Local officials pay tribute to one of Darlington’s favorite sons

(left to right) Rep. Robert Williams, Councilman Bryant Gardner, Councilwoman Elaine Reed, Mayor Curtis Boyd. PHOTO BY SAMANTHA LYLES

(left to right) Sen. Gerald Malloy, Rep. Robert Williams, Councilman Bryant Gardner, Councilwoman Elaine Reed, Mayor Curtis Boyd. PHOTO BY SAMANTHA LYLES

Local officials and members of Darlington County’s legislative delegation came together last week to pay tribute to one of Darlington’s favorite sons, Dave Neilson, who passed away two years ago.

Rep. Robert Williams and Sen. Gerald Malloy met with Darlington Mayor Curtis Boyd, City Council members Elaine Reed and Bryant Gardner, and city manager Howard Garland to present a proclamation naming Oct. 1 as Dave Neilson Day. They also brought a South Carolina state flag and an American flag which had both flown over the State House to give Dave’s widow, longtime District 56 Rep. Denny Woodall Neilson.

Born in Chicago to Mr. and Mrs. Howard Neilson, “Coach Dave” spent most of his life in South Carolina. While attending Aiken High School, he achieved success as a basketball player and earned a scholarship to the University of South Carolina. Though he majored in business and served in the Army, Neilson’s love for basketball eventually led him to become a coach and educator.

While teaching history and marketing at St. John’s High School, Neilson coached the 1983 Blue Devils basketball team to an undefeated 27-0 season and the 3-A Boys’ State Championship. The memory of that title game – a 56-55 last-second victory over James F. Byrnes – still resonates sweetly among hometown fans.

Unfortunately, Denny was unable to attend the ceremony honoring her late husband, but everyone present took glee in sharing stories about Dave’s state championship basketball season at Darlington High School, his love for performing magic tricks and telling silly jokes. Most of all, people seemed to relish speaking about the lifelong love for the Darlington community Dave and Denny exhibited as educators, public servants, and as a devoted couple who supported each other through difficult times.

“Denny and Dave both answered life’s most pervasive question: what are you doing for others?” said Sen. Malloy. “They served this community and served it well.”

Author: Rachel Howell

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