The Wisdom Of Solomon

A meeting was held last Monday on the future of the Latta Library. The meeting was advertised as dealing with the following question: “Should we renovate the library or build a new library in another location?”
Dr. Frank W. McMillan, III, left the library funds in his will that now amount to 2.2 million dollars. His trust is very explicit on how he wanted the funds used. It says: “From the principal of the Foundation, the Trustee shall construct and/or renovate the existing public library in Latta, South Carolina to create a reading room containing children’s and adolescent literature. The room and all materials furnishing the room provided by the Foundation shall remain in Latta, South Carolina even if the main branch of the county library moves to Dillon, South Carolina or some other location. In the event no public library exists in Latta, South Carolina, at the time of my death, the Trustee may use the trust principal to construct such a public library. I request the large oil portrait of me hang in the reading room or lobby of any new facility, as the case may be, beside the pictures of my mother and father I own at the time of my death. The room or new facility shall be called the REBECCA H. and FRANK M. MCMILLAN III READING ROOM (or BRANCH, if a new facility is constructed).”
There should be no question as to whether to renovate the library or build a new library in another location. Dr. McMillan, the man who left the money, specifically says that he wanted “construct and/or renovate the existing public library in Latta, South Carolina to create a reading room containing children’s and adolescent literature.” End of story. He did not say that he wanted a new library built; he only would allow that if a public library did not exist in Latta at the time of his death. It does exist. Again, end of story. The man wanted a reading room constructed at the existing public library. He left funds for it and that is what should be done.
At the public meeting, an overwhelming majority of the citizens in attendance by a show of hands said they wanted his wishes carried out and did not want a new library.
It seems that the Mr. McMillan’s clear voice and the clear voice of the people who attended that meeting should have been heard by the Library Board Chairman, Mr. Tommy Stephens, and the members in attendance; however, Mr. Stephens was on a television report last week still making the case for a new library.
Admittedly, the current library has issues, but they are issues that can be addressed and should be addressed by the county.
The library is so much more to so many people than just any old building. The historic Carnegie Library is one of only four still operating as a library in South Carolina, but it’s more than that. It’s the library that every child in Latta grew up with. It’s the building that anchors Main Street. It’s the library that Mr. McMillan loved and so many in Latta loved and still do.
But whether the library has issues or not and whether or not the current library is well-loved, the money was clearly left to construct and/or renovate the existing public library in Latta, South Carolina to create a reading room containing children’s and adolescent literature.
Mr. Stephens must have a hearing problem or a listening problem or maybe it is selfishness on the part of Mr. Stephens and some of the board members to try to take advantage of what turned out to be much more than anyone ever anticipated inheriting and use it in another way than the way intended. Whatever it is, Mr. Stephens does not seem to hear what Mr. McMillan wants to do and what the majority of the people of the meeting are telling him to do: Respect Mr. McMillan’s wishes and build the reading room.
There is only one way that a new library could be built with this money. The Library Board would have to petition the courts and the attorney generals of both South Carolina and Georgia to alter the trust of Mr. McMillan and go against what he intended and try to get the funds for a new library instead of the intended reading room. If legal expenses are incurred, who is going to be responsible for these costs? Is it really worth going to court over to change the wishes of a gracious benefactor?
It is just unfathomable that anything else is being considered other than what the generous man on the front of this newspaper today wanted. It was his money, and his wishes should be carried out, not other wishes by the library board or anyone else.
Fred Ellis, a known generous benefactor himself, said it best at the end of the meeting when he said that a lot of people see this as a honesty thing and that if the reading room is what the man leaves his money for and there are attempts to subvert it to other things, then he doesn’t see much or any philanthropy occurring in the area for a long time because people remember stuff like that. The truth is that no one will want to leave money to anything in Dillon County if their wishes are not going to be respected.
It is an honesty thing. Is the community going to insist that the Dillon County Library Board respect the wishes of Dr. McMillan and make a recommendation to build the reading room, or are we going to allow the Dillon County Library Board to make a recommendation which goes against the wishes of Dr. McMillan and build a new library at a different location and in effect, take this generous man’s money and use it for another purpose?
At the beginning of the meeting, Mr. Stephens asked for the “wisdom of Solomon” to do what was right for the library and the community.
It doesn’t take the wisdom of Solomon to know that the right thing to do is to follow the wishes of Dr. McMillan. It’s just that simple.