By Jessica Connor
A new license plate featuring the image of United Methodist leader Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune will help The United Methodist Church in South Carolina.
The plate, which features Bethune s name and her portrait, which hangs in the State House, will be unveiled Feb. 12 at 10 a.m. in a ceremony at the State House Atrium. The plate goes on sale Jan. 3 by the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles, and a portion of the proceeds from the license plate will fund the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune UMC Education and Scholarship Program, along with other programs.
A significant education advocate and civil rights leader, Bethune (1875-1955) was the founder of the Bethune-Cookman University and a fellow United Methodist from Mayesville who worked with President Franklin D. Roosevelt on behalf of women and youth. Roosevelt appointed her as director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration. Bethune was a member of St. Mark UMC, Mayesville.
The Rev. Ken Nelson, conference African-American ministries specialist, encourages S.C. United Methodists to attend the unveiling and support the license plate.
It s a great way to celebrate both the ways in which the faith of a United Methodist changed our world, and a great way to celebrate Black History Month, Nelson said.
Twin City Outreach, a nonprofit organization founded by the late United Methodist leader the Rev. Willis T. Goodwin, sponsored the plate, which was passed by state legislators and signed into law by Gov. Nikki Haley June 26. Sen. John Land wrote the bill, and Sen. Larry Grooms championed it. Twin City Outreach is headed by former Mayesville Mayor Jereleen Hollimon-Miller, great-grandniece of Bethune who grew up in St. Mark UMC, and her husband, former Mayesville Councilman Ed Miller; they spearheaded the creation of the plate.
A United Methodist himself, Ed Miller said Twin City is collaborating with the UMC because the denomination helps so many young people achieve scholarships and other help for a bright future “ programs very much in line with Bethune s values. He said proceeds from the plate can be very, very beneficial to the UMC financially, educationally, socially, economically and otherwise. After all, an educated child becomes a contributor to the state s economy, not a detriment.
We ve got to educate those kids, Miller said. When they go to prison, we pay. When they go to college, they pay.
Miller said he would not have gone to college himself had it not been for the strong mentorship he received from the Rev. J.S. Dial, who pastored Mount Zion UMC, Kingstree, in 1969. He believes UMC education programs can be a major help to youth who are struggling for a better tomorrow.
At the end of the day, you want some return, Miller said. To me, if you educate a child, you will get some return.
Kevin Shwedo, executive director for S.C. DMV, will serve as guest speaker at the license plate unveiling, and Joe Pinner will be emcee.