DILLON, SC (WMBF) - "He excelled in just about everything that he did," says Ben Bernanke's Uncle Mort, and when it came to school, Bernanke was always ahead of the curve.
"I remember when he was in the first grade, he didn't last there but two weeks," says Mort Bernanke. "They said 'He doesn't belong here' and so they put him in the second grade."
From teaching himself Calculus in high school, receiving two academic superlatives senior year, to graduating at the top of his class, Ben always had an unquenchable thirst for learning.
His lifelong childhood friend, John Braddy, says success and Ben has always been synonymous.
"We all knew he was going to do something special with his life," says Braddy. "We didn't know what, but you could just tell he was that kind of guy."
Their friendship flourished throughout their school years, but it was their passion for music that was the glue that held them together. While John fancied the trumpet, Ben was more a sax guy.
John smiles when he reflects back on their musical endeavors. "We kind of started a little separate rock-and-roll band that we were even afraid to tell the band director about," recalls Braddy. "We practiced in someone's home, but the group never even had a real name."
After graduation, Ben went off to study at Harvard and later MIT. His career took off when he became an economic advisor to former President George W. Bush. When Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan stepped down, Ben was nominated to take over.
"And remember, this is one of the most powerful positions in the country or even the world," exclaims Braddy.
It proved to be a powerful job with a crippling responsibility.
"I think he was the right man for the job when everything crashed in 2006," Braddy says. "We were one tick away from a depression and his background and his grad studies were on the Great Depression. He probably knows more about the Great Depression historically and from a financial standpoint than any other person living today. I think that gave him a unique perspective. Not everybody agreed with the decisions that he made, but he pulled us back from the brink."
His Uncle Mort is the only relative that still lives in Dillon. He credits Ben's unwavering faith instilled by his grandfather and an upbringing where hard work pays off as the foundation that led him to where he is today.
"He is an honest person. I'm not just saying this because he's my nephew. I really mean it. He's not interested in politics. He knows they control a lot of stuff but he's interested in the good of the people," says Mort Bernanke.
John Braddy says, "It's so great having somebody like Ben come from a small town. It shows that anybody can rise up from anywhere and do great things if they set their mind to it."
One thing that we will have to wait and see is if Ben decides to retire as the Federal Reserve Chair because his second term is actually up in January 2014.