Brothers Bill and David Summers of Golden Kernel Pecan Co. in Cameron were recognized this year for their contributions to the National Pecan Shellers Association and the pecan industry.

Their story began in the late 1800s when Dr. S.J. Summers of Cameron brought the first pecan seedlings to be set out in South Carolina on a commercial scale. These original trees seeded pecan orchards on the Summers estate and across South Carolina.

Eager to carry on the Summers tradition, his son, David Sr., later took over management of the orchard. In 1932, business had grown so quickly that David Sr. incorporated the Golden Kernel Pecan Company in order to buy, grade and process pecans for the market.

Construction of the shelling plant finished in 1934; and by the late 1940s, the company had 25,000 trees in the nursery and could shell 6,000 pounds of pecans per day.

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David Sr. and his wife Olivia ran Golden Kernel Pecan together until his passing in 1950, which left Olivia to run the business on her own. In 1968 their sons David Jr. and Bill returned to take over operation of the company. Shortly after, they joined the National Pecan Shellers Association and began their lifelong relationship with the association and the pecan industry.

David and Bill began to help change the pecan industry when they befriended Bland Quantz. Prior to that, pecan cracking was a more social activity.

“People didn’t have TVs back then, so Dad would drop off bags of nuts in the evening and they’d sit around and crack pecans,” Bill said. The crackers being used cracked one nut at a time and were only as fast as the person operating them. At the time, Quantz was developing a prototype pecan cracker in his Columbia garage that he hoped would change the industry.

David and Bill felt that Bland was on to something great and allowed him to test his pecan cracker in their Golden Kernel plant. “He’d always come in and add something to the machine, trying to make it better,” Bill said.

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After years of workshopping and countless smashed pecan meats, Bland perfected the Quantz x16 pecan cracker and set the new standard for cracking pecans. The new machine was able to crack upwards of 1,000 pecans per minute. This version of the machine remained the industry standard for nearly 20 years. The original prototypes are now housed at the South Carolina State Museum.

In recognition of their dedication and contribution to the pecan industry, the National Pecan Shellers Association has given Bill and David Summers its lifetime achievement award. Bill has served as the president of the association. Both he and David served on the board many times and remained active members throughout the years. Golden Kernel continues to process pecans for fundraising, specialty foods, and retail sale.

David passed away in February 2022 and Bland in 2008, but the legacy they created lives on through Bill and their impact on pecan history.

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