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SEC honors past leadership

Article was added on Friday, July 24, 2015

By ADREL S. LANGLEY

It's interesting to look back on 75 years of an organization's history, but having 75 years of history in one room at one time is astonishing.

That's just what happened July 23, 2015 at Santee Electric Cooperative (SEC) headquarters in Kingstree, SC. All six of the organization's leaders or a family representative came together to celebrate the organization's beginning and pay special tribute to Walter E. Blackwell.

"This is a defining moment in our 75 year history," Current SEC President and CEO Floyd Keels said during his remarks.

The sad thing about history is that nothing becomes relevant until about 50 years later. That being said, some parts of history get discarded and put to the side until someone comes along and researches to find out exactly how things began.

Keels, set to retire July 31, 2015, made it his personal mission to research Blackwell and have his picture added to the organization's wall of history alongside the other cooperative's 5 leaders.

Blackwell was hired as Project Superintendent in early 1940. With a degree in physics from the Citadel and another in electrical engineering from Georgia Tech. Blackwell arrived in Kingstree with not much more than an executive order and a map, Keels said.

"He was dedicated, a hard worker and the strongest language he ever uses was the saying, 'I'll be John Brown,'" Professor Johnny Evans said of Blackwell. The two men worked at the Citadel together.

"Dad's greatest accomplishment was his dedication to Jesus Christ," Ted Blackwell said. He added that he remembered his father being a very hard worker because of the example his parents set for him. He also quoted 2 Timothy 4:7-8 as it is written on his father's tombstone… "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for this appearing."

Walter Blackwell was drafted on May 26, 1941 and interim manager J.W. Wallace was retained. Blackwell returned to his post at SEC for most of 1946.

Basil Ward took the reins in December 1946 and succeeded Blackwell as the longest serving General Manager as he worked for 30 years.

James Player managed the cooperative from 1976 to 1984.

Ed Whetsel took over from 1984 until 1997.

Tom Collier served as CEO from 1997 until 1999 and Keels followed.

From that executive order and a map, the above men have grown this cooperative into a totally vertically integrated company serving 34,150 members in four counties. With the largest geographical service territory of any cooperative in South Carolina, SEC serves accounts in Florence, Clarendon, Georgetown and Williamsburg counties.

SEC now looks forward to the leadership of Rob Ardis. Ardis graduated with a degree in physics from Francis Marion University and a degree in electrical engineering from Tennessee. Because of their educational background similarities, in a way Artis brings the organization back full circle, Keels said.

Blackwell

From left, Walter Blackwell's son Ted, Basil Ward's son Archie, James Player's son Jimmy, Ed Whetsell, Tom Collier and Floyd Keels pose for a photograph representing the past 75 years of leadership at Santee Electric Cooperative, Inc. 


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