Columbia Star

Columbia Civitan Club celebrates 90th anniversary

Bobby Huguley receives a Civitan Award for over 60-plus Years of Service from Bill Tolleson.

Bobby Huguley receives a Civitan Award for over 60-plus Years of Service from Bill Tolleson.

The Columbia Civitan Club is the oldest Civitan club in South Carolina that has kept a consistent membership and active charter for 90 years. Civitan, now Civitan International, was founded in Birmingham, Alabama March 17, 1917, as a service organization and was named for the latin word “civitas” which means citizenship.

Civitan began chartering other clubs in the 1920s. The Greenville Civitan Club is the oldest club in South Carolina and was chartered in 1922. The Greenville Civitan Club chartered the Columbia Civitan Club November 4, 1929 with Civitan Charter #234.

The Greenville Civitan

Club disbanded during the Great Depression in 1933. It was the Columbia Civitan Club that rechartered the Greenville Civitan Club in 1947.

Over the years, the Columbia Civitan Club has chartered many clubs in the Midlands area, most recently was the Palmetto Civitan Club chartered in Lexington, S.C. in 2017.

Civitan was formed by a group of well-meaning men in response to the onset of the Great Depression. It was a positive step taken to uplift those in need in our nation during those difficult years. The projects the Civitan first chose to support involved orphanages, polio hospitals, and the creation of Junior Civitan. It was important to members during this era to invest in younger men; to help set their lives on a positive path despite the adversity facing the nation.

Columbia Civitan Club members hosts service activities with Epworth Early Intervention Center.

Columbia Civitan Club members hosts service activities with Epworth Early Intervention Center.

Civitan International now has a signature, flagship service program dedicated to serving the needs of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. For the Columbia Civitan Club, The Babcock Center of Columbia was chosen as its flagship service project, and under the leadership of members Steve and Darlene Cox, the club spends time with the patients of the center for four large events every year and is present to celebrate the birthdays of 20 patients throughout the year.

The club sponsors a fall cookout at The Babcock Center, a Christmas party and caroling among the center facilities, a Fireflies Baseball night for patients, and a spring party or cookout. For 20 patients, members of the club visit with presents, balloons, and sing “Happy Birthday” faithfully every year.

The Columbia Civitan Club has been a huge supporter of Carolina Children’s Home over the years. Members have donated buses, buildings, clothing, and spent countless hours in activities with children. Today, the club continues the tradition by supporting Epworth Children’s Home Epworth Early Intervention Center which provides pre-school schooling and daycare for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities in keeping with the Civitan International Flagship program. The club has also sponsored Little League baseball teams, built ballfields, supported Dowdy Gardiner Center, Tucker Center, and other Veterans’ organizations. It also has supported the Salvation Army, Gray Y Club, Kidney Foundation, Special Olympics, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Camp Discovery, Oliver Gospel Mission, Sister Care, Children’s Hospital, Family Shelter, and Lighthouse for Life.

The Columbia Civitan Club celebrated its 90th Anniversary on January 30. Bill Tolleson, club secretary, past president, and past South Carolina District Governor presented a history of the club with information provided to him from the historical writings of Charlie Fetner and Mary Brown, daughter of Daniel Long, 40- year club member and longtime treasurer.

Tolleson presented a slide presentation highlighting the activities of the club and its members. On the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the club, Tolleson told the story of three men’s lives that shaped the club’s history:

Bobby Huguley, Herb Benson, and Jerk Bailey.

Bobby Huguley joined Civitan in October 1957. He says he joined to “ become a part of my community, and it was an important way of serving my community.” He served as a past-president and active member for 60- plus years and received a framed Medallion Certificate with accompanying lapel pin.

Herb Benson was a member of Civitan from 1947-2014. Benson owned Benson Oil Company in Columbia. He served in the military during World War II as a photographer and witnessed and recorded the surrender of the Japanese on September 2, 1945 aboard the USS Missouri.

Perk Bailey was a member of Civitan from 1996 to 2018. He owned owned the Carolina Book Store on South Main Street and several other businesses in Columbia and in three other states. He employed many University of South Carolina students over 42 years in business.

Scarlet Thompson, Civitan International executive vice president, presented Mitch Bailey, treasurer and past president, with his 25- plus years of service Civitan pin.

Dr. Jim Stiver was presented with the President of Distinction award for serving two consecutive years of service as president of The Columbia Civitan Club during 2018 and 2019.

The current president of the club is Jody Hodge.

The Columbia Civitan Club meets every second and fourth Monday at noon at the Lizard’s Thicket on Forest Drive. Quarterly meetings are held at 6 p. m. at the Lizard’s Thicket on Forest Drive.

For membership information, contact Bill Tolleson by phone 803- 413- 6812 and by email

For more information about Civitan International, visit

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