David L. Allen of Hartsville received the Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian honor for service in South Carolina, on Monday as family, friends, fellow church members and former colleagues shared in the occasion at Wesley United Methodist Church in Hartsville where Allen is a member.
Gov. Mark Sanford in a letter to Allen praised his contributions: “Of special note are your contributions to the cause of soil and water conservation at the local, state, and national levels for more than forty years.”
Allen, retired general farm manager of Coker Pedigreed Seed Co. Farms, received the honor for his contribution to soil and water conversation. Allen was farm manager for 26 years and worked at the farm for more than 42 years.
“I was the last man out,” Allen said.
Allen said this was one of the most significant moments in his life, and he understands that this award is not given randomly or without great consideration. In accepting the award, the Order of the Palmetto recipient said he was keenly aware of the implications of this award.
“It can’t get any better than this,” Allen said. “Be assured I’ll always treat it and display it with pride.”
Known to many as Mr. Conservation, Allen said he has to thank first his family for their support of his endeavors and those he was worked with in the past. He mentioned his former employer Robert Coker of Coker Pedigreed Seed Co., who he said always encouraged his extra-curricular activities.
After listening to all the accolades being bestowed upon him, Allen said, “I’m not sure they are talking about me.”
While Allen’s contributions in conversation are too numerous to mention them all, on the local level, he has served as commissioner and chairman of the Darlington Soil and Water Conservation District for 41 years, president of the Darlington County Agricultural Society, a member and president of the Darlington County Farm Bureau and member of the City of Hartsville Tree Committee.
Allen was instrumental in protecting a portion of the Coker Farms as a National Historic Landmark. Because of his extensive knowledge of the agriculture of this area and the South in general, Allen has been interviewed by personnel from the Smithsonian Institute for his recollections of Southern agriculture.
On the state level, Allen has been a member and chairman of the S.C. Land Resources Commission, president of the S.C. Association of Conservation Districts and Trustee of the S.C. Conservation District Foundation.
At the national level, Allen has served as director and executive board member of the National Association of Conservation Districts, chairman of the National Soil and Water Stewardship Committee, National Association of Conservation Districts and Council member of the Southern Region of Conservation Districts.
His awards include the Distinguished Service Award from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, Special Achievement Award from the S.C. Soil and Water Conservation Society, Outstanding Agriculturalist in S.C. Award, Man of the Year in Conservation in S.C., and the National Conservation Hall of Fame and named Conservation District Commissioner of the Year by the Southeast Conservation District Employees Association.
Born in the Hartsville area, Allen was one of six children. He and his wife, Divver, have two children, David Allen and Rachel Franklin. Allen is a member and leader at Wesley United Methodist Church, and he volunteers at the Soup Kitchen. He is a 1943 graduate of Presbyterian College with a degree in English.
Allen said he graduated early so he could go into the military. He served in World War II at the Battle of the Bulge and received a Purple Heart. Pointing to his face, Allen said, he still wears an honorable scar across his chin from the war.
In his letter of recognition, the Gov. Sanford also mentioned Allen’s service to his country during World War II.
“We are blessed by the dedication of men and women like you who made the commitment and sacrifice to protect our nation and the freedoms my boys now enjoy and will one day cherish,” Sanford wrote.