Bump Roddey remembers his days as a record-breaking wide receiver for the Northwestern High School Trojans football team.
It was an athletic career cut short by a knee injury and surgeries that set his life on a vastly different course.
“If an injury can be a blessing in disguise,” said Roddey, 38, “then I would say that’s what it was.”
Now Roddey, serving his first term in public office representing southern Rock Hill on the York County Council, is about to do something else he considers a high honor.
Roddey will attend the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this week as a delegate who will help formally re-nominate President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Joining Roddey as delegates are state Rep. John King, 36, of Rock Hill; and Sheila Bickford, 68, of Lancaster. Jim Thompson of Fort Mill will attend the convention as an alternate.
Convention proceedings begin Tuesday and will culminate with speeches by Obama and Biden at Bank of America Stadium.
Delegates will arrive at their hotels today, marking the beginning of scores of receptions and parties and Labor Day festivities leading up to the convention.
The reality of the honor of being a delegate hit Roddey while volunteering recently with the Obama campaign.
“It really didn’t dawn on me how big an opportunity this was until (last) Saturday, when they started handing out credentials,” he said. “Seeing people get excited to go just to hear the president speak helped put the whole experience into perspective.”
Raised and educated in York County, the Winthrop University graduate went to work at Bowater – now Resolute Forest Products – thinking on his first day he’d retire from the paper products company, which appeared to him to be in a strong industry that wasn’t going anywhere.
But he’s seen layoffs and a weak economy reduce the Catawba plant’s workforce to about 650 employees – well down from about 1,400 in the 1980s.
With Republicans criticizing the president for slow growth in the economy and still high unemployment rates, Roddey sees things differently.
A lot has changed since Obama took office, Roddey says, “whether people want to recognize it or not. Where would this country be if we had not done what we did for the auto industry, what we did for the banks?”
Both industries have received billions of dollars in backing from the federal government – for carmakers working through bankruptcy and for banking as it reeled from investment scandals that threatened the worldwide economy.
Gauging progress “depends on what measuring stick you want to use,” he said. “When you’re starting in the red, and you can get back close to the black, that’s a positive gain.”
‘15 minutes from home’
King, who represents southern Rock Hill in the S.C. House, was scheduled to attend the 2008 Democratic National Convention but couldn’t due to an illness in his family.
Now he’s excited that he can say, “I lived at a time when an African American male was elected president of the United States” – and was re-nominated “15 minutes from my home.”
He’ll be surrounded by “the people who will be in the trenches fighting for our president to be elected,” he said.
“I strongly support my president. I think that we are at a good place to really show the people of the Carolinas what the Democratic Party is all about.”
A Chester native, King went to school at Morehouse College in Atlanta and then to school to study funeral services. His family operates Christopher King’s Funeral Home in Chester.
Raised in a family that believed in public service, King successfully ran for the Chester City Council and Chester County Council before running for the House. He lost his first Statehouse bid, but was successful in 2008.
He now serves as the only black lawmaker in York County’s delegation and the only Democrat from York County serving in the House.
Being in the legislative minority, King said, he frequently faces “a lot of adversities” in trying to help his district.
The thing that sets apart the Democratic Party, he said, is that “we embrace all and we love wholeheartedly. If we continue in that vein, we will bring more people on board.”
‘Life is full of compromises’
Delegate Sheila Bickford, chairwoman of the Indian Land Democratic Club, got a chuckle out of being named a “rising star” by the South Carolina New Democrats, which bills itself as an independent reform group.
Bickford a retired manufacturing production planner, lives with her husband, Bennett Bickford, in Sun City, a gated community in northern Lancaster County.
Bickford is honored to have a chance to represent her state and party at the convention.
As a Democrat who moved to the South from Connecticut many years ago – and with children and grandchildren who’ve served or are serving the military – Bickford hasn’t appreciated some of what she has heard about her political party.
“For some reason, the Democrats get painted as non-patriotic and I don’t know where that comes from. It bothers me.”
That stereotype, she said, is one of many distractions from what matters.
“Let’s have a conversation about the issues and stop the nonsense,” said Bickford, adding that there are “so many misconceptions about President Obama and what he’s trying to do.”
She’s upset with the Republican Party and the “do-nothing Congress” for not supporting the president’s initiatives, and Gov. Nikki Haley who has spent time campaigning for Republicans in other states.
Bickford said she believes Obama is the right leader to move the country forward and is critical of gridlock in Washington.
“We need people who are going to compromise,” she said. “Life is full of compromises, don’t you think?”
Jamie Self 803-329-4062