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South Carolina – Order of the Palmetto, Order of the Silver Crescent

South Carolina SC History SC Order of the Palmetto, Order of the Silver Crescent

Also see: SC State Symbols

Introduction – Order of the Palmetto & Order of the Silver Crescent

The Order of the Palmetto is considered the highest civilian honor in the State of South Carolina. It was first awarded in 1971 by Governor John C. West. It recognizes a person's lifetime achievements and contributions to the State of South Carolina.

The award comes in the form of a certificate or plaque that, in part, reads:
"In grateful recognition of your contributions and friendship to the State of South Carolina and her people. I do hereby confer unto you the Order of the Palmetto with all the rights and privileges appertaining thereto."

In the past 40 years, more than 3,500 people have received the Order of the Palmetto. Over time, the intent of the award became blurred. It was given in return for political favors. It was even used to encourage foreign businessmen to invest in South Carolina.

Public concern and a fear that the Order of the Palmetto was losing its stature prompted Governor Jim Hodges to restructure how the Order of the Palmetto would be awarded. In 1999, he established a non-partisan advisory board to define a more stringent nomination process.

Some of the more well-known people to have received an Order of the Palmetto are singer James Brown, author Pat Conroy, tap dancer Clayton "Peg Leg" Bates, and Civil Rights activist Septima Clark. In 1986, Governor Richard Riley awarded one to the "Unknown Confederate Soldier." A host of politicians have also been granted the honor – including several governors.

The Order of the Silver Crescent is a much newer award, dating from 1997 when Governor David Beasley was in office. Originally, it served the same purpose as the Order of the Palmetto – the only difference being that it was awarded to people under the age of 18.

When Governor Hodges reformed the Order of the Palmetto, he also changed the Order of the Silver Crescent. It now recognizes people of all ages who make a significant contribution to a particular South Carolina city or community. The Order of the Palmetto continues to recognize people who serve South Carolina as a whole.

More about the Order of the Palmetto

  • Brief history
  • Recipients - compiled by SC Department of Archives and History - lists are incomplete due to gaps during the terms of governors West and Riley
    By Recipient's Last Name - PDF
    By Awarding Governor - PDF

More about the SC Order of the Silver Crescent

A companion award to the Order of the Palmetto, this award was introduced by Governor Beasley in 1997 to honor the achievements of South Carolina's youth aged 18 and under. As part of Governor Hodge's reforms in 1999, the age designation was removed; it was decreed that the Order of the Silver Crescent would be given to persons of any age with outstanding achievements and community contributions.
  • Recipients - no records exist for the youth honorees prior to the 1999 reforms
    By Recipient's Last Name - PDF

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