Press Room

View All News

James A. Bennett named United Way of the Midlands Humanitarian of the Year

Columbia, SC (November 12, 2020) – United Way of the Midlands will honor James A. Bennett as the 2020 Humanitarian of the Year award recipient on February 18, 2021, at the University of South Carolina Alumni Center. 
The Humanitarian of the Year Award is given each year to individuals who clearly demonstrate extraordinary leadership in philanthropic and human services. It is the highest single honor of philanthropic achievement in the Midlands.

“James has been a longtime volunteer leader with United Way of the Midlands who has shared his vision, wisdom and strategic thinking on issues and topics that have benefitted our community,” said Sara Fawcett, United Way of the Midlands President and CEO. “There is no doubt this community and our state are better places because of his leadership and many contributions.”

Bennett was a part of the United Way team that was instrumental in evaluating and assessing the needs to create what would become Transitions. He traveled with United Way leadership and other community members to Miami, Florida to visit a similar facility and then returned home helping gain support from public officials. He is a former member of the Board of Directors of United Way of the Midlands and past chair of the Alexis de Tocqueville Society.

“James’ enthusiasm and commitment to improving the quality of life in our community is second to none,” said Robbie Foster, partner with Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, and Chairman of the United Way of the Midlands Board of Directors. “We can’t wait to come together to celebrate his achievements and thank him for his contributions.”

Bennett, Mid-South Area Executive at First Citizens Bank, began his extensive career in banking in 1984. Throughout the past 36 years, he has worked for several local financial institutions, including South Carolina Community Bank where he served as president and chief executive officer. The majority of his career has been spent working at First Citizens, where he remains today.  

He has achieved much success as a banker.  In 1998, he was the first African American to receive the South Carolina Bankers Association’s Outstanding Young Banker award.  And most recently, in July 2020, he was named chairman of the South Carolina Bankers Association and is the first African American to hold this position in the state, and one of only a handful in the history of the industry.

Bennett has been active on boards across the state. Currently, he serves on the boards of Dominion Energy, Columbia Urban League, Prisma Health and the South Carolina Bankers Association. He is a former chairman of the Board of Trustees at Claflin University. He also serves as vice-chair of both the USC Education Foundation and the Midlands Business Leadership Group.  

"Whether with Claflin University, Prisma Health, United Way or the many other organizations to which he volunteers his time and talent, James is always a voice you want on your side,” said Andy Folsom, Vice President, Mergers and Acquisitions at BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina and United Way of the Midlands board member. “He is a uniting figure and wonderful role model. He always considers broad constituencies and stakeholders on matters. He truly has the best interest of the community in mind.”

James is a native of Cheraw. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of South Carolina and is a graduate of South Carolina Bankers School.


About United Way of the Midlands
United Way of the Midlands is the most organized, efficient and accountable system for investing in the community. With more than 70 Community Impact Partners, United Way works to identify and respond to the critical human service needs of Calhoun, Fairfield, Lexington, Newberry, Orangeburg and Richland counties. Funds are raised through workplace campaigns, grant writing and individual donations. For more information, please visit

View All News