A life made for the silver screen
Saturday, September 28, 2013 8:00 PM
There are some great writers in Hollywood.
In this 1984 photo, state Sen. John Drummond stands in front of the South Carolina Statehouse. (Submitted)
Those writers, year in and year out, crank out stories that eventually get made into movies that dazzle us on the silver screen. Many spend years toiling on scripts, exploring ideas for films.
Producers are constantly looking to make movies that have action, romance, intrigue, politics and a story with a main character who displays determination, perseverance and bravado as he overcomes seemingly long odds.
I have recently explored such a story, and I think it would make one hell of a movie.
Only, it wasn't a film script I was reading. It was former state Sen. John Drummond's biography.
As you might have read in our story on page 1A today, Drummond turns 94 today. To say he made an impact on this area in his more than nine decades on this planet would be an understatement.
For most people, the experience Drummond had in World War II would be enough drama for a lifetime. He was a fighter pilot who loved flying missions. He was a fine pilot, from every account I've ever heard.
In July 1944, Drummond's plane - the "Raid Hot Mama" - was shot down in France. Injured, but still kicking, Drummond was captured by the Germans. He was a prisoner of war - enduring, to say the least, rough conditions - for more than a year. The POWs at the Barth prison camp were liberated by the Russian army in August 1945.
Drummond returned from war and continued a fruitful life. He married and started a family. He went into business for himself, as the owner and manager of Golden Ring Bakery. In 1954, he went into management with Greenwood Petroleum, a business he eventually inherited. He later also established Drummond Oil Co.
Apparently, being a war hero, a family man and a business champion wasn't enough for Drummond, so in the mid-1960s, he went into politics. He first won a seat in the state House of Representatives, then, two years later, successfully ran for South Carolina Senate.
This was no dabble into the world of politics. Drummond ended up serving 42 years in the state legislature, including a stint as the powerful president pro-tempore of the Senate.
Not bad for a kid who came from humble beginnings in the Ninety Six Mill Village.
I'VE BEEN WANTING TO DO A STORY about Sen. Drummond, like the one on page 1A today, for a long time.
Back in 2008, when Drummond was in his last year in the Senate, executive editor Richard Whiting implored me to do the story, especially considering Drummond's remarkable tenure in the legislature and what he meant to the community for so long.
I fully intended to do the story. But, in the newspaper business, sometimes stories get inadvertently pushed to the back burner. The news never stops, after all, and we put papers out 365 days per year.
So, the Drummond story languished. For a long time. Too long. But, here we are on Sept. 29, 2013 - the senator's 94th birthday. Better late than never.
As I prepped for today's front page story, I had the opportunity to go through a great deal of old materials - photos, letters, videos, legislative manuals and more - provided by Drummond's longtime friend, Carol Cheek. (Carol is a gem, I might add.) I spoke with numerous politicians and others who worked closely with Drummond through the years, including Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, longtime state Sen. Nikki Setzler and others.
After looking through all the old photos and stories, and talking to all of those people, I was left with a question: Who is the next John Drummond?
Is there someone in Greenwood's current legislative delegation who can find a way to wield the influence Drummond once had in the Statehouse, to fervently advocate for Greenwood and the surrounding area?
Is it you, Sen. Floyd Nicholson? Can you parlay your enormous popularity among local residents - white and black, young and old - into continued goodwill in the Senate chambers, to get things done for our area?
Is it you, Sen. Billy O'Dell? You've been in the Senate for 24 years and are a power broker in your own right. Can you continue to encourage bipartisan solutions? Will you remind us of Drummond in keeping an eye out for Greenwood County?
Is it you, Rep. Anne Parks? Like Drummond, you are known for having a soft spot for the underdogs and the less fortunate. Can you be the one to help bridge the gap between the less fortunate, and the services and help they need to improve their lives?
Is it you, Rep. Shannon Riley? You're the young pup in the local delegation, serving in your first term. But, I can see the sincerity and forthrightness in you. Can you use those qualities to address issues in a manner that will take our state forward in this new economy?
Is it you, Rep. Mike Pitts? After more than a decade in the House, there are those who look to you for guidance. Can you continue to display that uncanny ability to tell it like it is, even when the right answer isn't necessarily the most popular answer?
We have some fine legislators, here and across the Palmetto State. But, will there ever be another John Drummond? Not likely.
From the mill village to the battlefield to the prison camp to the business world to the Senate floor, he remains an American Original.
That's the movie I want to see.
Trainor is the senior staff writer at the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-5650; email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @IJCHRISTRAINOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.