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rom its earliest days, Sumter has been associated with military heroes. The community was named for General Thomas Sumter, the “Fighting Gamecock” of the American Revolution and founder of the Stateburg community.

In 1941, Shaw Air Force Base, named for WWI fighter pilot Ervin Shaw, was established in Sumter County, and it continues today as an active duty fighter base. It is headquarters for the 20th Fighter Wing and 9th Air Force, the F-16 Fighting Falcons, and Third Army (whose commanders have included the legendary General George Patton), as well as home to a number of retired officers who traveled around the world, but returned to settle in the heart of South Carolina.

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Today, both private citizens and military personnel are working together to enhance Sumter’s many amenities. Nature enthusiasts need look no farther than Manchester State Forest, offering more than 50 miles of equine, walking and motorized vehicle trails. Poinsett State Park is a 1,000-acre natural wonder with camping, fishing and nature trails.

Sumter also features Palmetto Tennis Center, one of the largest public tennis facilities in the state, the full-featured City of Sumter Aquatics Center for exercise or summer fun, and more than 20 golf courses within a one-hour drive. Swan Lake Iris Gardens, featuring all eight of the known swan species, is a delightful 150 acre park newly highlighted by the towering “Recovery” sculpture by noted artist Grainger McKoy.

USC Sumter offers a number of programs, some in conjunction with Shaw Air Force Base. Free tuition is available to area residents over age 60. Central Carolina Technical College has partnered with the Sumter County Development Board, Chamber of Commerce and the community. Central Carolina also opened its new Health Sciences building in downtown Sumter in 2010, featuring one of the state’s finest state-of-the-art facilities.

The latest innovative initiative is the construction of upscale upper-story housing in the newly revitalized Downtown Sumter. Along with streetscape improvements, new businesses and the opening of the CCTC Health Sciences building, and with the continuing expansion of Tuomey Healthcare System, downtown is becoming central to the community.

In past years, Expansion Management magazine named Sumter one of the 50 “hottest locations” in which to expand or relocate a facility. Forbes magazine has named Sumter the top-ranked small metro in the state and Money Magazine listed Sumter as one of the top 200 places to live in the U.S. In 2012, the US Conference of Mayors named Sumter as “One of America’s Most Livable Cities.”

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Swan Lake Visitors Center:
800.688.4748 / www.sumtertourism.com

Sumter Chamber of Commerce:
803.775.1231 / www.sumterchamber.com

City of Sumter:
803.436.2500 www.sumtersc.gov

Sumter County:
803.436.2100 www.sumtercountysc.org

Sumter Development Board:
800.888.7926 www.sumteredge.com

Sumter Population: 40,554 (2010 US Census)

Sumter County Population: 107,456 (2010 US Census)
 

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Katherine O. Pettit has worked as a writer, magazine editor, printer and public relations consultant. The Columbia resident has published more than 250 articles in magazines and newspapers. Her writing explores a variety of subjects including travel, lifestyles, business and management.
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