Historic Columbia Executive Director Robin Waites awarded Order of the Palmetto

June 26, 2024

Governor Henry McMaster has bestowed the prestigious Order of the Palmetto upon Robin Waites, Executive Director of Historic Columbia, in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the preservation and promotion of South Carolina’s cultural heritage. The award, the state’s highest civilian honor, celebrates individuals who have made significant contributions to the state and its citizens. 

Robin Waites has dedicated the past two decades to transforming Historic Columbia into a beacon of cultural preservation and historical education. Her visionary leadership has spearheaded numerous initiatives that have elevated the understanding and appreciation of Columbia and Richland County’s rich history. Notably, she led the nine-year rehabilitation of the Woodrow Wilson Family Home, which now serves as the nation’s first museum dedicated to interpreting the Reconstruction era. Under her stewardship, Historic Columbia’s museum sites, such as the Hampton-Preston Mansion and the Mann-Simons Site, have undergone significant transformations, making them key cultural destinations. 

Waites’ commitment to inclusivity and diversity is evident in her work. She has championed efforts to document and commemorate the stories of underrepresented communities, resulting in the installation of historic markers and the preservation of significant sites. Her leadership in initiatives like the Columbia Jewish Heritage Initiative and the LGBTQ Columbia History Initiative has enriched the state’s cultural landscape. 

“Robin Waites has exemplified unwavering dedication to the enrichment of South Carolina’s cultural heritage,” said State of South Carolina Representative Seth Rose, who presented the award in the absence of Governor Henry McMaster. “Her efforts have not only preserved our state’s history but have also fostered a deeper understanding and appreciation of it among our citizens and visitors.” 

Rodrick Shiver, President of the Board of Trustees of Historic Columbia, expressed his pride in Waites’ accomplishments, stating, “Robin’s leadership has transformed Historic Columbia into one of the most influential non-profits in historic preservation. Her work has had a real-world impact, from the physical restoration of historic sites to the celebration of diverse narratives that reflect our state’s complex history.” 

During her tenure, Waites has also played a pivotal role in securing reaccreditation for Historic Columbia from the American Alliance of Museums, a distinction held by only a select number of institutions nationwide. Her collaborative approach and partnerships with various organizations have ensured that the stories of South Carolina’s past are preserved and accessible to all. 

 In addition to her work with Historic Columbia, Waites has served on numerous boards and advisory councils, including Columbia College, Delta House, Incorporated, and the South Carolina Federation of Museums. Her contributions extend beyond local efforts, as she has been a peer reviewer for the American Alliance of Museums since 2019. 

Robin Waites’ dedication and achievements have left an indelible mark on South Carolina’s cultural heritage. As she retires from her role at Historic Columbia at the end of June, her legacy of preservation and education will continue to inspire future generations. 


About Historic Columbia

In November 1961, a small group of individuals intent on saving the Ainsley Hall House from demolition officially incorporated as Historic Columbia. Over the next five decades, the organization, which was founded on the premise of preservation and education, would take on the stewardship of seven historic properties in Richland County. Today, the organization serves as a model for local preservation efforts and interpretation of local history. Visit historiccolumbia.org or find us on Facebook, Instagram, X, or YouTube for more details.