Noted historians preserve Sumter's past

Posted 8/26/18

Reflections looks back at a few of Sumter's historians. This is part two in a two-part series, with the first part published in the Aug. 12 edition of The Sumter Item.

Cassie Nicholes:

Sumter County's genealogist

Miss Nicholes, born in the …

This item is available in full to subscribers


Noted historians preserve Sumter's past


Reflections looks back at a few of Sumter's historians. This is part two in a two-part series, with the first part published in the Aug. 12 edition of The Sumter Item.

Cassie Nicholes: Sumter County's genealogist

Miss Nicholes, born in the Privateer section of Sumter County, was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. I. M. Nicholes. She attended schools in Sumter County, beginning "her formal education in a one-room, one-teacher school in the woods near Bethel Baptist Church." At age 17, she entered Coker College in Hartsville, majoring in Latin and minoring in English; upon graduation she received an A.B. degree.

Miss Nicholes attended summer school at Furman University, Greenville, and the University of South Carolina, completing graduate work in English. She later studied the Old and New Testaments while enrolled in elementary Greek at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. "For 45 years, Miss Nicholes taught Latin, French and English in schools in several South Carolina communities, including Simpsonville, Easley, Turbeville, Mayesville, Cameron, Orangeburg and Sumter."

Miss Nicholes was a member of the teachers Honor Society and Delta Kappa Gamma while serving as president of the Iota Chapter. She remained a member of Mayesville Baptist Church, becoming a resident of Sumter in 1975. "During her tenure at Edmunds High School, she directed the senior class plays for 20 years while advising the yearbook and newspaper."

"Miss Cassie, as she was affectionately known by many, served the weekly newspaper, The Sumter News, as Mayesville correspondent, feature writer and feature editor. An indefatigable individual, she held the distinction of pursuing two successful careers - newspaper woman and author of two volumes of Historical Sketches of Sumter County, after retiring from her chosen profession as a school teacher." Cassie Nicholes died May 9, 1987, and was interred at Bethel Baptist Church Cemetery.

Portia C. Myers: Cherished Sumter's people, places and things

Portia Cuttino Myers was born Aug. 22, 1917, in Sumter and was named for her paternal grandmother, Portia Lynum Cuttino. The oldest of five children born to James and Lucie Cuttino, she attended Sumter High School when the boys and girls were required to attend separate schools. As a young girl in school, she developed a passion for history and was asked to write a column for The Sumter Daily Item in which "she carefully painted the life and times of Sumter, enabling us to visualize its streets and hear its voices."

She was willing to serve her country following the outbreak of World War II; she worked at the Pentagon as an administrative assistant for four years. Her assignment placed her in the office of the chief of staff for the Army (which included the Air Force at that time). She arrived in Washington on June 4, 1944, just two days before D-Day. She returned home, due to her father's failing health, and made the decision to marry her first husband who died an untimely death in 1951. Myers said that her sister, mother and she lost husbands within a nine-month period.

In 1955, she married Ben Myers, a retired teacher and postmaster; they remained together for 39 years, in what she described as "a perfect relationship." In order to spend time with her daughter, she helped found the Shaw Campus for Sumter Area Technical School and taught there for 17 years before retiring in 1983. Myers developed a strong relationship with Shaw Air Force Base, co-authoring the "50th" Anniversary book commemorating the founding of Shaw Air Force Base.

She also served as secretary to a number of base commanders at Shaw and became a member of the Sumter County Historical Society, serving as president of the society for two years. Myers was named the Business and Professional Woman of the Year in 1983 by the Business and Professional Women's Club and received the Paul Harris Award from Palmetto Rotary Club.

Myers died on Jan. 28, 1994, at her home in Rembert and is interred at Greenlawn Memorial Park.

W. Ashby McElveen Jr., "Mayor Bubba": Businessman, politician and much-loved local historian

Born at his home on 208 North Purdy St. in 1928, Mayor Bubba was the son of Wilson Ashby McElveen Sr. and Caroline Reese McElveen. He graduated from Edmunds High School in 1945 and The Citadel in 1948. Mayor Bubba entered the Air Force and served in the Korean conflict. He entered the world of business, serving as owner and operator of McElveen Pontiac GMC. His civic spirit was evident as he served as president of the Elks Club and as a member of several boards including the YMCA, Salvation Army and South Carolina State Museum, among others.

He enjoyed a singular relationship with his hometown, where he was very active in numerous organizations and involved in many projects which improved the community. His love for Shaw Air Force Base is evident by his becoming the first civilian to be named honorary U.S. Air Force chief master sergeant. He was awarded the Order of the Silver Crescent by Gov. Mark Sanford in 2003. His numerous awards and achievements are impressive; however, his dedication to the history of his community endeared him to its citizenry. His column for The Item demonstrated a wide understanding of material and individuals. He was willing to research numerous little-known topics or persons and hence expanded the information available to local historians.

He had the special ability to utilize humor along with data to make learning entertaining as well as informative. Mayor McElveen truly loved the people of Sumter, inspiring countless individuals to take an active interest in the study of local history. Mayor "Bubba" was "promoted to glory" on Nov. 9, 2006, at Carolinas Hospital System in Florence. He remains greatly missed by this writer and countless others.