South Carolina Optimist District History

A Synopsis

by Past Governor Al Eads
updated by Don Keating

The South Carolina Optimist District was formed on October 1, 1954.  The district had previously been under the jurisdiction of District 18 which was known as the Carolina District and included North and South Carolina.  The official name of districts at that time was by number since most districts in Optimist International included more than one state.  Officially in 1954 until 1964, South Carolina was District 22.  In 1964 all districts were named by state or region.

Prior to 1954 the clubs that had been formed in South Carolina began with the chartering of the Columbia Optimist Club on November 2, 1940 followed in December 1940 chartering of the Greenville Optimist Club.  WWII intervened with no club growth in the state until 1948-49 when the Florence, Rock Hill, Spartanburg and Sumter Clubs were formed.  The district gradually grew more in membership number than new club number until 1953-54 when J.W. Derrick served as the South Carolina vice-president in District 18 and then became the first Governor of the new District 22 or as it is now termed the South Carolina District in 1954-55.  The clubs existing in that organizing year were those mentioned plus Charleston, Camden and Fort Mill.

The district has had many significant years including being designated as Honor District 11 times, as Outstanding District (#1) in a Vice Presidential region 5 times and as the winner of the Optimist International Presidents Trophy as the number 1 district in all of O.I. during 1982-83 under the leadership of Governor Wade Dobbins of the Breakfast Spartanburg Optimist Club.  The district led O.I. in membership growth during 1996-97 when Doug Griffin of the Sumter Club was Governor.

Governor Tommy Justice led the district to achieve Honor status for a 12th time during the 2005-2006 optimist year. Tommy's year was characterized by the use of building blocks that represented key activities performed. The blocks were essential to lay the foundation, build walls of support, and be the roof of protection for a sound "House of Optimism".

During the 2010-2011 Optimist year Governor Charles Robinson earned the Distinguished Governor Award.

The district has also had four Past Governors serve as Vice-Presidents of Optimist International.  Dr. S. Hunter Rentz during 1968-69; Virginia Ricker in 1997-98, H. Denard Harris in 2000-01 and Melvin D Bannister in 2009-10.

Throughout the history of the South Carolina District many clubs have earned the number 1 designation in all of Optimist International in several categories of the Community Projects Awards program illustrating the commitment of the district to achieving the motto of Friend of Youth.  The Florence Optimist Club began this pattern by forming three Junior Optimist Clubs during their first year as a club in 1949.

The legacy of Optimist work continues as clubs grow in membership and continue to form new clubs in South Carolina while continuing to provide essential services to the community and youth in their areas.