Editor's note: This is the next in an occasional series spotlighting people who grew up in or who were community leaders in Aiken, and where they are now.
June Murff said she's still the same person who retired in 2002 after more than 20 years as the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce director.
She is content to spend time with her husband, Warren. Murff enjoys cutting the grass at her Aiken home and, especially, tending to a secret garden with loving care.
From her Chamber days, she recalls many stories. A truck driver once parked his 18-wheeler and entered the office, asking if he could get married there. As it happened, staffer Sylvia Kennery was a notary public, and Murff gave her blessing.
Later, the man brought in his bride and their families – wearing artificial corsages. The bride asked for champagne glasses (no champagne was served) as a memento, and Kennery sent them photos.
“You just don't want to give people the run-around,” Murff said. “We always had that same mindset, that we were a place to get people what they needed. That built a lot of community support.”
Murff brought much to the Chamber – not only the first woman in that position, but as a pioneer. Her efforts impressed the S.C. Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, selecting her as the 1987 executive of the year. Murff was also selected as the Chamber Woman of the Year – twice. In 2002, Murff received the Order of the Silver Crescent Award – the second-highest award from the Governor's Office.
Seven years later, USC Aiken invited her as a commencement speaker, presenting her with an honorary doctorate. In 2012, Dr. Deidre Martin, a USCA vice chancellor, announced Murff as the Pickens-Salley Southern Woman of Distinction. Martin cited her friend's devotion to her community and state, and preserving what makes them so special.
After working in newspaper advertising in the '70s, Murff was surprised when business people asked her to apply for the Chamber position. Murff had no idea what the Chamber involved, but, upon arriving in 1981, found it very rewarding. The association didn't have a lot of money, but “we never had a deficit,” Murff said. “I was frugal and couldn't bear that.”
More structure within the Chamber evolved over time with a lot of support from the organization and its members. She sought out community leaders and worked with them to introduce new initiatives far beyond the organization itself. The state tourism office cited the Chamber's efforts.
“We became more involved with the City, USCA and Aiken Tech through new partnerships,” Murff said. “We contributed to programs like Ruth Patrick (Science Education Center).
Five years ago, the Chamber and its former Board Chairs surprised Murff with a painting of her, which is displayed in the Chamber building with those of other executives.
J. David Jameson, the current Chamber president, said at the time Murff “was absolutely its heart and soul. What a blessing for Aiken. I could see so much of June's work, so much of her early vision. Her thumbprint is all over this community.”
Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001.