Floyd Nicholson becomes Hall of Fame member - InfoNews

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Floyd Nicholson becomes Hall of Fame member

February 02, 2019 - 9:06 PM

GREENWOOD, S.C. - There's a story Floyd Nicholson likes to tell.

It's not about his 10-year tenure as a state senator representing Greenwood. It has nothing to do with his two-decade run as the city's mayor, where he helped create a master plan that's led to the nationally recognized Uptown district.

It's not even about his time as a student at South Carolina State University in the winter of 1968, when he was a freshman during the Orangeburg Massacre that claimed the lives of three black students.

The anecdote Nicholson, a 69-year-old former Greenwood High School biology teacher and Northside Middle School assistant principal, loves to share has to do with Ezra Williams.

For 42 years, Williams rode on the back of a city sanitation truck, never missing a day of work. The cousin of Floyd's beloved wife, Mamie, Ezra came to symbolize the kind of work ethic that Floyd himself would later adopt.

And it's also, why, despite being one of South Carolina's most influential thought leaders, Nicholson has taken the time to learn the names of janitors and other rank-and-file employees at the Statehouse.

Names are important. They're a window to a person's identity. And now, Nicholson's name is synonymous with community service, after he was recently inducted as the 54th member into the Greenwood County Hall of Fame, to a standing ovation. His induction took place during the Greenwood SC Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting at Piedmont Technical College.

"I'm speechless. I never expected this," Nicholson said. "But I'll tell you one thing. Everything I do for Greenwood, it's because I love Greenwood. And I'm a firm believer that it's better to give than to receive."

He may have been at a loss for words, but among people who know him best — including his pastor, the Rev. Adrian Wideman of Mt. Olive Baptist Church, and Steve Brown, chairman of the Greenwood County Council who worked as city manager during Nicholson's time as mayor — platitudes came easy.

"Floyd has been a blessing to me, my wife and my family. I admire any man that can spend as much time for the love he has for this community and still have enough energy to pour into his own life," Wideman said in a tribute video announcing Nicholson's nomination.

The 10th child of Marion and Nona Nicholson, Floyd attended Brewer High School and South Carolina State, continuing his education at Clemson University and the University of South Carolina's Institute of Government.

He has an honorary doctor of humane letters from Lander University.

A member of the Greenwood City Council from 1982 through 1993, he was elected mayor in 1994 — a position he had until 2008, when voters sent him to Columbia, breaking barriers at each stop.

He was Greenwood's first black mayor and the first person of colour to represent state Senate District 10.

But none of those firsts mattered to Nicholson, Brown said. All he cared about was making sure each person he interacted with as mayor came away feeling valued.

"I found Floyd, even though he was firm, he was very gentle man, he was a very kind man, he was a very tender man. A central theme of Floyd's message is working together. I saw Floyd who never viewed himself as a single authority," Brown said. "I believe everyone in South Carolina should be able to work for a mayor like Floyd Nicholson."

"Over the years, I watched, one by one; I watched young and old, I watched poor and rich, I watched white and black, I watched friends and non-friends visit him in his office. Not once did I see favouritism. Not once did I see partiality," Brown said. "All were treated with the dignity and respect that they deserved."

Nicholson's career brought him out of District 50, but his passion for developing character in youth never faded. He's currently a mentor for black males in Westview Middle School's mentoring for success program and sponsors an annual golf tournament for the cause that raises about $40,000 in scholarships.

He also helped establish the Greenwood Community Children's Center, which provides pediatric care and parenting programs focused on low-income and first-time mothers.

"I'm just glad I'm in the company of Floyd Nicholson," said Linda Dolny, a member of Lander's Board of Trustees and fellow Hall of Fame inductee. "He's one of those people that when he was picked you say, 'Why didn't we do this 30 years ago?' Anytime I have a concern related to Lander, before I talk to anybody about it, I talk to Floyd and Mamie. They're the ones who have the wisdom about how to guide you to the right things the right way here in Greenwood."

During his time as mayor, Nicholson played a key role in expanding the YMCA's diversity efforts, starting the predecessor to what is now the annual community prayer breakfast.

Name a non-profit in the region and Floyd Nicholson's fingerprints are on it, from the Greenwood Genetic Center to the Pathway House, United Way of Abbeville and Greenwood Counties and Piedmont Technical College.

One of his most cherished relationships is with the Burton Center, which he's been affiliated with for more than 40 years.

"Floyd has been a great supporter and friend of Burton Center from the beginning. Floyd was a volunteer of the camp Sunshine project in the early 1970s. He has been involved with the progress throughout the years. He was the deputy director for several years and was instrumental during our biggest growth," Burton Center executive director Jimmy Burton said. "He has been a great advocate for people with disabilities and special needs throughout his life, and continues to fight for people's rights in Columbia."

U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-3rd District, is just one of many politicians to have worked alongside Nicholson, serving in the state House of Representatives from 2003 through 2011.

"Floyd is a great friend. I have enjoyed a very good relationship with this fine man over the years since he joined the state Senate. This is a wonderful way for Greenwood to honour him," Duncan said.

A Democrat, Nicholson has built a reputation for bipartisanship and won universal respect from his colleagues because of a big tent philosophy he still uses.

"You have to work together. Learn how to get along with people, because growing up, you don't know where you're going to end, but you're probably not going to be on an island by yourself," he said. "And I'm proud of this community. Growing up here, I never thought I'd be in the position I am now, but you never know what path God has for you."

One of Nicholson's closest political allies is also a dear friend of his.

State Rep. Anne Parks, D-Greenwood, entered politics at Nicholson's behest. He urged her to run for City Council in the late 1980s. She served alongside him from 1988 through 1996 and preceded him to Columbia, serving House District 12 since 1997.

"All the years that I've worked with him on the City Council and in the delegation, what matters to him and what matters to me is Greenwood. Greenwood is our community," Parks said. "He's always been a people person and growing up in Greenwood, he's always been very active in the community."

Nicholson closed his remarks with an emotional tribute to the Emerald City and those who have carried it in their hearts with him.

"There are always people out there that need something. It might just be a small smile, a caring word. You don't know how uplifting that might be. I'm proud of this community, I'm proud of my family. I will forever to be loyal to this community."

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Information from: The Index-Journal, http://www.indexjournal.com

News from © The Associated Press, 2019
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