Meeting My First True Celebrity

If my recollection is right, I met my first real celebrity in 1969 when I was a junior attending Gordon High School. This was all due to the works of Reverend Richard (Dick) Alderman, who was at that time the pastor of Little Rock Baptist Church, as well as an educator in the Dillon School District Two. Dr. Alderman was, arguably, the foremost Bible teacher in our area who specialize in the subject of eschatology (biblical prophecy) and the history and narrative of the Bible. He had a way of teaching the Bible with simplicity and clarity that would grab your attention and desire to want to hear more. Reverend Alderman had invited a friend of his named Bobby Richardson to come and speak to some of the students who attended his Bible class at Gordon High School. Little did I know at the time that Mr. Richardson was the All-Star second baseman who had achieved fame as a New York Yankee playing on the same team with Yogi Berra, Roger Morris, and Mickey Mantle. Mr. Richardson’s demeanor and humility was so evident that it dispelled any degree of intimidation and insecurity that I had due to the fact that I was in the presence of a famous man. Had not we been told by Dr. Alderman who this man was in his introduction, due to his humble and nonassertive attitude, I would have never guessed or known that he was Bobby Richardson, one of the greatest baseball players that ever played in the Major League.

The Nobel Laureate
Dr. Ben Bernanke, who was raised in the city of Dillon and graduated from Dillon High School in 1971, brought much honor to our city and locale when he was recently awarded the Nobel Prize for economics, along with two others. However, my focus today is not on him, but a deceased Nobel Laureate who I met over fifteen years ago in Cape Town, South Africa. Bishop Desmond Tutu won the Nobel Prize for peace back in 1984.
At the time I met him, he was (arguably) one of the most famous and revered men in the world, especially on the continent of Africa. Only Nelson Mandela exceeded him in prominence and preeminence in both South Africa and Africa. Like Bobby Richardson, he was a very humble, congenial, and accessible man who did not display any traces of conceit, arrogance, and pride because of his fame and notoriety.
He made me and those who accompanied me on my trip to South Africa feel welcomed when we were granted an opportunity to sit at the table with him during breakfast. I was invited by him to sit next to him where I was able to talk and fellowship with him on a more personal level.
This man who was very accommodating, hospitable, and did not put on any airs, gave me a promise that he would come and visit me in Dillon the next time he was in America.
Though his schedule and demanding responsibilities never allowed him to keep that promise, I will cherish the brief time I spent with Bishop Desmond Tutu, who was truly a great and modest man whose life made an impact on the entire world

My Encounter With Two Famous Men Who Were A Cut Above Most

Brought to you by the South Carolina Historical Society.
October 21, 1950, Astronaut Ronald McNair was Born in Lake City
Ronald Erwin McNair grew up in Lake City, the second son of Carl and Pearl McNair. His father was a mechanic and his mother worked as a teacher. In addition to his talents in technology, McNair played football, basketball, and was in the band at Carver High School. After graduating as valedictorian of his class, he won a scholarship to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. During college, McNair played saxophone in a jazz band. In 1971, he was awarded a Ford Foundation Fellowship and attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received a Ph.D. in physics.
As a national expert on laser physics, McNair went to work for Hughes Laboratories in Malibu, California. Out of 11,000 applicants that responded to a search by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for its space shuttle program, McNair was selected for training in 1978. Working as a mission specialist, he first flew on a shuttle that deployed two satellites and tested the Manned Maneuvering Unit and the Canadian robotic arm, both of which were operated by McNair. The robotic arm moved a platform which allowed astronaut Bruce McCandless to walk in space without being tethered to the shuttle. McNair was the second African American to make a flight into space and logged 191 hours as an astronaut.
In January 1985, McNair was assigned to the space shuttle Challenger. This mission was intended to launch a Tracking and Data Relay Satellite and a smaller satellite, the Spartan Halley, that would observe Halley’s Comet during its approach to the sun. McNair and fellow specialist Judith Resnik were to release the Spartan Halley satellite and pick it up two days later using the Challenger’s robotic arm. The shuttle received a great deal of attention due to the selection of Christa McAuliffe, a payload specialist and teacher, who would give two lessons from space to students. The Challenger launched from Cape Canaveral on January 28, 1986, and, after only seventy-three seconds, exploded at 46,000 feet. All seven crew members were killed.
Ronald McNair was only thirty-five when he died but was already the recipient of several honorary doctorates and awards. In addition, he was a talented saxophone player and held a fifth degree Black Belt in karate. In 1989, the U.S. Department of Education established the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program to prepare eligible students for graduate degrees. His life and many accomplishments are commemorated at the Ronald E. McNair Life History Center in Lake City, which stands next to his gravesite.

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