BEAUFORT — As Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Isle of Palms, told the story, his recommendation for Beaufort County resident Colden Battey Jr.’s receipt of the Order of the Palmetto received an unusually prompt response from Gov. Henry McMaster.

“Colden, it is the quickest response I ever got from the governor’s office,” Campsen said during an award ceremony that came as a surprise to Battey.

Battey, who serves as board president of the Beaufort-based Open Land Trust, was attending the trust’s annual Brunch on the Bluff when the presentation was made. A number of his family members who were there to share in the achievement mingled discreetly among the crowd and out of his view to avoid tipping him off.

It was just over two months from the date of Campsen’s recommendation letter until Battey received the award, the state’s highest civilian award for public service.

“For over 50 years, Mr. Battey has effortlessly committed himself to serving and improving South Carolina through his immeasurable civic engagements,” Campsen wrote.

Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, also was on hand for the event and noted that McMaster is known to carefully vet those recommended for the Order of the Palmetto. The process can take months and require some amount of cajoling by those submitting the recommendations, he said.

“This took nothing but the submission of your name,” Davis said. “As Chip says, that speaks volumes.”

Battey’s list of achievements detailed by Campsen was extensive. Among the most notable was Battey’s involvement with Eugene DuPont in the purchase of land that would eventually become home to the Nemours Wildlife Foundation, a leading scientific research center that oversees the stewardship of nearly 10,000 acres of historic rice fields, tidal marshes, upland pines and bottomland hardwood forests in Yemassee. Battey served as chairman of that foundation for 12 years.

“I know that was tough. I hunted with Mr. DuPont several times, and he was a great man. But he was very determined in his point of view, to put it nicely,” Campsen said to laughter from many in the audience.

An attorney by trade, Battey has been a partner at Harvey and Battey law firm since 1965. He was chair of Beaufort County Council for eight years and spent 12 years as a commissioner with the South Carolina State Ports Authority among his many civic engagements.

After the introduction by Campsen and Davis, Battey kept his remarks very brief.

“I never expected this — this is a true surprise,” he said, adding that he considered it a great privilege to have been permitted to do the work he pursued throughout his career.

The Order of the Palmetto was established by Gov. John C. West in 1971. It is presented in recognition of a lifetime of extraordinary achievement, service and contributions on a national or statewide scale. In 1999, a more stringent nomination process was implemented. More than 3,500 people have been awarded the Order of the Palmetto, including Civil Rights activist Septima Clark, soul singer James Brown and author Pat Conroy.

In her letter of recommendation supporting Battey’s nomination, Open Land Trust Executive Director Kristin Williams wrote, “His love for the state and its people shows in everything he does, and his dedication to preserving all that makes the Lowcountry so special inspires others to do the same.”

Photo by Tony Kukulich, The Post and Courier

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