Horry County Schools
In concert with Coastal Carolina University’s 50th anniversary in 2004, the Horry County Schools, the College of Charleston, and the University of South Carolina were honored for the important roles they had in the founding and development of the institution.
The idea to start a local college in the 1950s had its origin in the public school system of Horry County. The county school district continued to be closely involved with the early growth of Coastal Carolina Junior College.
In the early 1950s, having survived the Great Depression and the World War II years, South Carolina was beginning to share un the great era of postwar prosperity. Horry County, with its emerging tourism economy, was likewise showing positive signs in its long struggle against poverty and isolation. One obstacle to progress in Horry County was lack of education. The average Horryite had not progressed beyond the seventh grade, and less than a third of the teachers in the county had a college degree.
No one was more aware of Horry County’s educational deficiencies than Thurman Anderson, the county’s longtime superintendent of education. A dynamic and far-sighted leader, Anderson, believing that better teachers would produce better students, began working to provide training for teachers almost as soon as he was elected to office in 1941.
By 1953, Anderson believed the time had come for Horry County to have a two-year college. The nearest colleges at the time were in Charleston and Wilmington, and the general low standard of living in Horry County prevented many promising students from being able to afford going away to college.
In advancing the idea and laying the plans and securing support for a two-year college, Anderson was assisted primarily by two of his ablest lieutenants in the school district: J. Kenyon East, director of instruction, and Parks M. Coble, Conway area superintendent. They did a great deal of background work and carefully cultivated local support for the endeavor. East and Coble were assigned the task of persuading an established college to sponsor Coastal and extend its credits to the new school. Together with Anderson, they worked closely with the first board of directors to guide the new institution through its difficult birth pangs.
For the first eight years of its existence, from 1954 to 1963, Coastal’s physical plant was the Conway High School building where classes met after 3 p.m. and where offices were provided for the college’s first faculty and administration. Coastal’s early students also used Conway High’s library and gym.
Even after Coastal was up and running, the leaders of the Horry County School District were actively involved in the governance of the institution. East was secretary of the Coastal Educational Foundation until he left Conway to take a job with the South Carolina Department of Education in 1959. Anderson served on the foundation from 1959 to 1964 and was a member of the Horry County Higher Education Commission from 1959 until 1970.