Paula Phillips (from left) of the Plumb Branch Yacht Club, Chairman Donna Lackey of the McCormick County Chamber of Commerce, General Manager Bill Hallman of the Savannah Lakes Village and Alonzo Harrison of the McCormick County Council laugh with Nancy Thurmond, widow of J. Strom Thurmond, after the anniversary celebration of the J. Strom Thurmond Dam and Lake.
Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker
Thurmond Lake celebrated its 50th birthday last week, with important guests from the halls of Congress and the Pentagon.
Closer to home, Henry Lee Hunt of Harlem was grateful to join the festivities - and brought a scrapbook to help reminisce about his days as a construction worker during the dam's construction.
"See that machine? I drove it four years, starting in 1946," said Hunt, now 80. "It's called a dinkey. D-I-N-K-E-Y. It ran 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
The 70,000-acre lake, long known as Clarks Hill and renamed Thurmond Lake in 1987, was authorized by Congress in 1944. Its official completion date, based on the activation of its last hydropower turbine, was in 1954.
"It's hard to imagine that this beautiful structure behind us is 50 years old," said U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, who was just 3 when construction began. "But looking back, it was a very good decision."
John Paul Woodley Jr., the Army's assistant secretary for civil works, told the crowd that projects such as Thurmond Lake have helped build a strong and prosperous nation.
"Saddam Hussein preferred to build palaces for himself and his family instead of building power plants for his people," Woodley said. "Many of the hardships in that country are due to that sort of neglect."
Nancy Thurmond, widow of the late Strom Thurmond - for whom the project was renamed in 1987 - reminisced about visiting her family's lakehouse near Modoc, S.C., as a child.
"This is a place where we had many, many wonderful family celebrations," she said. "That's what America's all about."
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