The Order of the Palmetto was instituted by Governor John C. West in 1971. The honor is awarded by the governor to an individual “in grateful recognition of your contributions and friendship to the State of South Carolina and her people.” The honoree receives a certificate signed by the governor and bearing an impression of the state seal. The certificate, designed by the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, features a background image of a palmetto. The award is thought to have been modeled on the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s practice of awarding the title of “Colonel” to its honorees.
Concerned that the great numbers of awards might lessen its value, Governor Jim Hodges appointed a screening committee to review nominations and make recommendations for the Order of the Palmetto and other gubernatorial awards. Originally the award bestowed on the recipient the honorary title of “Palmetto Gentleman” or “Palmetto Lady,” without any actual attendant rights or privileges. In December 2001 Hodges adopted a new format for the certificate of award, on the recommendation of the screening committee. This omitted the titles “Palmetto Lady (or Gentleman)” in order “to eliminate the distinction between male and female recipients of the award.” As of October 2004 over 3,500 Order of the Palmetto Awards have been made.
The Order of the Silver Crescent was initiated by Governor David Beasley in 1997 as a companion award to the Order of the Palmetto and was intended to honor the achievements of South Carolinians aged eighteen or younger. In May 1999 Governor Hodges determined that the Silver Crescent would be awarded to persons of any age for exemplary community contributions and achievements. Each honoree received a certificate decorated with a large crescent moon, signed by the governor, and bearing the governor’s seal of office.
“State Recognition: Order of the Palmetto.” Columbia State, July 7, 1971, p. B13.