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

Solar eclipse - November 13, 2012.
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

On Aug. 21, a total solar eclipse will cover a 70- mile-wide strip of South Carolina from Greenville through Columbia to Charleston. University of South Carolina Astronomy Professor Steve Rodney is already making plans for the event. The last few days have seen the sun in the same place in the sky it will be on Aug. 21, so Rodney and his students can prepare well for the once-in-a lifetime event in the Midlands. They’ve located where the sun will be to make sure there will be no obstructions, and he’s got students scouting the best locations on campus for eclipse watching.

Robert Zander's West Columbia home was heavily damaged by the historic rains that produced the flood of October 2015.  With help from a nonprofit disaster relief agency.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

The flood of October 2015 damaged homes it didn’t even enter, as West Columbia resident Robert Zander discovered the hard way. The historically heavy rains soaked the ground in his yard, causing a large tree to fall through his roof. Rain waters soaked the interior and rotted sheetrock all over the house. After a frustrating six months dealing with FEMA, Zander was about to give up when Hearts and Hands, a non-profit disaster recovery agency, showed up. Together with its partners in Brethren Disaster Ministries, repairs were made, even exceeding Zander’s expectations.

Orders in hand, Navy Capt. Marc A. Mitscher, skipper of the USS Hornet (CV-8) chats with Lt. Col. James Doolittle, leader of the Army Air Forces attack group. This group of fliers carried the battle of the Pacific to the heart of the Japanese empire.
U.S. Navy

75 years ago, on April 18 1942, 80 brave men did what had never been attempted: they flew army bombers off a U.S. aircraft carrier on their way to bomb Tokyo.  The attack, which has become known to history as the Doolittle Raid, was America’s first strike back at Japan after the infamous sneak attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the United States into World War II.  In this report, Mount Pleasant author James Scott talks about the significance of the raid to the war, and its great psychological effect both on the American and Japanese publics. 

(April 21, 1972) Astronaut Charles M. Duke Jr., Lunar Module pilot of the Apollo 16 mission, is photographed collecting lunar samples at Station no. 1 during the first Apollo 16 extravehicular activity at the Descartes landing site.
NASA

On April 16, 1972, with the deafening blast of a Saturn V rocket, the Apollo 16 mission carried three Americans to the moon.   Five days later, Charles M. Duke Jr. of Lancaster, South Carolina became the 10th man of only 12 in history to walk on the surface of the moon.   In this report Duke, a retired Air Force general, talks about his historic mission, including the difficulties of landing and the advances in science made because of the space program, as well as his role as communications liason on the Apollo 11 mission, which put the first men on the moon.  

Golf club next to golf ball.
[CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Golf is an economic juggernaut for the South Carolina, accounting for a $3 billion economic impact on the state.  A large part of that will be felt in one week; the week between the Master’s and the Heritage golf tournaments.  Duane Parrish, director of the S.C. Dept.

Tim Tebow at a Columbia Fireflies press conference.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback Tim Tebow has taken on a new challenge: breaking into baseball at age 29.  Signed to the New York Mets organization, Tebow has begun working his way through the minor league ranks beginning in South Carolina’s capital city.  Tebow has been assigned to the single A Columbia Fireflies, and the fans have turned out in large numbers.  Hopes are not only that Tebow will be an asset on the field, but the Fireflies’ president and a University of South Carolina sports management professor predict he will have a positive economic impact on the team a

Charleston School of Law student Tyler Gilliam rehearses his tax argument with Prof. Kristin Gutting as his partner Anna Boning looks on.  Gutting coached the students to the school's sixth consecutive tax moot court national championship.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

For a law student, winning a national moot court championship is like winning the Super Bowl.  And Charleston School of Law students recently did it an astounding six times in a row.  Teams of students argue cases in front of judges to simulate situations in a real courtroom – in this case,  it was tax law, though other disciplines of law have their own moot courts.  This year’s winners, Anna Boning and Tyler Gilliam,  have the distinction of being the first team to repeat the feat, and win the competition for the second time. 

This drone is ready to fly.  Drones have many applications ,but the law hasn't caught up with some of them yet.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Drones are becoming more and more common, with possibly a million or more sold in 2015.  As recreation, they’ve been used as an extension of the traditional model airplane.  Newer uses in business, government and other enterprises have seen them used for traffic monitoring, inspecting farm crops and even collecting information from whale spray.  In this report, law professor Bryant Smith talks about legal concerns brought about by the use of drones, and oceanographer George Voulgaris and graduate student Doug Cahl discuss the drone’s role in various areas of research.

Aiken County cotton farmer Carl Brown overlooks one of his fields.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

American consumers buy nearly 20 billion new items of clothing a year, many of them made of Southern cotton, but 98 percent made overseas.  A University of South Carolina professor wondered about the journey of cotton from South Carolina to China and back. Laura Kissel says she learned a lot about the cotton-to-cloth-to-clothing process while making a documentary film about the people who grow the cotton and make the garments.  

Aiken County farmer Carl Brown discusses the changes in cotton farming over the course of his career. 

USC Law School's Pro Bono program provides student volunteers for legal services throughout South Carolina.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

It’s tax season, and many people are working with tax preparers.  But some preparers are giving away their services for free to elderly or low income clients.  They’re tax law students in the Pro Bono program at the University of South Carolina School of Law.  The Pro Bono program provides volunteer services to many causes year round: clerks for pro bono lawyers, research, wills and other areas of the law. 

Poison Center operator Kelly Funderburg, a former emergency room nurse, answers a call and looks up information to advise the caller about a potential toxin.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

A child has drunk sweet-smelling shampoo.  A senior has taken his wife’s prescription by mistake.   A person comes to the emergency room after taking multiple medications at 3 in the morning.  What to do?  The Palmetto Poison Center is on-call 24/7 to help with cases from parents’ worries to questions from doctors unfamiliar with the effects of varying drugs taken together. 

Forester Chase Folk looks over a section of Sumter National Forest in Newberry County.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

For 90 years, the South Carolina Forestry Commission has fought fires and advised landowners on how they can best manage the woodlands on their property.   According to Forest Management Chief Russell Hulbright and Forester Chase Folks, forests can be managed for timber production, wildlife protection, aesthetics, soil and water preservation, or a combination of these outcomes.  Hulbright says the public benefits from trees just from the fact that they’re out there along the highways of South Carolina.  The state is blessed to have 13 million acres covered by public and private forests, acc

Edvard Tchivzhel, conductor of Greenville Symphony Orchestra.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

    Live classical music is widely available in the Palmetto State, thanks to orchestras in at least seven South Carolina cities. But even the same music can be approached differently by different orchestras and conductors. 

Greg Wilsbacher, checking film in USC's Moving Image Research Collection.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Since 1980, the University of South Carolina has built a national reputation as one of the top film preservation archives in the nation.  Its Moving Image Research Collection has recently become the recipient of a significant national gift – the archival films of the United States Marine Corps.  Tom McNally, Dean of Libraries at the University,  says the school took the collection with no funds to preserve it, but with the faith that revenue donors could be found, which they were.  

Jessica Skinner leads a rehearsal of the Cola Ukulele Band at a Columbia music store.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Over the past decade or so, the ukulele has grown tremendously in popularity among a wide variety of people, helped by its use by popular artists such as Jason Mraz and Ingrid Michaelson.  The trend hit the Midlands recently when University of South Carolina music student Tim Hall got a grant to start the Cola (not Columbia, though that’s where it’s located) Ukulele Band.  Since its beginning, the band has attracted members of all ages, from elementary school children to grandparents. 

World War II veteran Marvin Veronee of Charleston with a photo book, for which he wrote the text, on the Battle of Iwo Jima.  Veronee was in the battle as a 19-year-old sailor.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

In February and March 1945, one of the most significant battles of World War II took place:  Iwo Jima, just 760 miles from Tokyo itself.  Among the 70,000 marines assigned to the operation was 19-year-old Marvin Veronee of Charleston, a navy gunfire officer who went ashore with the Marines to call in fire from warships stationed off the coast when he found good targets.  75 years later, a 93-year-old Veronee recalls his  duties in the battle, his narrow scrape with a Japanese banzai charge ( a suicide attack), and his sight of the first (not the second, world-famous) American flag raised on

Tennis pro and Charleston native Shelby Rogers keeps up her practice on a recent visit home.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Charleston native Shelby Rogers has risen through the ranks in women’s tennis over the last few years, currently ranking #48.  She started off the year in grand style, defeating the world’s number 4 player, Simona Halep, in the Australian Open.   As she looks forward to returning home to play the Volvo Car Open on Daniel Island this month, she took the time to reflect on the beginnings of her career, her practice routine, and the price she’s paid to be a professional athlete.  

A volunteer's transport van bears the slogan MAMAS on the Move.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Many stray dogs from South Carolina are finding homes in other states thanks to Bamberg’s Mary Ann Morris Animal Society, also known as MAMAS.  The no-kill animal shelter has developed a transport system that shuttles dogs to willing owners by way of a “pipeline” of volunteers that relay the animals from North Carolina to Maine and Vermont.  The dedicated volunteers talk about their devotion to saving these pets for new owners who are excited to give them loving homes, and keep in touch with MAMAS to update staff on the lives of dogs they’ve rescued. 

kerttu/pixabay

As times and technology evolve, so does crime.  Members of the Midlands Gang Task Force, a union of specialists from the Richland and Lexington County Sheriff’s Offices, the Columbia, Cayce and West Columbia Police Departments and more, see the methods of area gangs change from drug and violent crime, increasingly to white collar crimes such as tax and insurance fraud and identity theft.

Travel, history, ghosts and more are among the many subjects of the USC Press' books
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

The Palmetto State has a prestigious name in the world of publishing: the University of South Carolina Press. Because it’s a non-profit, it can publish scholarly books on important subjects that would not make a profit for commercial publishers, according to Suzanne Axland. But that doesn’t mean the press doesn’t publish for the general interest. It prints a wide variety of books on art, history, Southern culture, beautiful photography and more, even novels, says Axland.

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. 

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.

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