A man whose name has been in The Sumter Item's masthead for decades had a whole day named after him in Sumter on Tuesday, a day when he also was awarded the city's highest honor.
Hubert D. Osteen Jr., who began working at the newspaper when he …
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Hubert D. Osteen Jr., who began working at the newspaper when he was 13 and who ended up working for it full-time for 50 years, was honored in Sumter City Council Chambers for his longtime dedication to the rebuilding of downtown Sumter through his chairmanship of the Downtown Sumter Board.
Osteen joined the board in 1999 and has been its only chairman, watching and playing a part in what the area has grown back up to become today.
"Hubert Osteen has always shown great love for the Sumter community in general but has shown a special interest in the historical downtown Sumter area," Sumter Mayor Joe McElveen read in a proclamation for Hubert D. Osteen Jr. Day in front of Osteen's family, friends and fellow board members before giving him the Gamecock City Society Award, the highest honor the City of Sumter can give to any one person.
When he was elected as the first chairman of the Downtown Sumter Board, he and the other members served in an advisory role to promote and assist with the redevelopment of Sumter.
"Over the past few years, as the City of Sumter has worked with the Downtown Sumter Board of Directors, under the leadership of Hubert Osteen, and with other ventures (public and private), the historic Downtown Sumter has seen much revitalization, including a new streetscape, the construction of new buildings and renovation of existing buildings, development of several plazas incorporating several beautiful fountains and displays and much more," the mayor's proclamation read.
McElveen said people who come downtown today are always amazed at the progress that has been made in recent years. He said Osteen is a "big part of that."
The Sumter native joined The Sumter Item in 1963 after three years of service in the U.S. Air Force. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University in New York.
He may be most widely known to the public for his time at The Sumter Item - becoming the fourth generation of Osteen family members involved in newspapers in Sumter dating back 150 years, followed by his three sons, Graham, Kyle and Jack Osteen, who are all co-owners of the paper - but McElveen said he has played a role in a list of other groups.
Osteen is a former president of the South Carolina Press Association and has held leadership roles in major national press organizations including the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the S.C. Press Association Foundation and the American Press Institute.
Osteen has held leadership roles in dozens of local, state and national organizations, including chairman of the Sumter Downtown Board of Directors; the South Carolina Archives and History Center; the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism; the Sumter Gallery of Art; and the Sumter Rotary Club. The Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce named him its Business Person of the Year in 1994, and the Sumter YMCA named him its Humanitarian of the Year in 1995.
"That's the kind of leadership that's been shown in Sumter," McElveen said.
He is only the 27th person to be honored with the Gamecock City Society Award.
"My father has been an advocate from the start when it comes to downtown revitalization. His nearly 20 years as board chairman has been one of the highlights of his community service to Sumter," said his son Jack Osteen, former Sumter Item publisher and chairman of the Downtown Economic Restructuring Committee.
The ceremony and honors bestowed upon him Tuesday morning were a surprise to Osteen, who said at the end he feels the future of Sumter remains in its downtown.
"That's where we started," he said. "We had one main street."
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