COLUMBIA — Gov. Nikki Haley tapped South Carolina State University retired football coach Willie Jeffries Wednesday to the State Ports Authority board.
Jeffries, who is the university's winningest coach, is the governor's fourth appointment to the board. Her selections must still be confirmed by the state Senate.
Senators commended Haley for appointing Jeffries, who is black, and Columbia telecommunications executive Pamela Lackey, a white female, to the SPA board to ensure diversity among the members. Haley, who is the state's first female and minority governor, has faced criticism for appointing white men to boards and commissions.
Sen. Darrell Jackson, a Hopkins Democrat who is black, said Jeffries will be an asset to the board.
"I want to commend the governor because I think this is a result of the dialogue she has been having with members of the General Assembly, particularly members of the black caucus," he said. "It just shows that she understands the importance of diversity but it also shows that she knows how to pick great people.
"Coach Willie Jeffries is a legend in South Carolina and, in fact, across the nation. He is an icon, not just in the African American community, an icon in the state of South Carolina, someone who the entire state is very proud of."
In April, the governor named Lackey, former Attorney General Henry McMaster and Kiawah Island Real Estate principal Pat McKinney to the board.
The appointees would replace Colden Battey of Beaufort, Harry Butler of Georgetown, Richard Hagins of Simpsonville and Douglas Robertson of Bluffton.
Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Bonneau, said Haley's appointments keep the racial make-up of the board the same and adds a female member.