Nearly three years after Dorchester County unveiled its innovative, 83,000-square-foot detention center off Hodge Drive near Summerville, the lettering atop the front entrance will soon change to reflect the name of the county’s top law enforcement leader: Sheriff L.C. Knight.
“I’m flattered,” Knight said, in between congratulatory hugs and handshakes from county employees, deputies and community members.
A surprise to Knight, the honor was announced during County Council’s meeting in Summerville on Monday.
“I had no idea,” he said. “I had heard, when they built the building there was some talk, but I never asked for, never asked for it.”
One-by-one county leaders took turns commending Knight for his lengthy law enforcement career and commitment to constructing a new jail—unwavering in the face of opposition at times.
“Council had very differing opinions on how that (construction process) was to happen, but he held fast,” said Councilman Larry Hargett. “(Knight’s) the one that had the vision to start with…and it’s a wonderful facility.”
Councilman Eddie Crosby piggy-backed on Hargett’s praise.
“It’s an honor to sit up here and thank you...and all the accolades professionally go without saying,” Crosby told Knight. “As a grandfather and father and man of character, I just can’t thank you enough for all that you do for the county and for the citizens here. …We just love you and keep up the great work.”
Councilman Jay Byars applauded Knight for keeping local streets safe, especially with limited resources.
“We don’t have a lot of resources in Dorchester County, and ya’ll do a heck of a job with what you have,” he said.
Council Chair George Bailey reflected on the site search he participated in during the early stages of the jail construction process.
“I can remember…how many trips we took...looking at sites,” he said. “I didn’t know a thing about building a prison at that time, and I learned a lot.”
With a laugh, Knight’s wife Rhonda said she also vividly remembers the process and now feels more-than-familiar with the facility.
“I think I know every inch of it, too,” she said. “I’m so excited for him; he’s well-deserving.”
Bailey also expressed gratitude for the dedication of Knight and his deputies’ to public service over the years—their friendship first developing when the council leader was a S.C. legislator and Knight was employed with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED).
“I never called on you that you didn’t respond,” Bailey said. “We go back a long way. …(This honor) couldn’t happen to a nicer person.”
Knight served 28 years with SLED, retiring with the rank of captain in 2004. He served from 2004 to 2006 a Dorchester County magistrate.
A Dorchester County native, Knight graduated from Summerville High School and obtained his undergraduate degree from Baptist College of Charleston. In 1977, he graduated from the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy.
Knight was first elected to the county sheriff seat in 2008 and won re-election in 2016.
However, Monday was not the first time the facility’s renaming had surfaced. Five months ahead of the jail’s opening in August 2016, a petition circled around the county urging the site to be renamed after two fallen deputies: Gary Blackwood and Phillip Michael Deese. Both lost their lives in the line of duty and remain the only fallen officers in the history of the local sheriff’ office.
A $23 million project, the detention center contains space for up to 500 inmates but can currently only house 266. Last month, sheriff’s officials said the jail is already overcrowding but that the 19-acre site has room for future expansion.
For decades, the former county jail was located in St. George. The county is currently working through environmental testing to determine if the old building will be demolished. If the demo is approved in the county’s fiscal year 2020 budget, a formal date will be determined for the removal project, said county spokesperson Tiffany Norton. She said there’s currently no plans to construct a new facility in its place.
The current jail will officially be renamed the L.C. Knight Detention Center.