From school in Silver to work at the White House


SUMMERTON - Deacon John Canty died Monday at McLeod Hospice House in Florence. He was 93 years old.

Canty was born in the farming community of Silver in 1925. The youngest of seven siblings, Canty attended elementary school in Silver where he and other students had to pick up wood before school to start a fire in the four-room school's wood heaters. Canty reminisced about walking to school in Summerton after elementary school, a round trip of about five miles, in a 1995 interview about his life in Summerton.

Growing up in a farming community, Canty said his father and oldest brother worked 10-to-12 hour days for only 50 cents a day. "As a child, if you would get hold to a nickel or penny or something, you would appreciate it," he said.

After high school, Canty left Silver for Washington, D.C., where he worked as a construction worker. He moved to Michigan for a short time before being drafted into the Army where he served as an engineer during tours at Pearl Harbor and the Far East. After the Army, Canty returned to Washington and went to work at the National Aeronautical and Space Administration, a job he held for four years before being recommended for a job at the White House. Canty said in his interview that he only took the job at the White House with the understanding that if he didn't like it he could return to NASA.

For 18 years, Canty worked at the White House for Presidents Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. "I kept all the records and resumes and all that stuff in a section. Anytime a president needed somebody, they could call me." At one point in his career at the White House, Canty supervised a staff of 42. "Each time they changed administration they started out new," he said.

In his interview, Canty remembered Johnson as being a stickler for turning off lights. He remembered Nixon as a "nice guy," who provided well for his staff. Canty reminisced about weekly lunches with Carter. "Every Tuesday he would have us on the White House lawn and they would fix things like hot dogs, baked beans and potato salad. We'd have a couple of bands out there."

Canty said he moved from Washington for a quieter pace of life in Summerton. "Sometimes I wish I had stayed in D.C."

During his retirement in Summerton, Canty was involved in his community and his church.

Funeral services for Canty will be held at 2 p.m. today at Taw Caw Missionary Baptist Church, 1130 Granby Lane, Summerton. The Rev. Dr. W.T. Johnson, pastor will officiate. Ministers Earnestine Oliver and Carlson Thompson, and Elder Willie Starks will assist. Burial will follow in the church cemetery.