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By: Ivy Moore, Features Contributor at The Sumter Item
Dr. Luns C. Richardson's contributions to and achievements at Morris College during his 43-year service as college president could likely fill several volumes. In his latest book, James L. "Jim" Felder sets those achievements in the context of Richardson's life from his birth in 1928 to his death in 2018, both in his hometown of Hartsville.
In "The Life and Times of Dr. Luns C. Richardson," Felder takes the reader from Richardson's childhood on the family's sharecropped farm to his many triumphs in education, beginning at Denmark Technical College, which he served for 15 years, and continuing through several other posts, including principal at St. Helena Island High School in Beaufort and Wilson High in Florence, followed by service as dean of students and acting president at Benedict College in Columbia.
Between 1972 and 1973, Richardson stabilized Benedict's ailing finances and resolved an FBI probe of the college's use of federal funds. He increased the college's real estate holdings, as well, before accepting the presidency of Morris College in 1973.
Chapter 7 of Felder's nine-chapter biography is dedicated to Richardson's 43-year tenure at Morris and is titled "Morris College Resurrection." The new president faced a college in debt and unaccredited, with a small enrollment. Felder chronicles Richardson's successful efforts at resolving Morris' debts, including outstanding taxes. He also shows the growth of Morris College under Richardson, including the addition of many new buildings, huge increase in student enrollment and the obtaining of accreditation.
Felder interviewed 122 individuals for his book, all of whom had high praise for Richardson. Among the adjectives and phrases they used to describe him are "savior" of Morris College, "straight shooter," "Renaissance Man," "visionary," "always fair" and more.
The book is amply illustrated with photographs of significant people and events, and there is a comprehensive timeline of Richardson's life achievements.
Upon Richardson's retirement, Congressman James E. Clyburn spoke to Congress to pay tribute to Richardson. His closing attempted to sum up Richardson's impact:
" Dr. Luns C. Richardson is a giant of a man whose impact on the countless lives he touched, the City of Sumter, the entire state of South Carolina and indeed the entire nation will be felt throughout the ages."
Felder's book fills many of the gaps not as well known, relating his relationships with friends and family, his service in the ministry, his many contributions outside academia, his triumphs and his frustrations.
"The Life and Times of Dr. Luns C. Richardson" can be purchased at Imports Ltd., 9 Main St., and beginning Friday, at Books-A-Million in Sumter Mall. Several book signings in Sumter are currently being scheduled for June.
James L. Felder is the author of "I Buried John F. Kennedy," "Civil Rights in South Carolina" and "The Making of an AME Bishop." He is a member of the South Carolina Black Hall of Fame, a U.S. Army veteran and one of the first three black men elected to the S.C. Legislature since Reconstruction.