Following is the text of 1952 Scholar Jeanette Watson Cothran’s address at the Byrnes Scholars 52nd annual luncheon, June 13, 2015.
When I think of Governor and Mrs. Byrnes, what I remember most about them were their love and acceptance of all the scholars and their personal involvement in our lives; their warm smiles and hugs that made us all feel special; their giving and nurturing spirit and their humility which was so genuine and sincere.
They asked the scholars to call them “Mom and Pop” Byrnes which gave us a sense of belonging and “family”.
When I first received the scholarship and met these two famous people, I didn’t fully realize at the time their importance and their place in history. It was an honor and privilege to be associated with one of America’s truly great statesmen who contributed so much, not only to South Carolina, but to America and to the world.
They invited the scholars to the Governor’s Mansion and their home at the Isle of Palms. To a poor little, naive girl from a small town in South Carolina who had never been very far from home — that was just overwhelming.
It was a joy to visit in their home on a number of occasions where we were always welcomed with a smile. They never failed to ask about our school, our work and family and our plans for the future. They genuinely cared for us.
He always acknowledged our letters, invitations and special occasions in our lives. There were a larger number of scholars then, so it really made us feel special to be remembered on those occasions.
We were always welcome in their home and didn’t need an appointment to visit him at his office, contrary to some others in Columbia who thought they were so “important”. It was his “adopted” children who were more important to him.
In return for their generosity and support, Mom and Pop Byrnes asked only two things from us: become the very best people we could become in life, and make sure their legacy of family continues for those who come after us.
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The James F. Byrnes Foundation
Post Office Box 6781
Columbia, SC 29260-6781
Tel.: (803) 254-9325