ROCK HILL — Oratorian Brother David Boone received the Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian honor in South Carolina, at a special ceremony held at South Pointe High School.
He was honored for more than 50 years of service in the Rock Hill community, including extensive involvement in civil rights during the 1960s, his aid to the city’s department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, his work at St. Mary Church, and with area organizations that serve the poor.
Sen. Robert W. Hayes Jr. presented the Order of the Palmetto in the absence of Gov. Mark Sanford on April 26, which was named “David Boone Day” in Rock Hill and York County.
Brother David said the award was a complete surprise to him. He was originally told the event at South Pointe was to honor his 50 years at the parish.
“It felt very good to receive the award. I certainly didn’t expect that type of honor,” Brother David said in an interview with The Miscellany. “There were 800 people in the audience, and I thanked them because many of them were people I’d leaned on over the years, so the honor belonged to them also.”
Brother David, 76, is a native of western Kentucky who entered the seminary at age 16 and came to the Oratory in 1951. He was assigned to St. Mary in 1959.
His main mission during his early years in South Carolina was to help the black community, which struggled under the laws of segregation. Brother David did everything from obtaining running water for black neighborhoods to helping integrate recreation leagues.
He said his efforts with civil rights involved behind-the-scenes work such as organizing sit-ins at segregated lunch counters at McCrory’s and Woolworth’s, and pushing for integration of the city’s public schools in the late 1960s.
“I’m most proud of my work in integrating different segments of this city, and getting it done peacefully,” he said. “We got the recreation leagues integrated completely without any trouble at all.”
Rock Hill Mayor David Echols was one of the people who nominated the Oratorian for the award.
“Brother David has been instrumental in so many things in our community for such a long period of time,” he said. “He has been a wonderful citizen leader, and in doing so he’s touched the lives of thousands of people of all ages. He has a quiet, gentle way about relating to people that has endeared him to all those people he’s come in contact with, as well as the community in general.”
Echols praised the religious brother’s work with the city’s recreation commission, which he joined in 1970 and currently serves as chairman.
“Early on, Brother David realized that people who play together usually begin to understand each other a lot better, and relate to each other in very human ways,” he said.
Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.) also nominated him for the award.
“In the community where he lives and works, there are few, if any, who have contributed so much so selflessly as Brother David Boone,” Spratt wrote in his nomination letter. “He has taught us what it means to be a citizen in a democracy, and lived a live that embodies the strong communitarian values of his faith … I knew of Brother David long before I knew him personally. I knew of him, and admired him, when he challenged our community to rise up and live out the true meaning of our creed and break down the barriers of racial segregation.”
Spratt also praised Brother David’s work with programs such as Carolina Community Action Inc., which provides emergency assistance, job training and home repairs for the poor in York County.
For the past 11 years, the Oratorian has also served on the committee for “Rolling in Rock Hill,” a program that organizes volunteers to paint the homes of needy or elderly people who can’t do it for themselves.
Brother David said he is especially proud of the role he plays at St. Mary, where he is a parish life facilitator and organizes outreach to poor in the area.
“I’m happy that St. Mary’s, where I work, has been in the forefront of everything when it comes to helping the community,” he said. “We have the only soup kitchen in Rock Hill, and we have a very good group of people working on our social concerns committee. We do a lot of outreach, and it’s important to remember we can’t stand still on our laurels. We have to keep moving on and reaching out.”