“Doc” Chastain had great impact on area

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By David Meade

A man who had a tremendous impact on Williamston and surrounding areas has passed away. David R. Chastain, 97, died early Sept. 1. “Doc” Chastain was instrumental in bringing various amenities to the Williamston area including the Saluda Valley Country Club, The Vocational Center, the Williamston National Guard, Big Creek Water Sheds, the Williamston water filtration plant, Middleton Field, new girls softball and practice fields at Williamston High School.

He also supervised numerous improvements to Mineral Spring Park, was involved in the Christmas Park and helped draw plans to alleviate traffic problems around several Anderson County Schools.

A section of SC Hwy. 77 beginning at Hwy. 20 near the C&TC, which runs to Beaverdam Rd., is named in his honor.

Chastain grew up on a family farm in Pickens County and attended Pickens High School and then Clemson University.

He was a retired Colonel in the Army and National Guard and a WWII Veteran and helped create countless recreational amenities and improvements in Anderson County.

He taught Vocational Agriculture at Salem High School in Pickens County and in more recent years, was primarily known as the Vocational Agriculture teacher at Williamston High School and later at Palmetto High School.

In 1971 he was named State Teacher of the Year and as a teacher had an impact on countless students who came through his classes.

“Doc Chastain taught a whole lot more than vocational agriculture, he taught boys how to live,” said Steve Ellison, a former student and now Williamston Fire Chief. “There’s a lot of folks here today that benefitted from him, and I’m very, very, proud to have been known as one of Doc’s Boys.”

Chastain was instrumental in establishing the “Vocational Center”, now known as the Anderson District One and Two Career and Technology Center (C&TC) , where students who were not going to college learned skills that would last them a lifetime and provided a career for many.

He served as the first Director of the Vocational Education Center, writing grants, selecting equipment, recruiting staff, and overseeing completion of the building.

Anderson School District named him honorary Citizen of the Year in 1981 for devoting his time and talents to the improvement of the community.

He was recognized for his contributions to the Soil Conservation Service in Anderson County and by the YMCA for assisting in developing outdoor recreational activities.

Chastain spearheaded efforts that provided recreational opportunities that many use today.

He helped open the Saluda Valley Country Club in the 1970s and under his direction, vocational students helped construct shelters and picnic tables in Williamson’s Mineral Spring Park as well as the town’s original equipment shed located on Minor St.

He was also instrumental in the creation of Williamston’s two watersheds, which provided flood control and a water supply for the town.

“From the two reservoirs that supplied water to Williamston for years, to the Spring Park, where he built the picnic sheds and picnic tables we enjoy today, to the town shed where we store the town equipment, and at Palmetto Middle where the trees there provide shade for many, his accomplishments are too many to list,” said Ellison.

Always supportive of economic development and projects that would benefit Williamston, Chastain would often provide detailed drawings for road and street improvements.

He was the spokesman for the Town of Williamston in seeking a $500,000 grant for the construction of a water treatment plant and wrote grants for Pelzer for the development of recreational facilities.

He was recognized for his contributions by Anderson County and the Town of Williamston in 2002. Then mayor Phillip Clardy named him Honorary Mayor of Williamston, taking over responsibilities as head of the town for a day.

For his service to the community, he was presented the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest award to a civilian.

During WWII he served in Calcutta, managing supplies for troops serving in Burma and China.

In 1947 as a battery commander, he activated a unit of the S.C. National Guard at Williamston. During his tenure as battalion commander for three upstate counties, the Anderson and Clemson National Guard armories were built. He retired as a Lt. Colonel after 28 years.

The family will receive friends Wednesday, Sept. 4 at 5 p.m. at Gray Mortuary in West Pelzer. Graveside services will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at Holly Springs Baptist Church Cemetery in Pickens County.