Baptist History

Over a century of care in downtown Columbia

In the summer of 1914, the widow of Dr. Augustus B. Knowlton, a respected physician, approached the South Carolina Baptist Convention about purchasing the small hospital her husband had established in downtown Columbia.

Recognizing this as a chance to enter the healing ministry, the Baptists agreed. On September 1, 1914, they reopened the facility on Marion Street as South Carolina Baptist Hospital – two buildings that housed 70 beds and a school of nursing.

Prisma Health Baptist Hospital timeline

Four years later, the Reverend W. M. Whiteside was appointed the first full-time administrator of the hospital. For 40 years he would serve in this capacity, guiding the facility as it struggled through its leanest years. In 1923, the hospital began treating cancer patients when it opened the South Carolina Baptist Cancer Center. The facility was one of the first in the state to establish a state aid clinic for the treatment of those too poor to afford care.

During Reverend Whiteside's administration, the hospital expanded its services and built another building which added 32 beds, two delivery rooms and a six-room operating suite. A nursing dorm known as the Lily Hardin building was also constructed on the site where Dr. Knowlton's antebellum home once stood. The dormitory was named in honor of a woman who would serve as director of the hospital's school of nursing for nearly 40 years. More than 1,300 nurses graduated from the South Carolina Baptist Hospital Diploma School of Nursing before it closed in 1966.


South Carolina Baptist Hospital continued its tradition of educating individuals to work in health care. It opened a school of radiologic technology in 1954 and a school of medical technology in 1963. The hospital also began its first pastoral care training program.


Reverend Whiteside retired from the hospital in 1957 after nearly 40 years of service. William A. Boyce, who had worked at South Carolina Baptist Hospital for the past 10 years, was named his successor. With the acquisition of Easley Baptist Hospital by the South Carolina Baptist Convention, the two facilities became united as a corporation. Under Dr. Boyce's direction, the hospital continued to expand. More buildings were constructed, nursing units were updated and services added.


The first hospital-based hospice program in the state was opened in 1979, providing care for terminally ill individuals in their homes. 


This is the year in which the hospital changed its name to Baptist Medical Center Columbia. Several years later Easley Baptist Hospital became known as Baptist Medical Center Easley. In 1986, the corporation added a third facility - Baptist Medical Center Harbison. During the same year, the Carolina Stone Center opened at Baptist Medical Center Columbia when the facility acquired the state's first lithotripter for the treatment of kidney stones with shock waves.


Dr. Boyce retired from the corporation in 1987. In the manner of Reverend Whiteside, he dedicated 40 years of his life to the healing ministry. Leadership changed hands again as Charles D. Beaman Jr. assumed the role of president and chief executive officer of South Carolina Baptist Hospitals Inc. Under his direction, the corporation has continued to grow. Baptist Medical Center Columbia added its Averyt Wing, which housed a major expansion for obstetrics, opened the Breast Health Center, a mammography center for women, and purchased the state's first mobile mammography van.


South Carolina Baptist Hospital purchased a 20-acre tract of land in the rapidly expanding Northwest Columbia area, for the purpose of establishing an ambulatory network and medical offices.


The hospital's Cancer Institute opens. Formerly known as the South Carolina Baptist Cancer Center, the facility relocated from the basement of the Williams building to new quarters across from the hospital on Taylor Street. The purchase of additional equipment and an expanded facility helped make the diagnosis and treatment of cancer more effective and convenient for patients and their families.


South Carolina Baptist Hospital altered its relationship with the South Carolina Baptist Convention in order to achieve greater operational freedom and flexibility, including a self-perpetuating board. The Corporation, while remaining true to its longstanding Christian values, could now function in a proactive manner in a rapidly evolving industry. This relationship between South Carolina Baptist Hospital and the South Carolina Baptist Convention was referred to as a commitment “to a shared ministry.”


The Charter of South Carolina Baptist Hospital was amended to change the name of the corporation to Baptist Healthcare System of South Carolina, Inc. In addition, this year saw major expansion efforts in surgery, the neonatal intensive care unit and the nesting center.

1998 – Palmetto Health is formed

Dramatic changes in the health care industry forced many hospitals to change or be left behind. To remain competitive, health care systems had to become more efficient, deliver high quality health care, and increase access and choice for patients. To respond to these challenges, in February, 1998, Baptist Healthcare System of South Carolina and Richland Memorial Hospital – a teaching hospital also located in Columbia, SC – formed Palmetto Health, a bold, new, locally-controlled alliance in Columbia, SC. Together, with a Certificate of Public Advantage, this new health care delivery system provides access to care for all people in the communities it serves.

Between 1998 and 2004, Baptist Healthcare System and Palmetto Health purchased tracts of land (approximately 75 acres) in Northwest Columbia at Hwy. 60 and I-26 for future expansion. Parking expansions were also begun at the Baptist campus in 1998, with the constructoin of new garages at Marion and Hampton Sts. and at Sumter St.


Palmetto Health Baptist celebrated 90 years of health care excellence serving the people of the Midlands and South Carolina.


Palmetto Health Parkridge Medical Office Building opened on the tract of land at Hwy. 60 and I-26, featuring an Outpatient Surgery Center and Convenience Care. This expansion served as the precursor to and initial part of the the Palmetto Health Baptist Parkridge campus.


Palmetto Health and Greenville Health System entered into a 50/50 joint venture to form Baptist Easley Hospital, formerly Palmetto Health Baptist Easley.


In March, Palmetto Health opened a 76-bed full-service hospital, Palmetto Health Baptist Parkridge, at Hwy 60 & I-26 to serve the residents of the Northwest Columbia area.

In September, Palmetto Health Baptist celebrated its centennial anniversary.


Palmetto Health received the 2014 Foster G. McGaw Community Service Award.  This prize is awarded to one health care system that exemplifies excellence in community health services. Palmetto Health was a finalist for the award in 2010 and 2011.


Tuomey Healthcare System became a member of Palmetto Health on January 1, 2016, as Palmetto Health Tuomey. Palmetto Health Tuomey is a 301-bed Joint Commission-accredited medical center with an active medical staff of more than 150 physicians representing more than 25 medical specialties.

In April, Palmetto Health and the University of South Carolina announced the Palmetto Health-USC Medical Group, a not-for-profit company that brings together physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other health care providers from two of South Carolina’s most respected organizations — Palmetto Health and the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. The multispecialty, clinically integrated medical group is the Midlands region’s largest multispecialty medical group and the 11th largest employer in the Midlands.


Palmetto Health and Greenville Health System partner to create a new, not-for-profit, locally governed health company designed to shape and lead the future of health care for all South Carolinians. The new company, Prisma Health, aims to improve the patient experience, clinical quality and access to care, and address rising health care costs.

​Cancer support group - Sumter

Providing educational and emotional support.

Help kids get a head start on heart healthy habits

February 15, 2019