Serving Barnwell County and it's neighbors since 1852

David Corder retires after 37 years in local education


The “father” of Blackville-Hilda’s public schools is retiring, again.
Barnwell County Consolidated School District (BCCSD) interim superintendent David Corder has dedicated his entire 37-year career as an educator to Blackville-Hilda’s public schools. Over the years, he’s been a teacher, assistant principal, principal, alternative school director, director of federal programs, and interim superintendent.

“You’re not only our hero but a hero to the community that you have served for 30-plus years; generations of people have been affected by your hard work, dedication and loving heart. That’s a career, life and love that any son would be proud of. If only superheroes in the comics could be as heroic as you. I love you, Dad,” said son Anderson Corder.

Corder retired in 2022 after leading the consolidation of Barnwell District 19 (Blackville-Hilda Public Schools) with Williston District 29, forming the BCCSD. However, he stayed on in a part-time role with BCCSD as interim director of operations. Following the retirement of BCCSD Superintendent Dr. Marcella Shaw in June 2023, Corder delayed full retirement for a year so he could lead BCCSD for its final year before Barnwell County’s school districts consolidate July 1.

“I had no intention of coming back, but I’m so glad I did,” said Corder.

Kathy Witherspoon, whose daughter Laney Fox graduated from Williston-Elko High School this year, said she appreciates Corder’s dedication to education. “I have known Mr. Corder since he was a student teacher and I was a high school senior. The willingness he has shown when so many others would have walked away and retired is admirable,” she said.

The 1981 graduate of Williston-Elko High School started his career in 1987 at the age of 23 as a civics teacher at Blackville-Hilda High School.

“I’ve spent over half of my life here. Blackville-Hilda High School is such a special place. A lot of great kids have gone through there,” said Corder. This includes his own three sons who graduated from Blackville-Hilda’s public schools.

Corder’s three sons credit their father with helping shape their lives. His commitment to education and his career has played a big role in that.

David Corder with his wife and three sons at the wedding of youngest son Anderson in 2023. Pictured from left: stepson
Tommy Chambers, son Anderson Corder, wife Lynette Corder, David Corder, and son David Corder Jr.
David Corder with his wife and three sons at the wedding of youngest son Anderson in 2023. Pictured from left: stepson Tommy Chambers, son …

“I've always been inspired and influenced by the way he's always interacted with his community and peers. The respect he's always had shown to him, even his former students, despite how tough an educator he was often known as. A reminder to me every day that everyone should be treated equally and with the respect you expect in return,” said Tommy Chambers, Corder’s stepson.

Son David Corder Jr. is an English teacher at Williston-Elko Middle School. “In my five years of being an educator, I've always been happy to have him as someone I can talk and vent to, even though at times I've had to talk to him as my dad, and not my boss. He's always been understanding and supportive of my journey as a teacher, because he was once as young as I was, navigating the turbulent territory of public education. I couldn't have asked for a better father,” he said of his father.

“You did more than any father could. You provided for your family, worked your whole life for what you have, and never let anyone take away the ethics and integrity that made you who you are. You believed in all your sons and encouraged them to go after their dreams and taught them to do what was right,” said Anderson.

Tommy and Anderson both cited the value of hard work as the greatest lesson their father taught them.

“Nothing in life is given to us but earned,” said Tommy.

“My dad taught me that hard work is the only way to succeed in life, that a man can be as smart as the encyclopedia and still not amount to anything. It’s a man that gets up every morning and puts everything he has into his work that will see the fruits of his labor,” said Anderson.

While it’s important to work hard, son David Jr. said his father also values the importance of laughter.

“He's never been afraid to cut up, and I think that's what most people know him for--as being a huge goofball. But he always retains his professional persona as well. However, he has never let that be his defining characteristic. He has taught me to laugh with his infectious laughter, and that has passed through me to people I work with and my students. To paraphrase the Bible, laughter is good medicine,” said David Jr.

As a child, David Jr. remembers the bus taking him from the elementary school to Blackville’s middle school where his father was principal. “I would go up to him and he would hand me my Batman action figure that he had been holding on to for me all day. After school was when I got to see my two favorite superheroes – Batman and Dad,” he said.

David Corder’s impact as a father reaches far beyond the three sons he’s raised. Throughout his 37-year career as an educator, he’s also been a father figure to hundreds of students.
Some of his former students were in the audience for the BCCSD’s end-of-the-year celebration on May 30 at Blackville-Hilda High School. This included Chelsea Calhoun, principal of Macedonia Elementary-Middle School, who had Corder as a teacher in 9th and 12th grades.

“He was one of the best teachers I ever had. But it wasn't because of how great a teacher he was, but rather how he made us feel as students. He genuinely loved and cared about his students. We were like his own kids. I often thank Mr. Corder for the influence that he has had on my life. I know that part of my success as an educator is because of him. He has been an amazing teacher, mentor, and friend in my life, and I am forever grateful to him,” said Calhoun.

Though many things have changed over the years, Calhoun said Corder “was exactly the same then as he is now, hilarious!” said Calhoun. She remembers her teacher cadet class going from class to class singing “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” as Corder, their instructor, played the guitar.

David Jr. said his father has always been a “hippie at heart.” He remembers his father’s office having posters of John Lennon and Yoko Ono along with several lava lamps. “He's always been the most laid-back man I've ever known, and he's instilled that character trait into me, as well as his sense of humor,” he said.

Retired Barnwell District 19 Superintendent Dr. Andy Sandifer, who now serves on the Barnwell County School District board, promoted Corder to principal and later director of federal programs in the district office. “He has been an outstanding leader and a solid educator during these times of transition,” said Sandifer.

At the end-of-the-year celebration, Corder left his colleagues from Blackville and Williston with a final message as he prepares to retire for the final time and the district prepares to consolidate once again.

“It’s been wonderful and beautiful,” he said of leading the district and working with everyone.

He said it’s been wonderful working with the team in Blackville, who he’s known for years, but it’s also been wonderful connecting with the team in Williston who embraced him. As a native of Williston, he said it was great coming home again and reconnecting with former classmates.

“We’ve had bad times and had good times, but we’ve always stood together,” said Corder.

He also thanked the past administrators who helped him develop in his career. This includes former Barnwell District 19 superintendent Richard Huggins and principal Danny Atkins who hired Corder as a teacher, plus Dr. Sandifer who promoted him to principal and later director of federal programs. These individuals recognized his leadership potential and taught him valuable lessons.

“I learned kindness and patience from Andy Sandifer. I learned business sense from Richard Huggins,” said Corder.

He’s tried to take the lessons he learned from other superintendents to implement during his time as a leader.
“I hope y’all have felt supported. I’ve always tried to treat folks kindly because I’ve been on the other side of the fence. I’ve been a teacher. I hope I've been a good leader; if I haven’t, you’re just going to have to complain to someone else because it’s almost over,” said Corder, jokingly.

As he prepares to retire, Corder said his thoughts and prayers are with the team he’s leaving behind. Though consolidation evokes many emotions, he said, “I really believe in my heart it will be ok.”
As he concluded his speech at the end-of-the-year celebration, Corder teared up.

“It’s alright, cry. We’re gonna miss you, Corder,” said one staff member in the audience.

After 37 years of dedicated service, Corder’s sons, former students, and colleagues wish him a happy retirement.

“You've earned it. Enjoy it. Play guitar, listen to the Beatles, sit on the porch and watch the hummingbirds,” said David Jr. to his father.

Tommy said he looks forward to more times hanging out and making memories.

As a child, David Jr. remembers his father teaching summer school. “He told me I used to say, ‘Get the money, Daddy.’ Now I'm going to say, ‘Get the rest, Dad.’ I love you,” said David Jr.