The Greenville News
November 27, 2004
'Dr. Pete' changed Greenville community
By David Shi
We stand on the shoulders of giants. Perhaps no person has
had a more positive impact on modern Greenville's quality of life and community spirit than Lawrence "Pete" Hollis. The son
of a Chester County cotton farmer, Hollis moved to Greenville in 1905 after graduating from the
University of South Carolina, where he had served as president of the campus YMCA.
During a lifetime devoted to community service, he directed the Greenville YMCA (starting
at age 21), and he helped found the Parker School District, which he served as superintendent from
1923 to 1951. He organized the first Boy Scout troop in South Carolina, and he introduced the sport of basketball to the
state. Hollis was also a driving force in helping to establish the
Greenville County Library, the Phillis Wheatley Center and the YWCA.
Hollis' tireless energy helped transform the lives of
thousands of working-class citizens living in the Northwest Crescent, a cluster of textile mill villages
forming an arc stretching from West Greenville to Berea. Warm and engaging, Pete Hollis
was a common man with uncommon virtues: a caring heart, an infectious energy and a bold vision for
enriching life in the mill villages.
Working with Monaghan Mill President Thomas Parker, Hollis
developed a strategy to encourage nomadic mill workers to establish roots
and take ownership of their neighborhoods. He dispersed seed and fertilizer to
workers, had their back yards tilled and invited a representative from the U.S.
Department of Agriculture to tutor them in gardening techniques. Using funds donated by
Parker, Hollis established a common pasture and provided pigs and cows — all intended to help the
residents become more self-sufficient and productive.
Hollis also established clubs, teams and educational opportunities at the YMCA,
which quickly became the social and cultural center for the mill villages. While
attending a YMCA workshop in New York, Hollis met Dr. James Naismith,
the inventor of basketball. Impressed by Naismith and the recreational opportunities that
basketball offered, Hollis purchased a ball and a rulebook and brought the game to Greenville, where he organized and officiated the first basketball game played
in the state. Eventually Greenville became the home of the Southern
Textile Basketball Tournament, which would become a nationally renowned sporting
Pete Hollis instilled a sense of civic pride in the mill communities. Yards, once ragged and strewn with litter,
were cleaned up and maintained. Workers
donated their time and labor to build sidewalks. Neighbors joined hands to create and nurture a public rose garden. But although living conditions improved in the mill villages,
educational opportunities remained scarce.
During the early 20th century, each mill in the Northwest Crescent operated its own elementary school. The schools were often overcrowded and substandard. Because Greenville High School served only students living
within the city's limits, students from the mill villages who wanted to attend had
to pay $5 per month tuition plus 12 cents per day for transportation. Few could afford to so do.
In 1922 a group of mill executives, including Thomas Parker and Union
Bleachery President Richard Arrington, petitioned the
state Legislature to create the Parker School District. Pete Hollis was selected to organize the new district, and Parker High School opened on Nov.
Hollis, affectionately called "Dr. Pete" by the
teachers and students, invited famed Columbia University educator John Dewey to help the new school's teachers promote "progressive education" which encouraged students and parents to
take an active role in learning. A former
teacher recalls that Hollis "got rid of
the screwed-down desks; he had children sitting in a circle. His method of operating was
'Let's do it.'"
Parker High School quickly became a radiant source of community pride. By the 1930s, its
innovative programs and startling results were garnering international
attention. Educators from Germany, New Zealand and England, as well as from across the United States, visited
Parker to study Hollis's unique experiment.
A 1941 article in Reader's Digest titled "Mill Town Miracle" praised Hollis for
establishing a school system that "is the center of all community life ... (that) has made
the dreary (mill) towns attractive and happy places to live in, (and that has) changed a listless people into self-respecting purposeful citizens." In 1949 Look
magazine named Hollis one of America's 100 finest educators. When Parker was consolidated into the school district of Greenville County in 1951, it was the
largest high school in the state, enrolling more than 1,600 students.
Although Hollis retired that year at the age of 68, he continued to take an active role in community and church life. During the 1960s he helped
to integrate the local schools, and in 1966 he and Virginia Uldrick, then director of the Greenville Fine Arts
Center, helped organize Greenville's "Singing Christmas
Late in life, Hollis was showered with affection and awards. He received honorary doctoral degrees from Furman and from
the University of South Carolina, and Hollis Middle School and Hollis Elementary School were named in his honor. When
"Dr. Pete" died in 1978 at the age of 95, he was the most beloved man
in Greenville. His extraordinary achievements deserve perpetual appreciation.
The Greenville News
Saturday, December 14, 2002
Today, the nation's 2,400 YMCAs serve 18 million Americans, including 9 million children under the age of 18.
The holiday season reminds
us to be more attentive to those in need. One of the many Greenville organizations dedicated to helping others is the
YMCA. Those four letters are quite familiar to most people. In fact, one in three Americans has learned to swim, shoot a
basketball or some other activity at their local YMCA.
Today, the nation's 2,400 YMCAs serve 18 million Americans, including 9 million children under the age of 18. Last
year YMCA members -- men, women and children of every faith, race, age, ability and income -- celebrated 150 years of achievement, invention and service.
The YMCA traces its roots to the industrial revolution in 19th-century England. Lured by high wages and the
promise of a better life, George Williams, the 20-year-old son of a farm
family, moved to London in 1841. Like thousands of other
young men who flocked to cities to work in mills and factories, Williams labored six days
a week, 14 hours a day. London's streets and alleys offered few
recreational opportunities outside of
saloons and brothels. Most boys, Williams said, "would work all day and
drink all night."
Eager for more meaningful forms of fellowship, Williams and several friends
formed a Bible study group. The meetings of the Young Men's Christian Association, as the group came to be called, won the support of
neighborhood churches. Business leaders, who saw the YMCA as a healthy alternative to
on-the-job intoxication, tardiness and absenteeism, encouraged employees to take part. By
1845 the YMCA was attracting hundreds of young men, and the number of clubs mushroomed.
In 1851 Thomas Sullivan, a retired sea captain, helped found the first
YMCA in the United States. Sullivan ministered to sailors
in Boston; his Boston YMCA served as a
boardinghouse. YMCA staff members also helped young men find jobs and directed them to "decent" boardinghouses.
By 1860, 205 YMCAs had been established in the United States. After the Civil War, the YMCA
began promoting the exercise programs that many associate with the organization today.
The first YMCA buildings with gymnasiums opened in 1869.
Two new sports originated at the YMCA. In 1891, James Naismith, a gym teacher at the YMCA Training School in Springfield, Mass., devised an indoor sport to keep
people fit during the winter months. Naismith hung two peach baskets from the bottom of an
elevated running track and posted a list of 13 simple rules. Basketball was
While basketball quickly gained a wide following, another YMCA instructor, William Morgan, considered the new game "too
strenuous for businessmen." He blended elements of basketball, tennis and
handball into a new game he called "mintonette." Business members played the first game at the Holyoke, Mass., YMCA in 1895, using a tennis net raised to a height of 6 feet, 6 inches. The sport soon took on a new
name -- volleyball.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, YMCAs sprouted across the nation. The organization
pioneered camping, public libraries, indoor pools, night schools and teaching English as a second language. And YMCAs have
provided war relief, aiding millions of soldiers at home and abroad.
By the 1960s, women and girls were allowed to attend the YMCA, and YMCAs began
offering child care. Today, YMCAs collectively are the nation's largest
providers of child care, serving 500,000 kids each week. In Greenville County and throughout the South, the
first YMCAs were established in textile mill villages. They created athletic leagues and fitness programs, hosted Bible studies and
offered classes on gardening, canning and preserving food.
The first YMCA in Greenville County was founded in the Monaghan Mill Village in 1904. It was directed by Pete Hollis, who later was
superintendent of the Parker School District from 1923 to 1948. In 1912 the
first public YMCA in Greenville was christened. Located at the corner of Coffee and Brown streets,
the four-story building featured reading and game rooms, offices, apartments, a swimming pool, a
bowling alley, a gymnasium, a lecture hall and several classrooms.
Over the years the YMCA has grown to meet changing social needs. As textile mills shut
down in the 1950s, new suburban YMCA centers opened on the Eastside
(1976), Golden Strip (1974), Cleveland Street (1960) and in Judson (1994). A
splendid new YMCA center has recently opened in north Greenville near Travelers Rest.
Many of Greenville's civic and corporate leaders grew up frequenting the Cleveland Street
Y and attended Camp Greenville during the summers. At the YMCA,
Ben Geer Keys remembers, "We learned the values of sportsmanship,
teamwork, spirited competition and honesty."
Those lessons are still being learned. Last year, the Greater Greenville YMCA
served 48,000 people, most of whom were under the age
of 18. In addition to youth sports, the Greater Greenville YMCA sponsors
swimming lessons, child care and wellness programs, and a variety of activities that instill character and virtues in young people.
Today, the YMCA represents the largest not-for-profit community service organization in America. What began as a service to young men has grown into a
wide range of programs and activities intended to nourish spirit, mind and body for all
members of an increasingly diverse American society.
The Greenville News
Friday, May 24, 2002
Western Connector named after former schools chief Hollis
By Angelia Davis
BEREA -- The new seven-lane highway designed to improve access from the
northwest to downtown Greenville and promote economic development on the Westside has officially
received its new name.
Called up to now the Western Corridor, the highway has been
named in honor of the late Dr. L.P. "Pete" Hollis, superintendent of
Parker District Schools in the early 1900s.
The South Carolina Department of Transportation, at the request of the
Greenville Area Transportation Study, has just approved the new name.
Debbie Hill, a Sans Souci resident and an activist for the northwestern parts
of the county, was "thrilled."
"L.P. Hollis was a very influential person in this community who affected
many lives. This is only one small honor that I'm glad to see him
receive," she said.
The GRATS committee unanimously passed a resolution in May 2000 to name the $29
million thoroughfare in honor of Hollis.
"Dr. Hollis was a great man and he did a lot for education in Greenville County," the
committee's chairman, Sen. J. Verne Smith, said. "He meant so much to our
Smith said in a letter to the state, "Dr. Hollis was superintendent of the
Parker School District from 1923 to 1951, began the first science fair in South Carolina, worked to integrate schools in the '60s and created the Singing
Christmas Tree, which has become a longtime Greenville tradition.
He was a social activist, humanitarian and innovative educator."
The former Judson Elementary, now Hollis Academy, was named in honor of Hollis.
In addition to being an educator, Hollis, who died in 1978 at age 95, also
worked to establish programs at the Monaghan Mill YMCA.
Former state Rep. Jim Mattos of Berea, who helped push the corridor from the state's 20-year-plan to
its five-year plan, said Hollis was a pioneer in athletics and education for
the northwestern areas.
Naming the highway for him is "long overdue," he said.
The more than four-mile corridor, which will stretch from
near Odom Street near State 253 to Academy Street. Work on the highway, which
includes two bridges, is expected to be finished in late 2003 or early 2004.
Mattos, along with County Councilman Bunk Johnson, is credited by Hill for
coming up with the idea for the name.
"He came to Greenville and started the first YMCA in Monaghan Mill," Mattos said.
"When Parker High School was at its height, they had the model student government of any
school in the south or probably in the nation."