Saying good-bye to 16 years of memories



Perhaps the last person at the courthouse whose name wouldn’t have been expected to come up when the word retirement was mentioned was Bill Polk. But yes, it’s true. This past Friday, March 24, was his final day.
However, this is not the first time Polk has retired, and like the one before it, this retirement may not last, either.
He began his career as a bailiff in 2007, after having retired the year before from the Savannah Nuclear Facility in Aiken, where he put in 20 years. He didn’t miss it, at least at first.
“I worked at the Savannah Nuclear facility for 20 years,” said Polk. “Sixty-eight miles each way, 10-hour shifts.”
He didn’t mind the drive too much, and for a brief period of time he carpooled. However, in order to carpool, permission was required from Washington, D.C.
That’s because the person he eventually carpooled with was John Barnes, with the Department of Energy. For those who might not be familiar, Barnes is a native of Walterboro and was the plant facility manager whose major responsibility was ensuring safe and reliable operations; in 2012, Barnes was recognized as the Department of Energy’s Facility Representative of the Year by then-Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.
That was not his first stint serving his nation. Polk served in the U.S. Navy from 1970-1975, and for a brief while was in Vietnam. However, most of his naval career was in Norfolk, Va.
“I was in a squadron that trained pilots,” he said. “The planes were my responsibility.”
There was an interesting aspect to his military service.
“In all my years in the Navy, I never once was on a ship,” he said.
Retirement from the nuclear facility didn’t sit well with Polk, and he soon grew antsy, so he cast about for a new career and found one to his liking. He became a bailiff with the sheriff’s office in 2007.
In these intervening years, the job has been interesting, but nothing in particular has stood out, he said, save for the recently concluded Alex Murdaugh trial.
“It’s usually been run-of-the-mill. Even murder cases,” he said.
He’s witnessed and been a part of the evolving manner in which cases have undergone, in particular, modernization.
When he began, jurors were selected from a small metal drum, the kind many people associate with bingo games. Then a computer system was installed. At the time, though, none of the other bailiffs wanted to learn how to use the computer, so Polk took it upon himself to learn and master.

Practically from the beginning of his career with the courthouse, Polk has been with almost every juror that has ever been seated. Like a mother hen, he has always been highly protective of jurors. Whatever they had to go through, Polk did likewise, including the Murdaugh trial.
“When they did mandatory COVID testing, I took it with them,” he said.
He made sure their anonymity was secure when the jurors were transported from an undisclosed site to the courthouse, making sure they went into first one, and then a second tent and then into the courthouse, sight unseen by the media and onlookers. When they entered the courtroom, he sat alongside them, in the back.
“He was very dedicated to the jury,” said Laura Hayes, a deputy clerk at the courthouse.
He did such an impressive job that following the end of the trial, S.C. State Attorney General Alan Wilson, went across the courtroom and approached Polk.
“He told Bill, ‘You did a great job with that jury,” said Polk’s wife, Diane, who had joined him at a farewell luncheon at the courthouse.
He was also a re-assuring presence to Clerk of the Court Rebecca “Becky” Hill.
“I said I’ll get you through this murder trial,” said Polk, which he did.
One aspect of the Murdaugh jury remains with Polk and always will.
“It was driven by God,” he said. “From day one they prayed every day, and on the day of deliberation they prayed that they had made the right decision.”
Belief in God is important to Polk and his wife, who are members of Doctor’s Creek Baptist Church.
Bill and Diane Polk are coming up on their 48th wedding anniversary, when they tied the knot on May 31, 1975, but have been together nearly 50 years, when they began dating in 1973, having been set up on a blind date by his sister and her aunt, who were co-workers at Coastal Electric.
Although they never had children, they are devoted to family and currently look after Diane’s mother, who is now 97 years old. Time and age have started taking its toll, and Bill and Diane have told her mother they will always be there for her; they have remained true to their word. If neither can actually be physically present, there are other family members who will step in.
This is a good arrangement, as one of their “hobbies” is going on bus tours. They like this style of travel because much of the arrangement have already been put into place,; all they have to do is simply get on the bus.
Diane recalled one incident as the bus pulled up to the hotel where they would be staying on one of their excursions.
“One time at one place, the people at the hotel literally rolled out the red carpet,” said Diane. “They told us our luggage would be at our room within 15 minutes, and it was.”
Maybe not.
“What I told Becky is that if they need me, I’m available to come in,” he said. Should that need arise, Diane, who is with Enterprise Bank, will come to the house to look after her mother while her husband returns to the courthouse.


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