Epigram Sisters

Memorable words: William Watkins quote embedded in sidewalk in downtown Anderson

ANDERSON — “Only if its people are all they can be,” William Law Watkins once stated at the Anderson County courthouse, “can our county be all we ask of it.”

Fourteen years after his death, the quote was unveiled Tuesday near the wall of the historic courthouse where Watkins practiced the legal trade for more than a half-century. Dedicated in a brief late-afternoon ceremony by the Foothills Community Foundation, the nonprofit organization he helped create, the epigram became a permanent part of the community that was important to Watkins throughout his 89 years.

Within view of the “Anderson Is My Town sign” just a half-block away, both the quote and the location seemed fitting for Anderson’s first epigram devoted to a native son.

“The quote is apropos,” said Community Foundation President Robert M. Rainey, who was part of a committee that found the comment in court records. “And this location was very appropriate.”

Jane Mudd, one of the three daughters of Watkins, said her father “was Anderson up one side and down the other.

“This community was so important to him. This is a beautiful thing.”

The epigram is embedded in the sidewalk at 101 South Main.

Mudd said her father “would be so honored, and so happy, to see this group of people standing here today. It means a lot to the family.”

The Foothills Community Foundation has distributed nearly $13 million to community projects since Watkins jump-started the organization with a $1 million gift from his estate,

“We are part of the future he envisioned for Anderson County,” Rainey said.

Watkins died in 1999, just seven years after his retirement from a law career that began in 1932. Except for his years in college and during World War II, when he volunteered for military service at age 32, Watkins lived his entire live in Anderson.

Watkins joined the Army in 1942 and rose in rank from private to major while serving with the 24th Infantry Division in the liberation of the Philippine Islands. Watkins received the Bronze Star for his actions in combat.

Following the war, Watkins returned to Anderson and became a prominent figure in many community causes. He served as president of the Rotary Club, the Anderson Chamber of Commerce, the Anderson County Hospital Association and the Anderson YMCA.

He was active in the Central Presbyterian Church and established college scholarships that continue to serve Anderson County students at Anderson University, Clemson University,Presbyterian College, Tri-County Tech and Wofford College.