The Golden Gloved Artist

March 14, 2024
Tom Poland

By Tom Poland


During my not quite 10 years at the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources I worked among talented illustrators, filmmakers, designers, photographers, and artists. I watched as they used pen and ink, paper, raw film, non-photo blue pencils and designer boards and wax, 35 millimeter film, and acrylics and oils to render ordinary materials into extraordinary art—the splendor and wildness we call South Carolina.

Looking back on my days at South Carolina Wildlife I see just how many talented people worked there … the late Joe Byrne, artist-illustrator, Michael Story, artist-illustrator, Robert C. Clark, photographer, John Culler, editor and a fine writer, the late Art Carter, photographer, Kay Howie Jackson Kennedy, art designer, and Duncan Grant, designer.

Detail from the USC Horseshoe by Bill Stroud

I couldn’t know it at the time but I was walking among a hall of fame staff over the years. No wonder South Carolina Wildlife proved so endearing to so many, but how can anyone go wrong when working with wood ducks, blackwater swamps, boneyards, and sunrises over barrier islands.

In the years since I moved on, I’ve written about some of my colleagues. Joe Byrne and the feature he and I did on lightning bugs I covered recently, and some fifteen years ago—that long?—I did a feature on Michael Story for Sandlapper Magazine—A Landlocked Painter Rediscovers The Lowcountry of His Youth.

Remember Sandlapper? I do and I remember William Carl “Bill” Stroud, artist and illustrator and amusing fellow from my wildlife days back in the 1980s. He was as unlikely an artist as I’ve met. He went to Kent State where he was a Golden Gloves boxer but didn’t look the part. With his sloping shoulders and a bit of a paunch, he didn’t seem athletic. One day, I put up my fists and playfully punched at him. In a blur his right hand flicked my nose just barely. Twice. Fast as greased lightning. I never doubted him again.

In addition to his illustrations of wildlife, Bill created art of classic cars and landmarks such as the University of South Carolina Horseshoe and Columbia’s Gervais Street Bridge. Talented artists, be they writers, photographers, or artists don’t and shouldn’t confine their abilities to a small palette.

“Talent,” writer Bob Lamb told me, “is like steam. You can’t contain it.” Bill didn’t. Having been a boxer, he created charcoal sketches of famous boxers including a promotional poster for a big fight between Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran. You can find the print online hand-signed by the hall of fame, all-time great, Roberto Duran.

I recall a day some ten years ago when Robert Clark and I were at the Old Keturah Hotel in McCormick, South Carolina. Janice Grizzard, executive director of the MACK—McCormick Arts Council at the Keturah—was giving Robert and me a tour of the hotel. There on a wall in a landing between flights of stairs hung one of Bill’s paintings of two boxers.

I worked in film and then the magazine from the 24th to 33rd year of the not quite 70-year-old South Carolina Wildlife. I was fortunate to know some good people, some talented people, fortunate to know Bill Stroud. Fortunate to contribute to the magazine, which was a contribution to nature, conservation, wildlife management, and ultimately a contribution to you and myself.

Some of us from those wildlife years of long ago went our own way, but we continued to create art in the form of photographs, stories, and books. One artist, however, got cut short. It’s no cliché, that saying that only the good die young. Bill died at the age of 46.

I think of that golden-gloved artist often. His sense of humor put many a smile on my face. I see him walking into my office and dropping by my home. His hands were fast as lightning, his wit as sharp as a rapier, and I’m glad his art is still with us.


Georgia native Tom Poland writes a weekly column about the South, its people, traditions, lifestyle, and culture and speaks frequently to groups in the South. Governor Henry McMaster conferred the Order of the Palmetto upon Tom, South Carolina’s highest civilian honor, stating, “His work is exceptional to the state.” Poland’s work appears in books, magazines, journals, and newspapers throughout the South.

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