2023 S.C. Arts Awards: Hampton Rembert

Folk Heritage Award: Artist Category

Graphic with white copy on a dark blue background overlaid on granite blocks. The white text reads South Carolina Arts Awards 2023.

As the day nears for the 2023 South Carolina Arts Awards, The Hub is focusing on this year’s recipients: five receiving the South Carolina Governor’s Awards for the Arts from the South Carolina Arts Commission and two receiving the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award, managed jointly by the SCAC and McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina.

Raised on a sharecropper farm in Bishopville, 85-year-old Hampton Rembert has been singing gospel from a very young age.

He learned with his family who would sing on Sundays and during family reunions. With little formal education, Rembert started working at the age of 13, plowing with his own mule all day with his father. At age 20 he married his wife Mabel and joined the church that he still attends today, Unionville AME Church in Mayesville.

Rembert was offered the job of assistant Sunday school superintendent at the church and was eventually promoted to superintendent. He held the position for 13 years before leaving to drive trucks, allowing him to see 28 different states. He continues to work today doing lawn services.

Rembert worked hard at his professions throughout his life, and he always sang. He has 10 living siblings with whom he grew up singing. When they were younger, they formed a gospel choir of up to 21 members at one point. They would travel to sing at a different church every Sunday evening in Lee and Sumter counties.

Singing is one of his greatest joys and an experience that connects him to his family and his faith, but his gift was threatened in 1998 after receiving a serious cancer diagnosis. One month after leaving the hospital from surgery he was diagnosed with another form of cancer and returned immediately for mouth and throat surgery. After that, there was a possibility that he would never talk, much less sing, again.

Yet at 85 years and 25 years since that diagnosis, he still sings twice a month at his church and as often as he can with his siblings. Rembert credits the power of prayer from his friends and family for his recovery eventually testifying at his church just three months after surgery, with no small contribution from his attitude and tenacity.

Written by Amanda Malloy, McKissick Museum

The South Carolina Arts Awards are coming live to SCETV on Sunday, May 14, 2023 at 8 p.m. ET.

South Carolina ETV, the state’s public educational broadcasting network, will broadcast the awards ceremony through its 11-station TV network that spans the state. Viewers can access the broadcast via livestream on the homepage of SCETV.org; by using a digital antenna; or through cable, satellite, and streaming live TV providers. Further information about accessing SCETV is available here.