COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina’s highest civilian honor has been awarded to athletes, state lawmakers, religious leaders, retired military personnel and police officers.
It’s been used to curry favor with voters and to reward longtime employees and agency directors.
Rosa Parks, Ray Charles, author Pat Conroy, L.A. Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda and two-time presidential candidate Ross Perot each have one. So does the “Terminator” and former governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The state’s Order of the Palmetto was created to honor and recognize a native or resident South Carolinian’s lifetime of extraordinary achievement, service or contributions on a statewide level.
But records dating back to 1971, when the state’s highest…