Meet our 2020
Hall of Fame Recipient
“Don’t forget to be happy. It’s the only measurement of success that really counts.” – Ken Burger
In many ways, Ken Burger was a larger than life figure in the Palmetto State. His abilities as a writer are well-known and admired, having spent nearly 40 years in the newspaper business, covering sports, business, politics and life in South Carolina.
His writing style was unique, as was his approach to the craft. Ken was a colorful writer whose work captured readers’ attention by finding stories where no one else would see them and telling them with a deft touch.
Ken was born Oct. 22, 1949 in Allendale and never forgot his Lowcountry roots. He went to Anderson College and then to the University of Georgia where, according to him, he graduated in 1973 “dead last in his class.”
He began his newspaper career when Doug Nye hired him as a sports writer at The Columbia Record in 1973.
After nearly a decade at The Record and The State, Ken went to The Post and Courier as a metro reporter in 1984 and quickly moved up to a two-year sojourn as the paper’s Washington correspondent. He returned to Charleston in 1988 to become The Post and Courier’s Executive Sports Editor. In 1989, he became the paper’s full-time sports columnist.
That’s where Ken hit his niche, becoming the best and most awarded sports columnist in the state. He was more than a sports writer – he wasn’t even a sports fan – he was a storyteller who wrote about people. As he told many a young aspiring writer, “The easy trick to this column writing business, just write about people.”
As a result, Ken touched many people with his columns. For a good deal of Post and Courier readers, Ken was the reason they opened the sports section. He loved to write the stories of people who overcame adversity to become successful.
He covered many sporting events, including the Masters, golf’s U.S. Open, the 1996 Olympics, college sports and Super Bowl, World Series and Final Four games.
When asked about his favorite sports moment, Ken said, “All of them.”
In addition to sports, he covered the state’s incredible recovery from disasters including Hurricane Hugo.
Ken’s columns brought him state and national recognition with awards including the S.C. Sports Writer of the Year seven times by the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association; first place for columns in the Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest three times; S.C. Press Association’s Journalist of the Year in 1996, the first sports writer to win the award; and he received the Herman Helms Excellence in Media Award from the S.C. Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013.
He became The Post and Courier’s metro columnist in 2008 where he continued to entertain readers and win writing awards until his retirement in 2011. During his career, he mentored generations of journalists.
Ken authored a trilogy of novels – “Swallow Savannah,” “Sister Santee” and “Salkehatchie Soup.” Additionally, he published three collections of columns – “Life Through the Earholes of our Youth,” “Baptized in Sweet Tea” and “A Sporting Life.” His books brought praise from such luminaries as Pat Conroy who said, “nobody picks at the scabs of South Carolina like her native son, Ken Burger.”
In addition to his career as a journalist, Ken also served in the U.S. Air Force Reserves from 1971-1991, primarily in public affairs with the 315th Airlift Wing in Charleston.
Ken’s impact goes beyond journalism to saving and extending lives. When he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007, he wrote a series of powerful columns about his courageous battle, turning his diagnosis into an awareness campaign and encouraging men to get screened for cancer. During and after his treatments, he would visit other cancer patients at Roper Hospital to encourage them. That led the hospital to dedicate the Ken Burger Consultation Room. With Roper’s backing, he also began the Ken Burger Prostate Challenge Golf Tourney at Kiawah, which has raised more than $500,000 for the cancer center.
When the cancer returned and spread in 2014, Ken kept his positive attitude until the end, joking with friends that he appreciated reading all the tributes to him while he still could. He died Oct. 20, 2015.
Ken’s talent and love for the Palmetto State made him one of the most unforgettable and prolific journalists in our state’s history. And he remains an inspiration to a legion of S.C. newspaper journalists who knew him.
S.C. Journalism Hall of Fame
The S.C. Journalism Hall of Fame was established in 1973 to recognize and honor men and women who have excelled in their craft and made significant contributions to journalism and their communities. Only 74 newspaper journalists – from Colonial days to the present – have been chosen by their peers for recognition. Learn more.