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2022 Order of the Palmetto Award

State Sen. Rex Rice, left, and Rep. Davey Hiott present Country Santa founder Buddy Cox on Tuesday morning with the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest civilian honor.

PICKENS — A large crowd gathered on Tuesday morning in front of the Pickens office of Buddy Cox to honor the man known throughout the Upstate as “Country Santa.”

Unbeknownst to Cox, the group was there to thank the humble Pumpkintown resident for the many years of work he has done in bringing smiles to children in the area during Christmastime and to see him receive South Carolina’s highest civilian honor, the Order of the Palmetto.

State House Rep. Davey Hiott and Sen. Rex Rice presented Cox with the distinguished award. Hiott told the crowd that local resident Ronnie Lackey had approached him last January asking him to seek the award for Cox because of his years of charitable work.

“I know you don’t like anybody to recognize you. You have told me that many, many times, but today we are going to recognize you,” Hiott told a surprised Cox as he stepped out of his office to see the large gathering on the street.

“Ronnie approached Sen. Rice and I and said ‘I have never met Buddy, but I have admired him and appreciate all that he has done, and I think he need to honored by the state of South Carolina,” Hiott told the crowd.

Hiott credited Cox’s wife, Nell, for providing them with the information needed to submit to Gov. Henry McMaster, who very quickly said yes to granting the Order of the Palmetto for Cox.

“This award is the highest award the state can give for community service, and you certainly deserve it,” Lackey told Cox during the presentation. “How many lives have you affected and changed that has made those little children become better citizens as they grew up? I pray that God will give you good health so you can continue to do this work.”

 “People around this community may not know you, but anyone that has been around here any time at all knows who you are,” Rice added. “You, Buddy Cox, are what is right in America today. I just want to say thank you for what you do, and keep on keeping on.”

As Hiott handed the award off to Cox, he concluded with “On behalf of the state of South Carolina, we are proud of you and we thank you. We know you’ve got many years ahead of you, but right now, we want to say thank you for a job well done.

As always, Cox was quick to deflect the credit for the success of the Country Santa program, which has been in operation for more than 40 years.

“We have so many in the area that donate to Country Santa,” he said. “It’s really the people that make it happen. So many believe in us and do the hard work and all-nighters. Everybody gets a part of this.”

 By Rocky Nimmons - Publisher (



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Last modified on: 10/26/2022 .
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