Exit 32 named for David Brown, Carnell Murphy

WINNSBORO – Last month, two former Fairfield County Councilmen, David Brown and the late Carnell Murphy, were recognized for their success in bring industry to Fairfield County. The route to that success began with the two Councilmen’s plan to create an interstate access to a proposed industrial park in the county – that access would eventually became Exit 32 at Peach Road off I-77.

Former Fairfield County Councilman David Brown and Elizabeth Davis Murphy, widow of the late Fairfield County Councilman Carnell Murphy, accepted a sign that was placed at Exit 32 off I-77 naming the interchange after the two councilmen.

To honor the two men, the South Carolina legislature saw fit to place a sign bearing Brown’s and Murphy’s names at the exit earlier this month. The unveiling was held at a reception at Mt. Hope, Brown’s home in Ridgeway. He and Murphy’s widow, Elizabeth Davis Murphy, posed for pictures with the sign, and Brown recalled how it all began.

“It was about 1992, and we were beginning to bring industry into the county. We had brought in the gold mine (in Ridgeway) and a Right Aid distribution center (where Breakthru Beverage is now located on Highway 34) and we were looking to bring in Mack Truck over on Highway 321,” Brown recalled. “But we knew we had to be closer to Interstate I-77 if we were going to bring in a lot of industry. We were able to buy land on Cook Road for $1,400 an acre – it was closer to the interstate than Mack Truck and Rite Aid. That property eventually became Walter Brown Industrial Park.”

Brown said the future of industrial growth was ripe at the time with manufacturers Lang Mekra and Isola coming to the Cook Road industrial park in rapid succession, but access to the park was a problem. Exit 34 was just up the interstate, but added an extra five miles for northbound travelers on I-77.

“There was also a problem that we weren’t allowed to put an exit within three miles of another exit,” Brown said.

“We needed an exit closer to the industrial park, something to connect Peach Road to the interstate,” Brown said. “We were looking for ways to make that happen. We got Senator Fritz Hollings and Congressman John Spratt involved and things started moving.”

As the collaborative effort began to take hold, Ridgeway Mayor Laura Thomas weighed in as well, Brown said. She, too, wanted an exit at Peach Road but for a different reason. It would be the first road coming into Ridgeway off the interstate north of Blythewood.

“Soon Strom Thurmond was involved and everybody was working together to open up a Peach Road exit off the interstate,” Brown said. “But when we finally got it funded in the early 2000’s, the state sat on the money. It was about that time that we opened up the second industrial park, this time on Peach Road. We finally got the state to release the funds, and in 2010, Exit 32 was completed and opened, bringing a more direct access to our industrial area.”

Brown still has the copy of The State newspaper that featured him and Murphy looking up at the exit.

Today, the Commerce Park on Peach Road and the Walter Brown Park on the adjacent Cook Road are home to seven industries, and Brown said the future is bright for more to come.

“If we were going to help the County, we had to develop industry before we could do anything else,” Brown said. “But we had to have access to the interstate, and we were glad to get it.”