Eugene Pinson is grateful for many things. In fact, he says he wouldn't know where to start when asked to share what brings him the most gratitude. Upon learning of the recognition by Orangeburg County Community of Character, he shared that he was preparing to celebrate his 92nd birthday. And that, alone, is reason to be grateful. He said, ‘I’m grateful for the good I’ve been given, the friends and family I have, and the fact that I’m still here.”

But he's also grateful for much more. His family and his life experiences provide a vast array of accounts from which to draw highlights of gratitude. And those who know him state that it is his gratitude that produces his caring and acts of generosity towards others. 

Pinson has spent most of his life in music. He is well known for the contributions he has made teaching it and sharing his talents with others. He said his passion for music was inevitable. He is a tenor. His father was also a tenor and a former President of Morris College. He said his father was ‘musical and often performed with the college choirs’. Born in Sumter, S.C., Pinson graduated from, what is now, South Carolina State University in pre-medicine. And he served in the army several years as a medical technician during his college days. But music almost immediately became his focus and passion and he would go on to teach it at Claflin University, South Carolina State University and Voorhees College. Many of his voice students remain in touch with him and credit him for their successes. He says he still looks out for his students.

He humbly delights in sharing accounts of special events in his life. He says he was fortunate to have had the opportunity to appear in ‘Porgy and Bess’ as ”Sportin’ Life” when it premiered in 1970 in Charleston, S.C.. He fondly recalls how Ella Gerber, who was brought in as Director of the opera, came to meet him at his studio on campus. She would leave moved by his talent so much so that she asked him to join the ensemble. “I was granted a leave of absence from teaching at State by the governor.” The production would go on to receive national reviews and be experienced by over 35,000 audience members during the 16 performance run. And he, in turn, he would gain friends for life (several of whom he was able to reunite with in recent years at a return premiere in Charleston).

He says a lot has happened in his life for which he is thankful. He relishes the memories and time with his wife (now deceased), his children, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He keeps a special album full of memories captured through various photos and memorabilia. He says it captures so much of what he is grateful to have been given.

These days you will find him most content to be with family and that includes his church family and the family gained from places he has worked. He has had some health challenges and counts his ability to overcome some of those challenges as another reason to be thankful. He still shares his talent and he is known to, impromptu, sit down at the keys and start playing and break out in song. “You’ll never walk alone”; Ave Maria; and “Someone to watch over me” are some of his favorites. His gratitude is ever present and he will leave you with a smile.

He thanks Orangeburg County Community of Character for the recognition and states that it’s a wonderful thing when you can thank someone.

Retired educator and music artist honored for character trait of gratitude

citizen of the month - November 2017 - gratitude

claude eugene pinson