Tag Archives: Famous South Carolinians

Famous South Carolinians | Kevin Maurice Garnett | By Kevin Alexander Gray

SC Native Plays in Championship Again

Mauldin (Greenville County)

Professional (NBA) basketball player – Power forward

(May 19, 1976)

Kevin Garnett was born in Greenville to Shirley Garnett and O’Lewis McCullough (who his mother never married).  Shirley later married and divorced Ernest Irby. Garnett has two sisters, one older (by six years) one younger: Sonya and Ashley, respectively.  His half-brother, Louis McCullough, played basketball for the ABA’s Syracuse Raging Bullz

Garnett, or “KG” to his fans, is notable for his rise to stardom emerging as a high school pro draftee – first with the Mauldin High School Maverick and, then with the Farragut Career Academy Admiral (named after Civil War naval hero Admiral David Glasgow Farragut) in Chicago – to a star player with the storied Boston Celtics basketball team’s as part of “Big Three” combo of Paul Pierce (forward), and Dalzell, South Carolina native Ray Allen (guard) who in 1993 led the Hillcrest High School Wildcats’ varsity basketball team to a SC State Championship.  Together the three won the 2008 NBA Championship with KG scoring 26 points and 14 rebounds in Game 6 to claim his first title in his first season in Boston.

He joined the Celtics on 07/31/07.  At the time of the trade, he had the longest current tenure of any player in the NBA with one team, having played for the Minnesota Timberwolves for his first 12 seasons (a total of 927 games). Following his trade to the Celtics, Garnett led them to the best record in the league and a trip to the 2008 NBA Finals.  Along the way he picked up the 2008 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award – the only major award a Celtic player had not claimed since the franchise’s foundation in 1946.  And, to top it off, he was the NBA’s top-paid player in the 2007-08 season with a salary of $23,751,934 – along with earning $5 million more hawking Adidas, Snickers and Gatorade.

Garnett credits his mother, a Jehovah’s Witness, for being his career “inspiration,” and for his familial stability growing up in both the mostly black section of Greenville known as Nickeltown and later on Basswood Drive in Mauldin (a suburb of Greenville with a population of about 12,000 in western SC).  Shirley Garnett looked after Sonya, Kevin, and Ashley on her own while working two jobs – one at a local plant and another as a hair stylist.  McCullough married another woman, started a new family, and paid child support. Continue reading

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Famous South Carolinians | Frederick “Freddie” William Green | By Kevin Alexander Gray

Green: “Rhythm guitar is like vanilla extract in cake.  You can’t taste it when it’s there, but you know when it’s left out.”

Master musician- Rhthym guitar

March 31, 1911-March 1, 1987

Frederick William Green, born in Charleston, SC, was the son of Oscar and Eloise Simmons Green.  He was exposed to music at an early age.  He learned the banjo before picking up the guitar around the age of 12.  Other than a few music lessons taken as a youngster, he taught himself to play guitar.

Green is most known for his 50-year career (except for a brief interruption) as rhythm guitarist with the William “Count” Basie Orchestra. 

Sam Walker, a friend of Green’s father, first taught young Green how to read music, and encouraged him to keep up his guitar playing.  Walker gave Green what was perhaps his first gig, playing with a local community group – the Jenkins Orphanage Band – with whom Walker was an organizer. The band was a place for poor children to get musical training.  It was also a marching band. The band often traveled into Green’s neighborhood, and he would follow them all around the city. Although not an orphan himself, he became a band member – playing in Charleston, as well as inside and outside the state. Coincidentally, an orphaned friend of his in the group was young William “Cat” Anderson who went on to become an established trumpeter, working with notable figures such as Duke Ellington.

Green credited the musical influences of his youth to the music that he heard coming from New York into Charleston.  But he added: “As far as music is concerned, Charleston has always been musical.” Continue reading

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Famous South Carolinians | Frank Wills



North Augusta, South Carolina
[February 4, 1948 – September 27, 2000]

Security Guard ~ Watergate ~ WDC

On the night of June 17, 1972, Frank Wills was making his rounds at the Watergate office building, home of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters, in Washington, D.C, when he noticed a piece of electrical tape placed over the latch of one of the exit doors. At first, he did not think much of it, as patrons often jammed the door with chairs or stones, anything that would allow them to re-enter the building through the same door as expediently as possible. He simply removed the tape and continued his rounds.

However, he became suspicious on his next set of rounds when he noticed someone had replaced the tape.

One of the five burglars — Frank Sturgis, Virgilio González, Eugenio Martínez, Bernard Barker and James W. McCord, Jr. — noticed that the tape had been removed, and replaced it with another piece of tape on the door.

When Wills returned, he saw that the tape had been replaced and called the Washington, D.C. Police. The five men were found in the building and arrested. This triggered the chain of events which exposed the Watergate scandal and eventually led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

While Wills became an instant celebrity he was still unable to negotiate a raise or a few extra vacation days with his employer. So he quit his security job.

Frank Wills
Frank Wills

Things looked up for Wills for a moment. The Democratic National Convention and the Southern Christian Leadership both bestowed honors on Wills. He played himself in the Academy Award winning movie “All the President’s Men”, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s account of Watergate.

He tried to work in public relations & speaking with the help of comedian-activist Dick Gregory but it didn’t work out.

Wills crash-landed from his meteoric rise to fame to the relative poverty he had lived in most of his life. He found it difficult to hold a steady job.

Frank Wills
Frank Wills

Richard Nixon’s Vice- President, Spiro Agnew, got 3 years’ probation for evading taxes on bribes from highway contractors. Nixon’s face is on a postage stamp. He and his fellow war criminal Henry Kissinger made millions of dollars off their memoirs.

Wills was sentenced to a year in jail in 1983 for allegedly trying to shoplift a $12 pair of sneakers. Wills wasn’t arrested while leaving the store. He was nabbed for putting the shoes in his bag.

In 1990 he returned home to South Carolina to care for his stroke victim mother, where they both subsisted off of her $450 a month Social Security check and the few dollars he made doing odd jobs.

Wills said he was so destitute that when his mother died in 1993 he donated her body to science because he did not have the money to bury her.

In the 1994 film “Forrest Gump”, Wills is the guard who takes Forrest’s call complaining about men with flashlights across the street disturbing his sleep while he is staying in the Watergate Hotel. The movie was a blockbuster.


Others made millions of dollars in royalties on movies, books, and speaking engagements from the crime Wills uncovered.

Frank Wills didn’t even get a pension.

He laid alone ailing in his mother’s darkened house not able to pay the utility bill.

Wills died of complications from a brain tumor on September 27, 2000, at the age of 52 at University Hospital in Augusta, Georgia.

Woodward and Bernstein got $5 million from the University of Texas in 2003 for their Watergate notebooks and files.

Still, there are some who gave Wills his due. Spike Lee incorporated Wills’ story into his 2004 film, “She Hate Me.” Also, Wills is routinely honored by the security industry ~ and historians and service workers around the world.



Edited by KAG (c) Freedom House Press 2009

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