Tut Underwood

Reporter, Producer

Tut Underwood is producer of  South Carolina Focus, a weekly news feature. A native of Alabama, Tut graduated from Auburn University with a BA in Speech Communication.  He worked in radio in his hometown before moving to Columbia where he received a Master of Mass Communications degree from the University of South Carolina, and worked for local radio while pursuing his degree.  He also worked in television. He was employed as a public information specialist for USC, and became Director of Public Information and Marketing for the South Carolina State Museum. His hobbies include reading, listening to music in a variety of styles and collecting movies and old time radio programs.

Ways to Connect

Mopeds at Hawg Scooters, Rosewood Drive, Columbia. 2.	More South Carolinians are riding mopeds, and there are numerous reasons why.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

On any day in any college town across the state a multitude of students can be seen negotiating the streets on mopeds. But they are by no means the only riders. The use of these low-power scooters is exploding across South Carolina, and the nation. Today we talk with two dealers who explain the phenomenon, as well as a rider who tells of the advantages he gets from his moped.

More and more, boxes and crates of fresh produce leaving the Palmetto State for stores and markets in other states are bearing an increasingly familiar sticker: "Certified South Carolina Grown." Ansley Turnblad, branding coordinator for the S.C. Dept. of Agriculture, says the brand encourages people to look for, ask for and buy South Carolina produce.

Food tourists get good food and a history lesson during a food tour on Columbia's Main Street.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

While most folks know that tourism is one of South Carolina’s top industries, many do not know that food tourism is a growing phenomenon around the state.

Solar Eclipse - November 13, 2012
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Follow/Flickr

It may be winter now, but big plans are being made for this summer, when portions of South Carolina will see something that hasn’t occurred here in nearly a century: a total solar eclipse.  NASA has estimated nearly one million people will come to the Palmetto State to view this exciting phenomenon.  Midlands tourism spokesperson Kelly Barbery says Columbia is well positioned to get the longest exposure to the eclipse – just over two and a half minutes – and as the third largest city in America in the eclipse’s path, it is preparing activities for the many visitors it expects. 

Man vs. Machine?

Feb 3, 2017

Even though there has been a lot of rhetoric lately about bad trade deals hurting American workers, most experts will tell you that a much bigger factor has been automation.  However, our next guest says that it’s not man vs. machine, but man and machine working together that promises to drive the future of U.S. and international business.

Mike Switzer interviews Roger Varin, CEO for Staubli Robotics in Duncan, SC.

Tattoos are a growing trend among people from many walks of life in South Carolina.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Since tattoo parlors became legal in South Carolina in 2006, they have ridden a growing wave of popularity.  No longer the province of sailors or convicts, tattoos are being worn by doctors, ministers, even grandmothers.  Tattoo artist Scot “Spyder” Kudo says the range of tattoo designs is as endless as the imaginations of his clients. 

Dr. Nori Warren loves caring for pets at 4 Paws Animal Clinic. Forced to relocate by the historic flood of 2015, she hopes to return to a new building near the original clinic later this year.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

After the historic flood of October 2015 destroyed the 4 Paws Animal Clinic in the Columbia suburb of Forest Acres, a friend came to the rescue with a temporary site for the business.  Dr. Nori Warren and her husband, Will, immediately began planning to a return to their original building, which was still structurally sound. 

Vanessa Torres gets the active participation of her Spanish students at Nursery Road Elementary School.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Vanessa Torres is a passionate advocate for teaching foreign language to elementary school children.  She says research proves that early education in foreign languages improves deductive reasoning skills, memory, self esteem and more.  Her enthusiasm in the Spanish classes she teaches is contagious, says her principal, Love Ligons.  And her fellow teachers and students’ parents are not the only ones who have noticed. 

Joe Jones tends his sheep, turkeys and chickens on his Blythewood farm.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Some farmers are just beginning to shake off the effects of the historic flood of October 2015, though others will take longer to come back.  One of those recovering is Eric McClam of City Roots, an urban farm in Columbia.  Because the farm is divided into two locations, one plot  was able to escape heavy damages and continue operating to help lift up the damaged second property. 

Faces of past U. S. Presidents carved into Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota.
Aline Dassel/Pixabay

Comedian Jay Leno and others have long pointed out many Americans’ inability to identify people they should know, whether they be politicians, celebrities or historical icons. According to University of South Carolina historians Lauren Sklaroff and Kent Germany, attitudes are changing about whether there should be a certain set of people or information that all Americans should know.

Poet Ray McManus conducts a poetry workshop at a high school in Blythewood.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

University of South Carolina – Sumter English Professor Ray Mcmanus is a poet who can’t sit still. He travels the state conducting workshops in poetry much as a missionary would: But the message he brings to the people – that is, students from elementary to high schools – is that poetry isn’t the exclusive realm of artsy, smart people; it’s accessible to everyone, and it’s already in their lives if they take notice.

BMX Supercross is a rapidly expanding sport that few have facilities for.  Rock Hill is one of those few, and reaps economic benefits because of it.
Wendy Waddle

Rock Hill was a big textile town in the 1970s.  But when that industry started to go away, the city began to look for ways to diversify and to revitalize its economy.  It found the answer in amateur sports.  Beginning with baseball and softball, the city has built facilities that have attracted teams from across the country and around the world for sports such as lacrosse, soccer, tennis, cycling and more. 

Mr. and Mrs. Mark Cain sign their wedding certificate before friends at the Columbia Fireflies ball park.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

A recent wedding at the home of the Columbia Fireflies minor league baseball team would seem unusual to most people, but to a group of University of South Carolina students, it’s just part of a class.  The wedding planning class is included in the curriculum of the Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management program, and for at least a decade has had the dual advantage of giving students experience in all the details that go into planning a wedding and providing the bride and groom with a free wedding and honeymoon.  The catch?  They must give the students total control over everything.  But s

An information packet from USC's 2016 Economic Outlook Conference.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Construction means progress for South Carolina’s economy.  Experts speaking at the University of South Carolina’s annual Economic Outlook Conference in December made their forecasts for how the state’s economy should shape up in the new year.  According to research economist Joseph Von Nessen, the trends will include a leveling off of economic growth (after several years of steady increase, so it’s not a bad thing), a tighter labor market (which is good for job seekers), and a strong housing demand.   

A member of the Greatest Generation Columbia's Moffatt Burriss recalls his World War II experiences.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

  Moffatt Burris of Columbia is one of the heroes who helped save the world from tyranny during World War II. He fought to liberate Sicily and at Anzio to free Italy. But perhaps his most memorable exploits came as a paratrooper who participated in Operation Market Garden, a failed attempt to hasten the end of the war with a massive jump into Holland.

  Shooting incidents around the country have not left South Carolina untouched.  The Emanuel AME Church shooting demonstrated that the Palmetto State is not immune to such violence.  To help citizens become more aware of what to do  and how to protect themselves in such a situation, law enforcement agencies are offering active shooter training to groups across the state.  We talk today to representatives of the Richland and Lexington County Sheriff’s Departments, who offer advice that could save lives in the event of an active shooter attack.

As recruits train at Fort Jackson, their weapons stand at the ready.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

As the army’s largest basic training post, Fort Jackson is a vital part of the nation’s defense. Today’s story looks at the approaching centennial of the fort, begun in 1917 in response to the need to train soldiers for World War I. Historians Henry Howe and Fritz Hamer comment on the fort’s beginnings as Camp Jackson, how it was built and its impact on the Midlands economy, as well as its prospects for the future.

  Local theater is found both in quantity and quality throughout South Carolina. Today we hear from representatives of two of them: Columbia’s Town Theater is the oldest continually operating community theater in America, and will turn 100 in 2019. It specializes in musicals, but presents other known plays as well. Across town, Trustus Theater employs professionals to bring audiences new productions that sometimes “push the envelope.” These and many other theaters across the state help their cities both economically, drawing tourism, and, of course, enrich them culturally as well.

Scam detector Frank Abagnale with the medallions he has received from organizations he has coached or helped to prevent or detect fraud.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

     Charleston resident Frank Abagnale has helped the FBI and numerous government agencies and corporations detect and stop fraud for more than 40 years. His expertise in the field comes largely from the fact that between the ages of 16 to 21, Abagnale was himself a scam artist and check forger, whose international exploits are recounted in his book “Catch Me if you Can,” and a major motion picture of the same name.

Arthur Erskine of West Columbia and friend.
Lauren Rivers

Most men don’t frequent beauty parlors, but Arthur “Cotton” Erskine of West Columbia visits his every day from Thanksgiving to Christmas to prepare his hair and long beard for a role he’s portrayed for years: Santa Claus.  “Santa Cotton,” as he is known, becomes the Jolly Old Elf for events such as Christmas parades, private photo sessions and store appearances, sometimes with as many as six appointments a day.  He is “Ho Ho” to his grandchildren, and here he discusses the fun of  dealing with children, and the unusual requests they sometimes have of Santa.  Erskine’s hairdresser and the co

Holiday depression is a real phenomenon for some South Carolinians.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Cries of “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah” or “Happy New Year” can ring hollow for those afflicted with the phenomenon known as holiday depression.  Psychologist Fred Medway says holidays are so charged with memories that if one experiences, for example, a loss or other unhappy event during the holiday season, it can trigger sad memories in future seasons.   According to University of South Carolina nursing professor Sue Heiney, symptoms of holiday depression can include sleeplessness, change in appetite, sadness and not being able to enjoy anything, even things a person once took pleasu

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941. A small boat rescues a seaman from the 31,800 ton USS West Virginia burning in the foreground. Smoke rolling out amidships shows where the most extensive damage occurred. Note the two men in the superstructure.
Library of Congress/U.S. Navy, Office of Public Relations, Washington.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 brought the United States into World War II.  The Commander in Chief of the U.S. Fleet, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, was blamed for the defeat, demoted for dereliction of duty and forced into retirement, along with his army counterpart, Gen. Walter Short.  In 1944, the first of 10 investigations and hearings into the Pearl Harbor defeat effectively exonerated Kimmel, but his rank was not restored because the war was on.   

The world's hottest pepper- the Carolina Reaper, grown in Fort Mill.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Many people distinguish themselves in the worlds of sports, entertainment, writing and other endeavors.  Ed Currie of Fort Mill has distinguished himself in a much hotter manner:  he holds the Guinness world record for the hottest pepper on earth, his self-developed Carolina Reaper.  He grows many varieties of peppers for the food industry, but it’s the Reaper that makes some hot-sauce aficionados rethink how tough they are.  In addition to setting people’s insides on fire, however, Currie says the pepper has other uses in the paint, medical and defense industries.

A roller derby match pits the Columbia Quade Squad All Stars against a team visiting from Tampa.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

  Half party, half combat. That’s roller derby, a growing sport in South Carolina. Though most teams are women, there are some men’s teams and even juniors teams. In this report we talk to Dell Corley, coach of the Richland County Regulators, as well as two married players. Kelly Wuest of the Columbia Quad Squad All Stars, inspired her husband Mike to join the Carolina Wreckingballs when he saw how much fun she was having. All three, however, say a more important part of the sport than winning is the family-like relationship that links the players.

Each of these silver spoons has a story to tell, and Dawn Corley knows them all.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Dawn Corley of Charleston began collecting silver as a child under the tutelage of her great aunt.  As her collection grew, so did her expertise, until SCETV’s Beryl Dakers dubbed her the “Charleston Silver Lady,” a nickname which has stuck over the years.  Corley has presented programs on silver for U.S.

These Narragansett turkeys are raised by University of South Carolina professor Joe Jones.  Though he keeps his flock small, the quality of the meat is far superior to mass produced turkeys.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

From 9 to 5, Joe Jones of Blythewood is a professor of marine science and environmental science at the University of South Carolina.  After 5, he becomes a farmer, raising sheep, pigs, chickens, and especially Narragansett turkeys, which makes him popular around Thanksgiving.   He and his wife keep their flock small, preferring quality over quantity.  Jones and his wife Amanda talk in this story about the difference between homegrown birds and the corporate, mass-produced turkeys most people consume (hint: price and flavor have a lot to do with the difference).  There are challenges to rais

  Many people are fearful of a Zika virus epidemic because of the publicity the virus has received.  But South Carolina law enforcement officers are fighting a much-less-publicized epidemic – the growth of heroin addiction.  This problem, however, is largely rampant among middle class users, according to Frank Shaheen, director of the Recovering Professional Program.  

Counselors from Carolina United have worked  with thousands of flood victims in the past year, including this one in Eastover, S.C.
Courtesy Carolina United, SC Dept. of Mental Health

More than a year after South Carolina’s historic flood, crisis counselors from the state Department of Mental Health’s Carolina United program continue to find and help flood victims.  But hearing the woes of thousands of victims over a long period can have detrimental effects on the counselors as well, sometimes producing stress or depression. 

Poster for "Eight Days a Week."
Apple Corps

The recent Ron Howard documentary film “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years” highlights the cultural phenomenon of Beatlemania in the 1960s.  The movie captures America’s excitement as John, Paul, George and Ringo stormed the country at the forefront of the most popular musical revolution of the century, the British Invasion.   

As society becomes more dependent on technology, from smart phones to driver-less cars, the need for security has grown, and not just for financial institutions. The University of South Carolina and Gov. Nikki Haley recently announced the formation of SC Cyber, a coalition of educators, industry and government designed to protect information and anticipate the problems posed by new uses of technology.

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