A piece of UofSC history gets new life at the alumni oyster roast

Mike Owens, a 1973 University of South Carolina School of Law graduate loves to do woodwork. After more than 20 years in the Navy as a Judge Advocate General’s Corps Officer, and years as a private practice attorney, Owens says his hobby is just something to keep him out of trouble.
 
The Charleston native is best known for his handcrafted wooden pens, traveling to craft shows around the state selling the masterpieces. But one masterpiece in particular–an oyster knife–Owens has donated to the place that he says helped him get his start and “buttered his bread.”
 
The idea to make an oyster knife came after Owens received his invitation to the School of Law’s Annual Alumni Oyster Roast in Charleston. He enlisted the help of another skilled craftsman and friend Jerry Hucks, a knife maker. The two used their skills to manufacture a knife any oyster-shucker would be pleased to use.
 
What makes the knife even more special is that the wood used to create the handle is from a tree that used to stand on the Historic Horseshoe. In 2011 lightning struck one of the Horseshoe’s oldest trees. The university tried to save the tree, but it was split down the middle, causing a safety hazard. Owens received word from a relative that the tree was going to be taken down. After the university arborist agreed to give him some of the wood, Owens says he returned home to Charleston with a “pickup truck’s worth” of UofSC history.
 
“I’ve made thousands of gamecock pens out of that wood. People really love it.”
 
After Hucks and Owens finished making two knives it was time to decide who would get to keep them. Owens says he gave one to his sister, and called the law school about the second.
 
At this year’s Alumni Oyster Roast—held on Thursday, Feb. 23 (RSVP here)—one lucky attendee will get to take the unique knife home. Guests are asked to bring their business cards and place them in a basket at the registration table. A random drawing will determine the winner.  
 
For Owens, he says donating the knife is no big deal. He’s just glad that he can give a little history back to the place that made him a success.