(Columbia, SC, AP) — South Carolina state Sen. Kevin L. Johnson always figured his eldest child, Kimberly, would become a public servant.
It started in high school, Johnson said, when his daughter was handed a partial athletic scholarship to play basketball at Benedict College, a historically Black university near downtown Columbia. But she turned it down, deciding instead to enlist in the United States Army.
“I knew all along she would be a public servant,” Johnson said by phone. “I just didn’t know she was going to be an elected official.”
Neither did Kimberly, director of community engagement at HopeHealth, a doctor and primary care network health center — at first.
It took calls from her predecessor, now retired Democratic Rep. Robert Ridgeway, and prodding from other community members she called to run for his Clarendon County House seat. Eventually, prayer and talks with her employer pushed her to run, she told The State.
In January, Kimberly O. Johnson will take her seat inside the House chamber with 123 other members for the start of her first two-year legislative work session. And across the South Carolina Capitol, 46 senators also will join their colleagues for another four years.
One is her father, state Sen. Johnson.
South Carolina has a rich history in legacy public service. Parents have served with their children, sometimes in the same years and even in the same chambers. Brothers have served together, only a few desks apart. And, oftentimes in South Carolina politics, family members will succeed one another or find their place in the state Capitol and same chamber years later.
State Sen. Johnson said this week he does not think it has sunk in yet that he will be serving at the same time as his daughter.
“I’m very proud of her and am very proud she was able to get the support she received,” Johnson said. “It is a bonus.”
As a father and a seasoned lawmaker, Johnson said he also has not tried to offer his eldest child too much advice, adding that oftentimes people learn better on their own. But on the contrary, Kimberly said her father has offered plenty of advice since she and her two younger siblings, Kenneth and Kyndra, were children.
“Oh yeah, growing up, he always told us that people are watching and this was before he got into the spotlight,” she said. “He always told us to watch the company you keep and the crowds you’re around.”
The Johnson name has been rooted in Clarendon County politics and public service for years.
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