shared few details about what it was doing to fix the problems. This week, I had the chance to report on some of the fixes that might be coming and when they’ll arrive.

  • A prominent civil rights attorney who has represented the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Trayvon Martin announced he was now representing the family of Jamal Sutherland, The State’s Caitlin Byrd reports.

That’s all for today. If you don’t already, subscribe to The State here. If you’re already a subscriber (thanks!), download our iOS or Android app to get connected.

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