Sept. 17 was a special day in the life of Ware Shoals schools, as 10 impactful individuals were inducted into the Hall of Fame. The ceremony honored the Class of 2020 and 2021, as COVID prevented a ceremony last year.
The event was closed to the public this year because of the pandemic, but was livestreamed and remains available for viewing on the district’s Facebook page. In attendance were about 70 family members and friends of the honorees, six of whom are still living. A reception followed the ceremony.
Fay Sprouse, superintendent and chair of the Hall of Fame Committee, was pleased with the day’s events.
“The Hall of Fame day was very rewarding for all who experienced it,” she said. “Learning about the achievements and sacrifices of the inductees gives us a great appreciation for our heritage. I’m so excited to tell the world about these ten amazing people and to have our students learn that small towns and small schools do not create boundaries. They provide rich experiences and fertile ground for growth.”
A 1959 graduate of Ware Shoals High School, Fred Payne gained leadership skills early, serving as student body president at his alma mater. After earning the prestigious Camak Ring on graduation night, Fred went on to attend Georgia Tech, the U.S. Naval Academy and then earned his undergraduate degree at the University of South Carolina. He went on to earn his Master’s degree in Geography, and he conducted his PhD studies at the University of Georgia. His career included a stint as President of Limestone College, Founder and President of ITT Tech in Greenville and 12 years’ service on Greenville County Council where he was heavily involved in mass transportation planning, an interest that he is still pursuing.
Payne currently serves as a board member for the Carolinas Alliance for Innovation, a nonprofit corporation that advocates for economic development solutions in transportation, infrastructure, engineering, and education.
Fred has lived a life of service, devoting many hours to his church, the Baptist Foundation, and multiple civic organizations. He was recognized by our state with the Order of the Silver Crescent for his many contributions.
Fred Payne is living proof of his mantra: “It ain’t the size of the dog in the fight — it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” Fred is quick to say that his achievements reflect a “shared” accomplishment…that only with his wife Kay by his side did any of these successes happen.
Lawrence Sanders Jr., M.D., Distinguished Alumnus
His education began with six years of learning at Emma Maddox School. But changes initiated by the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s made Lawrence Sanders Jr., M.D., part of the second class of Black people to attend classes at the traditionally white Ware Shoals High School. There, he says teachers like Eloise Young (English), Edith Anderson (Science) and Loy Wagner (Band) helped to teach him students must do what is necessary in order to achieve, even if that meant reading an assigned essay three times, producing a homemade light bulb for the annual Science Fair or providing leadership as Drum Major to help the band win a state championship in his senior year of 1973. Lawrence, nicknamed “Dusty,” went on to earn the undergraduate degree at Clemson University prior to attending medical school at Vanderbilt University. Dr. Sanders served his country as a physician at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Ga. for a number of years before accepting the position of Vice President of Care and Patient Management at Grady Hospital in Atlanta. He frequently reminds students of today that hard work is a prerequisite to success in all facets of life.
Coach Tommy Davis,
He was a star athlete for Honea Path High School in the heyday of that school’s rivalry with Ware Shoals High in the 1950s. Coach Tommy Davis earned the undergraduate degree at Erskine College and served in the U.S. Navy before kicking off a career as a high school football coach, first at Ford School in Laurens and then at Laurens District 55 High School. He arrived in Ware Shoals in 1975 and proceeded to build a powerhouse football program known for stingy defenses and physical play. Coach Davis led the Hornets to a Class A State Championship in 1982 with a dramatic come-from-behind victory over Blackville-Hilda at Riegel Stadium. He recorded 218 wins in his 31 years as a head coach — 117 at Ware Shoals and 101 later at Palmetto High School. Today he still holds the record for the most wins of any football coach in the history of Ware Shoals High where the football field is named in his honor. Coach Davis was inducted into the South Carolina Coaches Association of Fame and is also a member of the Palmetto High School Hall of Fame.
A 1955 graduate of Ware Shoals High School, Frank Mitchell went on to receive military training at the local National Guard and at The Citadel, where he received the undergraduate degree. He served his country as a sentry dog platoon leader with the U.S. Army in Korea before settling into civilian life in a career with Liberty Mutual Insurance Company. While living with his family in Richmond, VA, Frank was active as a civic and church leader, serving in the Jaycees, Kiwanis Club, Salvation Army and local Baptist church. He and his wife retired to Fairview, TX where he has made major contributions to the sport of disc golf, earning the Professional Disc Golf Association’s Senior Player of the Year for 2010. He and a partner took first in an Amateur World Doubles Championship, thus achieving the status of World Champions in the Advanced Legends division. He continues to be an exemplary civic, social, and church leader, drawing high praise for all three roles.
Wearing togas and Roman sandals were allowed in her class—at least at the annual Latin Forum each spring. Over a period of 31 years, Letitia Frank instructed hundreds of Ware Shoals High School students in English, French and Latin. She touched many others in her administrative role as Dean of Women, as well as through her leadership in extracurricular activities like Student Council, drama productions, pageants, chapel programs and numerous other activities such as tutoring students in her free time.
A native of the South Carolina Lowcountry, Miss Frank earned her education degree from Winthrop College. She went on to complete graduate work at Duke University and The Sorbonne in Paris and then taught at schools in Yemassee and Williamston before arriving in Ware Shoals in 1939.
In addition to her career in education, Miss Frank found time to enhance life in the Ware Shoals community. She served on Ware Shoals Town Council where she was also Mayor Pro Tem. An active member and elder of Ware Shoals First Presbyterian Church, Miss Frank spent a portion of her senior years assisting with activities at area nursing facilities and helping compile a written history of Ware Shoals, From Hill to Dale to Hollow.
Charles D. Bolen,
“All right people, let’s knock it off.”
Those were familiar words from the mouth of Charles D. Bolen, a respected principal, superintendent and teacher who patrolled the halls of Ware Shoals schools in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. The Barnwell County native was a graduate of Williston High School and the University of South Carolina, where he earned the Masters degree in education. As a U.S. Army veteran of World War II, Mr. Bolen was also a member of our nation’s “Greatest Generation.” His military training was not wasted on his students, who never doubted he was serious when it came to discipline. Yet Mr. Bolen was also serious about never allowing a student to waste his or her mind and abilities—something that would benefit them the rest of their lives.
He was District 51 Superintendent when he retired in 1979. Because of his love of hunting and fishing, students and faculty presented Mr. Bolen with a gun cabinet crafted by Ware Shoals High agriculture students. It would be useful in his retirement years spent on the shores of Lake Greenwood. A few years prior to his passing, Gov. James Hodges honored his commitment to our state’s youth by presenting Mr. Bolen with the Order of the Silver Crescent, one of South Carolina’s highest civilian awards.
Loy Wagner was The Music Man to hundreds of students from one of the smallest schools in the state, who had no reason whatsoever to expect grand excellence in music, based on their demographics and environment. But Mr. Wagner believed The Million Dollar Band was among the best in the country and put them in competitions to prove it. His bands performed at halftime and pre-game shows at Furman and Clemson. They marched in the Cherry Blossom Festival in the nation’s capital. They competed against bands from all over the country in the Florida Festival of States in St. Petersburg, earning the award for Best Band. That feat prompted the Governor of Florida to come to Ware Shoals High to present the coveted Governor’s Cup to South Carolina Governor Donald Russell. They marched through the streets of New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Mr. Wagner convinced his bands they were just as good as anyone, and turned them loose to prove it. And prove it they did!! His dedication to excellence was proven time and time again, as evidenced by the state championship trophies that still shine in the school’s trophy cases.
Loy Wagner taught his band students to be champions, and how to act like it when they were. Naturally, he also taught his students a lot about music. Even more, he taught the kids from a tiny high school in a textile town not just how to dream big, but also how to realize those dreams. Even today, when Ware Shoals residents hear mention of “The Music Man,” the assumption is they must be talking about Loy Wagner.
George D. Rush III,
Service has been an important component of George Rush’s life: service to country, service to church, service to his community. Why does service come so naturally to this 1963 Ware Shoals High graduate and grandson of a Ware Shoals Railroad conductor? Well, because he is a caring person.
Following his productive high school years, which included playing trombone in The Million Dollar Band, George attended Clemson University where he was active in the ROTC program. He did graduate work in the English department, then began a 20-year career in the Air Force. That enabled him to meet—and serve—people from all across the globe. While serving in Thailand he helped facilitate the movement of over 2,000 Vietnamese refugees to a nation friendly to their needs. Other assignments included five years at the Armed Forces Staff College and serving as a deputy foreign policy advisor for the U.S. State Department in Hawaii. There he would work with President Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos when they fled The Philippines.
Retiring from the Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1989, he came home to Ware Shoals for three decades of community service. George served four terms as Mayor from 1993-2008, developing plans for the removal of the old textile mill. He led efforts to establish a new community library and contributed to the Catfish Feastival, Greenwood Soup Kitchen, Greenwood Museum and Greenwood Literacy Council, and as a leader in the Church of the Resurrection Episcopal Church. He never missed an opportunity to inform citizens, visitors and school children about the rich heritage of the community of Ware Shoals.
Two years after a gunman made an attempt on his life, President Ronald Reagan sat down in the Oval Office to discuss gun issues in an interview with a 1939 graduate of Ware Shoals High School. Claude Hamilton “Grits” Gresham knew a thing or two about the subject. The national wildlife magazine editor also hosted ABC-TV’s The American Sportsman series for 13 years, traveling the world on hunting and fishing adventures with the likes of singer Bing Crosby, actor Robert Taylor and actor Phil Harris. During the filming of the movie “Steel Magnolias” in his adult hometown of Natchitoches, LA, he hosted a dinner party for Dolly Parton and other cast members. Grits Gresham’s fame was so far reaching that he and a host of famous athletes were recruited in the 1970s to appear in a leading beer company’s popular TV commercials.
While serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II, Grits’ intelligence was recognized by military officials who recruited him to be part of a top-secret project. But he declined the chance to be involved in what turned out to be the Manhattan Project, the endeavor that produced the first atomic bombs that ended World War II. He was also offered, but turned down, a contract to play first base for the Chicago Cubs. Instead, Grits attended Louisiana State University, earning undergraduate and Masters degrees.
Always wearing a cowboy hat and mutton chop sideburns, Grits was certainly one of our school’s more colorful graduates. He achieved fame and perhaps some fortune, earning a place in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. Yet until the day he died in 2008, Grits never forgot his Ware Shoals roots.
Deep love for his neighbors helped lead Marcus Bishop into a four decades plus ministerial career that spanned four different South Carolina communities, including his hometown of Ware Shoals. He served 27 years as pastor of Mt. Gallagher Baptist Church and was named Pastor Emeritus upon his retirement in 2019.
Reared in the Poplar Springs community, he is a 1971 graduate of Ware Shoals High School. After earning degrees from Anderson College and Lander University, Dr. Bishop earned the Master of Divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1982. He later earned the Doctor of Ministry from Erskine Theological Seminary and also four units in Clinical Pastoral Education.
Dr. Bishop’s ministry has always taken him beyond the walls of the church. “I have been very blessed to have the opportunities to be involved in our town, school and community,” he said. Somehow he found time to serve as chaplain for the Ware Shoals Police Department, Ware Shoals Fire Department and Laurens Sheriff’s Office. He served in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and helped begin a Release Time Program in the Ware Shoals Schools. He was also active in the Ware Shoals Ministerial Association, served on the District 51 School Board and was Camp Pastor at Royal Ambassador Camp McCall. Active in sports since his youth, Dr. Bishop helped begin T-ball and soccer programs at his church. For 15 years he served as an Assistant Football and Basketball Coach at Ware Shoals Middle School, and he coached recreational basketball as well. He remains active as a coach in the school district.
Married since 1977, he and his wife have two daughters and seven grandchildren, all of whom have attended Ware Shoals schools.