President recalls meeting two students as Claflin remembers its fallen four

By: Jordin Geddis
Oct 27, 2016
Attendees of Claflin Students' memorial service

Claflin University President Dr. Henry N. Tisdale recalled Wednesday night (Oct. 26, 2016) that he and one fallen student are natives of the Kingstree area in Williamsburg County.

Tisdale and a crowd of more than 200 students, faculty and administrators gathered at the W.V. Middleton Fine Arts Center for a service remembering four Claflin students killed Oct. 13 in a car crash in Columbia.

"I met Keeron (McElveen) the Saturday freshmen came on campus," Tisdale said after the service.

Tisdale said he recognized the last name because he knew McElveen families from the Kingstree area. McElveen and Tisdale talked and the president found out he went to school with McElveen’s grandparents.

Tisdale also recalled Darrell Pendergrass coming to his open-door sessions during which students get a chance to speak directly with the president.

"He came with a group of Kappas to talk about re-establishing Greek blocks on the campus," Tisdale said.

McElveen, 18, of Kingstree, and Pendergrass, 21, of Society Hill, died along with 21-year-old Melvin Jackson Jr., 21, of Chester, and 19-year-old Jamarius Kel'Shawn Bruce of Darlington after the car in which they were traveling collided head-on about 5:45 p.m. with another vehicle on Interstate 77 in Richland County. All four were sports management majors.

According to the Highway Patrol, Jackson was driving southbound around mile marker 23 when the vehicle crossed the median and traveled into the northbound side. The vehicle then collided with a Toyota Sequoia.

Jackson, Pendergrass and McElveen died at the scene. Bruce was transported to Palmetto Health Richland Memorial Hospital, where he died at 10:50 p.m. Oct. 13.

A fifth Claflin student, Gernardo Cato, a freshman from Goose Creek, was injured in the crash. Claflin has not released further information on his condition.

The memorial service was organized by Claflin chaplain the Rev. Kevyn J. Amos and other administrators, working in conjunction with students.

SGA President Dominique Riggins and junior James Carraway gave their reflections on the four students. Amos presented the message of remembrance.

The service was the second remembering the students. The first was a prayer service held on the morning after the crash.

Portraits of Fallen Panthers
Prayer Service for Claflin Students

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