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Wilkins Leadership Awards

Annual Wilkins Legislative and Civic Awards Dinner

Event Update: 2021 Legislative and Civic Leadership Awards Ceremony

It's the time of year when the Riley Institute begins to look forward to our annual award celebration honoring legislative and civic leadership in South Carolina. For the past fifteen Januaries, the buzz of conversation, the handshakes and hugs, and the camaraderie we share as we honor bipartisan leadership have brought us together. Because we so value this time of gathering, it was difficult for us to make the decision to cancel our January 2021 awards ceremony, but we know it is the right thing to do given the persistence of COVID-19.

As challenging as this year has been, we have witnessed the tremendous ways South Carolinians have rallied around their communities. Such displays of compassion, courage, and commitment to community are the very qualities our award celebrates. They inspire us to make our annual ceremony, refreshed but of the same spirit, the very best it can be when it returns in 2022.

In a time when civility in public discourse and cooperative bipartisanship are critical to making progress in our state, South Carolina’s citizens look to their leaders to put aside differences and work together for the good of our state. This “putting aside of differences” requires qualities of civility, integrity, compassion, vision, and courage.

The Wilkins Legislative and Civic Awards Dinner bears the name of David H. Wilkins, former ambassador to Canada and speaker of the S.C. House of Representatives, one of South Carolina’s true statesmen and leaders. During his 25 year tenure in the House, Wilkins left an indelible mark on the state’s political landscape. His widely acclaimed leadership and commitment to public service has become a benchmark of excellence for state legislators around the country.

To honor and sustain Wilkins’ efforts in the SC House of Representatives, the Riley Institute proudly recognizes excellence in legislative and civic leadership at the annual Wilkins Awards Dinner. At the dinner, the Riley Institute bestows the annual Wilkins Award for Excellence in Legislative Leadership and the Wilkins Award for Excellence in Civic Leadership on two deserving individuals, nominated by their peers and selected by a confidential committee of community leaders.

Listed below are previous award winners. Each award is given at the opening of the legislative session for leadership shown in the previous session(s). For example, the 2010 Legislative Leadership Award is given in January 2011. 

Past Legislative Award Winners

2019 Award Winner: Representative Gary Simrill (R-York)
2018 Award Winner: Senator John Matthews, Jr. (D-Orangeburg)
2017 Award Winner: Representative Weston Newton (R-Beaufort)
2016 Award Winner: Representative Rita Allison (R-Spartanburg)
2015 Award Winner: Senator Clementa Pinckney (posthumous award )
2014 Award Winner: Speaker of the SC House Jay Lucas (R-Darlington)
2013 Award Winner: Senator Paul Campbell (R- Berkeley)
2012 Award Winner: Representative James Harrison (R-Richland)
2011 Award Winner: Representative James Smith, (D-Richland)
2010 Award Winner: Senator Wes Hayes (R-York)
2009 Award Winner: Representative Dan Cooper (R-Anderson)
2008 Award Winner: Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg)
2007 Award Winner: Senator Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence)
2006 Award Winner: Speaker of the SC House Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston)
2005 Award Winner: Senator John Drummond (D-Greenwood)

Past Civic Award Winners

2019 Award Winner: Nella Barkley
2018 Award Winner: Charlotte Berry
2017 Award Winner: Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr. 
2016 Award Winner: Hayne Hipp
2015 Award Winners: Governor Nikki Haley and Mayor Joe Riley
2014 Award Winner: Bill Barnet
2013 Award Winner: Steve Morrison (posthumous award)
2012 Award Winner: Anita Zucker
2011 Award Winner: Ed Sellers
2010 Award Winner: Minor Mickel Shaw

For more information on previous award winners and keynote speakers, please click on the links on the left.