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Mable Owens Clarke receives Order of the Palmetto

From left: Richard Riley, Mable Owens Clarke, Chandra Dillard, David Wilkins.

Last updated November 21, 2022

By Tina Underwood

She worked over two decades to honor the promise she made to her dying mother to keep the doors of historic Soapstone Baptist Church open. For her efforts, Mable Owens Clarke was awarded the Order of the Palmetto Nov. 17 at Furman University. S.C. Rep. Chandra Dillard, former Gov. Dick Riley and former S.C. Speaker of the House David Wilkins presented Clarke with the award at the Younts Center on campus.

The church was established by 600 freed slaves in 1865 in the Liberia, South Carolina, community. Working with Upstate Forever and other groups, Clarke led the charge to create a conservation easement to protect the church, school building, and cemetery on the six-acre property.

“Having been born and raised in rural Pickens County on land purchased by my ancestors who had lived as slaves, it is humbling and amazing that my home state would recognize me with such an honor as the Order of the Palmetto,” Clarke said in Greenville Journal.

In a FOX Carolina story, Nancy Kennedy, director of Furman’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, was quoted. “It’s important to all of us, to learn all of our local history and to understand all of our history, and not just the history that we heard growing up,” she said. “Part of what developed our area of the world is that we had slavery. And it is so important for us to recognize that history and know the contributions that everyone made to this area.” The news also ran in GSA Business Report.

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