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1. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Historical Marker on the Tomlinson High School Athletic Field Street
On May 8, 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited Kingstree and delivered his “Let Us March on Ballot Boxes” speech on the Tomlinson High School’s Athletic Field. During his speech to an audience of an estimated 5,000, Dr. King urged everyone to “march on ballot boxes” and use their vote as a means to pursue social and economic justice. He also called for mobilization and challenged each attendee to help register new voters. Dr. King referred to the current moment as a “second Reconstruction” and reminded the audience that during the first Reconstruction SC had elected African American representatives to serve in the State House and US Congress. If they had done so before then they can do it again. His message ranged beyond political and civil rights, to a vision of a day when all would enjoy adequate jobs, food, and security.
During the Civil Rights Movement, in addition to the NAACP, there was an organization established called the Williamsburg County Voters League, which had a youth division. The leaders in the movement included Virgil and Johnie Dimery, Dr. Stephens, Jesse Lawrence, E. I. Lawrence, etc. who were self employed, because employed persons could get fired or get kicked out of their homes (if owned by whites) if it was discovered they were registered, voted or participated in any civil or equal rights activities. It was Virgil who made the trip to Atlanta and waited on the steps to talk with Dr. King to extend an invitation to him to come to Kingstree to encourage the citizens to register and vote. There were several local Black men running for political offices and the goal was to get as many Black people registered to vote as possible in order to win the election; Virgil was running for State Senator.
2) Tomlinson Graded and High School, founded in 1866 as the first Negro public School in the State of SC; Rosenwald School, 701 Tomlinson Street. (Latitude: 33.6701643; Longitude: -79.8203484; longitude (DMS); GNIS ID1241528).Tomlinson was considered the ‘mother school’ for Negroes in Williamsburg County. Prior to the Equalization Schools of the 1950s, children attended their community schools and came to Tomlinson to get their high school education and diploma. Historical Marker, 46-26; Tomlinson School – ‘Formerly enslaved African Americans built the first Tomlinson School in 1866. Overseen by the Freedmen’s Bureau, it was the first public Black public school in Williamsburg County. Tomlinson School was located at this site by 1924, when it moved into a new 2-story facility funded by the school district, the Julius Rosenwald Fund and local African Americans whose contributions allowed for the construction of a brick rather than a wood frame building. For decades, Tomlinson High and Graded School was the center of Black education in Williamsburg County. A white brick high school and library building opened in 1935. It was later demolished. A gymnatorium was added in 1941 and burned in 1994. Major additions were made in c. 1954 with funding from the SC equalization program, which upgraded Black schools to preserve segregation. Tomlinson closed in 1970 as part of the integration of Williamsburg County schools.’
Tomlinson is a Rosenwald School: The State Department of Education ordered the construction of the first school building (a two-story brick building called the red building) located on the corner of Tomlinson Street and Lexington Ave. According to the Annual Report to the SC Department of Education, President and CEO Mr. Julius Rosenwald of Sears Roebuck and Company of Chicago established the Rosenwald Fund, in partnership with Booker T Washington gave millions of dollars to education and welfare organizations for Negroes. Funds were paid through the SC Department of Education for erecting the two-story building at Tomlinson School consisted of nine classrooms, an administrative office and a library and was constructed 1923-1924. The writer attended classes beginning in 1960 in this building with Mrs. Thomas in 6th grade and Ms. Miller in 7th grade. Tomlinson graduated its last class in 1970.
Tomlinson’s history extends beyond a century in spite of the fact that the doors closed in 1970. Its impact upon the state of South Carolina and nationally, if not internationally will forever be ingrained in the history of Williamsburg County via its many, many students and their contributions.
The detailed history of Tomlinson was published in THE NEWS in February 2015 and needs to be updated to reflect the year of 1866 as the year it was founded.
Unlike any other county or city in these United States, I doubt if there is another area with this claim to fame. Williamsburg County (WC) has seven (7) Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) presidents that grew up and attended the Williamsburg County (WC) schools and/or have direct ties to WC. This info is readily shared by the author, Ms. Rush, at every available opportunity within WC and throughout the state of South Carlina and these United States.
When it comes to HBCU Presidents, the name of Dr. Henry Nehemiah Tisdale readily comes to mind with his 25-year illustrious tenure at Claflin University in Orangeburg, SC. Dr. Tisdale was the eighth president and retired July 31, 2019. He was appointed by the Board of Trustees in June 1994. From the Claflin University web site, “His tenure at his Alma Mata is marked by visionary leadership and remarkable accomplishments for the oldest HBCU in South Carolina”.
Dr. Tisdale was born and reared in Kingstree and was a member of St. Paul UM Church. St. Paul Elementary and Junior HS, located next door to St. Paul UM Church, was the first school he attended from the fall of 1949 - Spring 1950, for first grade. From the fall of 1950 - spring 1956, he attended Cane Branch School for six (6) years. Tomlinson High School was where he attended for 8th and 9th grades from 1956 - 1958. In the fall of 1958, he entered St. Mark Elementary and High School, from which he graduated as Valedictorian 1961.
When asked about his teachers who were the greatest influencers in his life, two teachers at the two-room Cane Branch School that went from first to 8th grades, were mentioned. They were Mrs. Thedith Salmon who was teaching first – fourth grades and Mrs. Nellie Commander who taught fourth – eighth grades, and was also the principal. He stated these two teachers knew their students, believed in all of the children and believed the children could learn.
At Tomlinson School High School, his most influential teachers were Mr. Willie Glover, Mr. C.E. Murray and Mr. James McAlister. The common thread among these three gentleman was they had high academic expectations of the students. Additionally, Mr. McAlister was a passionate leader, demanded discipline and truly cared about the students. When St. Mark Elementary and High School opened in the fall of 1958, Mr. Glover (counselor) and Mr. McAlister (principal) were transferred to St. Mark and continued to be a positive influence for Dr. Tisdale though high school graduation and beyond.
In fact, as an entering college freshman, Mr. McAlister personally drove him to Claflin University, delivered him to the president and informed him he was delivering his valedictorian to him to be a student at Claflin University
Dr. Tisdale is in the process of writing a book about the phenomenal transformation of a small rural liberal arts college in SC. It will include the strengths, influencers and tenacity of Dr. Tisdale and the 25 years he spent transforming the institution while serving as president from 1994 – 2019. This dialogue is to be continued. (The writer, Ms. Rush would like to thank Dr. Tisdale for sharing the early details of his life.)
Dr. Leroy Staggers took over the reigns at Morris College as the tenth president in 2018, after the 43-year tenure of Dr. Luns C. Richardson. He joined the Morris College faculty in 1993 as an Associate Professor of English and later appointed Chairman of the Division of Religion and Humanities, and Director of Faculty Development.
Prior to coming to Morris College, Dr. Staggers served as Vice President for Academic Affairs, Associate Professor of English, and Director of Faculty Development at Barber-Scotia College in Concord, SC. His additional higher education experience includes Chairman of the Division of Humanities and Assistant Professor of English at Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina, and Instructor of English and Reading at Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama.
Dr. Staggers was born in Kingstree, grew up in Salters and graduated from C.E. Murray High School in Greeleyville. He earned a bachelors degree from Voorhees College and went on to earn both a master’s degree and a doctorate from Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia. Additionally, he completed the Institute for Educational Management (IEM) Program at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts. (This information was provided by The Investiture of Dr. Leroy Staggers as the Tenth President of Morris College.)
This author, Ms. Rush, was HBCU-UP Project Manager, 2002 – 2005, at Morris College as while Dr. Staggers was serving as Academic Dean.
Dr. Joan Wright Haysbert, was born and reared in Kingstree, attended Tomlinson High School and graduated valedictorian in 1965. She graduated from Johnson C Smith University with a degree in psychology, and Auburn University with a master’s and doctoral degree in administration and supervision in higher education, earning an Ed.D. She also attended Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Institute for Educational Management.
Haysbert held academic positions at Auburn University, Virginia State University and Alexander City State Junior College, before her tenure at Hampton. At the historic, private "Black Ivy", she served in a variety of positions including its first acting president, provost, assistant provost, professor, coordinator of graduate programs, dean of freshman studies, assistant vice president for academic affairs, director of summer sessions, and director of the assessment and learning support center.
In 2005, after a 25-year career at Hampton, she became Langston University's 15th president, serving through the end of 2011, making her the first African-American female president of any institution of higher learning in the state of Oklahoma.
In July 2010, Kingstree recognized and honored Dr. Haysbert with the presentation of road side signs that read, “Home of JoAnn Wright Haysbert, First American-American Female College President, State of Oklahoma, Langston University – Appointed 2005”
In 2012, she returned to Hampton to become its first Chancellor and Executive Vice-President, while also resuming her post as Provost.
HBCU presidents with direct ties to Williamsburg County:
Dr. W. Franklin Evans, was the 9th president of Voorhees College in Denmark, SC before departing to W. Liberty University in West Virginia. Evans is the first Black president in the 183-year history of the West Liberty and assumed the presidency on Jan. 1, 2021.
Dr. Evans, has been in the education arena over 25 years and chose a career in higher education because he wanted to effect change in the education of underrepresented, potentially-gifted individuals by training those who eventually educate them. Prior to being named Voorhees president, Evans served as interim president of South Carolina State University (SCSU), in Orangeburg, S.C., where he also served as the provost and chief academic officer.
His ties to WC are through his mother, Mrs. Othella Wilson Evans, who was born and reared in Williamsburg County. Her teaching career was in the Augusta, GA where Dr. Evens grew up. As we all know, wherever you mother is from is where you spent many holidays and summer days, and created many memories with your cousins and relatives early in your childhood. This was definitely the case here. Dr. Evans has Nesmith, Owens, Wilson Wheeler relatives. He and his mother own property in WC so he definitely has strong WC connections.
A future interview is scheduled with Dr. Evans.
Dr. George E. Cooper, 10th president of SCSU, served 2008 – 2012. In 2013, he was appointed by President Barack Obama as executive director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs. His mission was to lead a team - stretched across 32 federal agencies, corporate entities and philanthropic organizations – in working together to strengthen the nation’s more than 100 HBCUs. He passed away while serving in President administration. His wife, Diane Shaw Cooper is from Williamsburg County. (From the Times and Democrat)
Dr. Charles E. Young, 23rd president of Allen University is from Georgetown County and while visiting Mr. David A Williams and Ms. Rush at the Williams Vineyard around 2008-2009, mentioned that as a child, he cropped tobacco and picked cotton in Nesmith at/or for his cousin Theodore (Teddy) Nesmith. Well Teddy and Mr. Williams or cousins. While Ms. Rush was managing the Historically Black College & Universities-Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP) at Allen University from 2005-2010, Dr. Young was president.
A seventh ‘HBCU presidents with direct ties to Williamsburg County’ was shared by Dr. Tisdale during his interview. Former president of Savannah State University, Dr. Cheryl Davenport Dozier is married to Williamsburg County native Arthur (Mickey) Dozier.
4) Williamsburg County Courthouse & Grounds
This historical structure was built in 1823 and designed by Robert Mills, who served as the US federal architect under seven presidents. He designed some of the nation’s most prominent buildings, including the Washington Monument. The Williamsburg Count Courthouse design is Roman-Neoclassical and the majority, if not all of the manual labor to construct this structure was done by Black men – the enslaved!
On the courthouse grounds are several monuments to include Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, J.D., Confederate (Union) Soldier and American Legion Military Monuments: Roll of Honor World War I, Roll of Honor World War II, Roll of Honor Korea, Roll of Honor Vietnam.Help us preserve and share our collections for future generations by making a donation or becoming a sponsor. Your support helps us continue our mission of education and inspiration.
Monument Inscription: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Nobel Peace Prize Winner; Drum-Major for Justice; Assassinated April 4, 1968; 1929 ~ 1968; "Unless we learn to live together as brothers, surely we will die apart as fools.”
Dr. King was born in Atlanta on January 15, 1929 to Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King. He is a graduate of Morehouse College, Crozer Theological Seminary and Boston University. Dr. King was a Baptist minister, a peaceful activist and a leader in the Civil Rights Movement from 1954 – 1968.
His life and history is very well know among school children and well documented. Dr. King lead many marches to include the 1963 March on Washington where he delivered the infamous “I have a Dream’ Speech. He lead marches in Albany, GA, Birmingham, Alabama, Charleston, SC, Selma to Montgomery, etc. He received the Nobel Peace Prize 1964, and posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal. Beginning in 1971, Martin Luther King, Jr., Day was established as a holiday and a federal holiday in 1986. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the National Mall was dedicated in 2011.
Thurgood Marshall, J.D. Supreme Court Justice, Judge, Civil Rights Activist, Lawyer (July 2, 1908 – January 24, 1993)
By Anna Inbody, March 18, 2012
Thurgood Marshall, Supreme Court Justice
Thurgood Marshall was born in 1908 in Baltimore to schoolteacher mother Norma and Pullman Porter father, William. When he was in high school, Thurgood did not respond well to corporal punishment for misbehaving, so his punishment was to memorize certain sections of the United States Constitution. At that time, he had no idea that this punishment became his life career and claim to fame and notoriety.
Unable to attend a white university for an undergraduate degree, he enrolled at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, an HBCU. He graduated with a BS degree in 1930 after getting married during his senior year. His wife, Vivian Burey Marshall encouraged him to go to law school, but his application to the University of Maryland was rejected. With devotion and sacrifice from his mother, Thurgood attended and graduated from Howard University Law School. He was appointed as an associate justice of the Supreme Court in 1967 and served for 24 years, until 1991. Marshall was the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court. He was counsel to the NAACP and in 1954, won the Brown v. Board of Education case, in which the Supreme Court ended racial segregation in public schools.
The Committee of One Hundred and One was responsible for the placement of the Dr. King and Thurgood Marshall monuments on the courthouse grounds. Too, the Warsaw Hwy, Hwy 527 was renamed the Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall Highway and the Lane Road renamed the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Highway. The King-Marshall Memorial Ceremonies was a four-part celebration that was held August 20-21, 1993. James A. Franklin, Sr. was the president of the committee of One Hundred and One and was a man of vision with a strong desire to preserve the African American heritage and history that impacted the nation and had local influences and impact.
5) Benevolent Societies Hospital, 1100 E. Main Street
The Benevolent Societies Hospital was created to serve the health needs of the African American population in Williamsburg County that because of segregation, were not allowed to be served by the local hospital. Before this hospital, African American Physician Dr. Mason and a few white doctors in segregated facilities mainly provided the limited medical care. Babies were delivered by midwives, and parents and grand parents had home remedies for sicknesses and illnesses.
“Founded March 1947 and renovated August 1965 by the several Benevolent Lodges and Societies for the purpose of providing medical care for the sick and infirm.”
The funding for the hospital was provided by Lodge and Societies: Farmers Aid, Home Charity, Joint Stock, Joseph and Brothers, Mutual Israelite, Peoples Improvement Association, Sons and Daughters of Jethro, Sons and Daughters of King Soloman, Young People’s Christian and Benefit Society.
Officers: William W. Smalls – President; E. W. Lawrence – V. President; Mable McDaniel – Recording Secretary; E. I. Lawrence – Financial Secretary; Jerome Pressley – Treasurer; Mary Ann Middleton – Superintendent; Joseph A. Mason, M.D. – Chief of Staff
After the hospital closed, the Dimery and Rogers Funeral Home moved into the 111 E Main Street location in 1982 from their prior location on Madison Ave. The Kingstree Hospital at the corner of Mills and Academy Streets served African Americans as early as 1957, if not earlier. Later, the Williamsburg County Memorial Hospital opened and replaced the Kingstree Hospital at Mills and Academy Streets. Explore our latest exhibitions covering a diverse range of topics, from art and history to science and technology. Our exhibitions are designed to engage and inspire visitors of all ages.
6) Cooper Academy
Historical Marker; 45-15: Cooper’s Academy, built in 1905-06, was a private boarding school for the Black children of this community until 1927, and a public school 1927-1958. Founded by Moses Cooper, H. J. Cooper and Ada E. Martin. It was first called Cooper’s Academy Normal and Industrial Institute foe for Colored Youth. The school closed in 1958 when Black Schools at Battery Park and Cades consolidated.
Cooper’s Academy, built in 1905-06, was a private boarding school for the black children of this community until 1927, and a public school 1927-1958. Founded by Moses Cooper, H.J. Cooper, and Ada E. Martin, it was first called Cooper’s Academy, Normal and Industrial Institute for Colored Youth. The school closed in 1958 when black schools at Battery Park and Cades were consolidated.
Bethesda Methodist Church, founded in 1879, was organized in a brush arbor. Its first permanent church, a one-room sanctuary built about 1884, stood 1/4 mi. W. The congregation bought a two-acre site here in 1893, and soon built a one-room frame church. The church was rebuilt in 1971, during the pastorate of Rev. J.B. Bowen.
Erected 2009 by Cooper Academy / Bethesda Methodist Church History Committee. (Marker Number 45-15.)
Location. 33° 45.72′ N, 79° 40.379′ W. Marker is near Lake City, South Carolina, in Williamsburg County. Marker is on Cade Road (South Carolina Route 512) just from Meadow Lane, on the right when traveling north. Marker is at or near this postal address: 2000 Cade Road, Lake City SC 29560.
7) McCollum-Murray House, also known as the C.E. Murray House, is a historic home located at Greeleyville, Williamsburg County, South Carolina. It was built about 1906, and is an example of transitional folk Victorian and Classical Revival residential architecture. It was originally a two-story, T-shaped dwelling. It features a wraparound one-story porch. It has a single-story rear gabled addition, with another single-story shed-roofed addition built in the 1950s. It was the home of African-American educator Dr. Charles Edward Murray.
It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.
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At Scott's Bar-B-Que, we built our own wood-burning pits to slow cook the whole hog overnight. Come morning, we're ready to sell our mouth watering bar-b-que with a side of skins and our secret family sauce. It doesn't get any better than Scott's Bar-B-Que. Stop by Wednesday through Saturday and taste the love!’
2734 Hemingway Hwy.
Hwy. 261 Brunson Cross Road
Hemingway, SC 29554
9) C. Williams Rush Gallery/Museum of African American Arts & Culture
Located at 200 Hampton Avenue, the C. Williams Rush Gallery/Museum opened in December 2010 with the “Beautiful Black Christmas” Exhibition and provided rotating exhibitions for the next several years. The focus has shifted to researching and documenting the history and contributions of Williamsburg County African Americans.
It’s mission is to document, support, recognize and emphasize the history and contributions of African Americans in general, but more specifically in Kingstree and Williamsburg County, and incorporate more diversity in programs for children. A goal is attract more tourists and visitors to Kingstree and Williamsburg County.
Ms. Rush is the self-appointed volunteer African-American Historian for Williamsburg County, after realizing the history, culture and contributions of Williamsburg County African-Americans had not been documented
The ongoing and rotating exhibitions, and programs at the gallery/museum are designed to interest and engage children, the community and tourists.
A previous exhibit and program was ‘The Harlem Renaissance: SC Connections?” which provided speakers, presentations and exhibitions on the visual artists, performing artists to include musicians, performers and singers, and the literary artists to include the poets and authors of the Harlem Renaissance.
The rotating exhibitions include African Americans in History (figurines, artifacts and collectibles); art collection; vintage and antique, artist and original dolls; student s’ art; hand made quilts, etc. and leading up to Christmas, the “Beautiful Black Christmas” exhibition features Santas, angels, nutcrackers, nativity scenes and Christmas trees decorated with Black ornaments.
One of the most amazing, outstanding and requested exhibitions is the one of ‘African American Dolls’. This collection includes over 65 original and one-of-a kind dolls by our very talented and creative African American doll artists from California to New York, Georgia, SC, NC and many other states. Too, antique and vintage dolls add an historical glance of the earliest AA dolls. Included in the exhibition are many limited edition and artist dolls designed and created by German and European artist.
The first exhibition of the collection was at Benedict College in Columbia, SC in 2007 and some of the collection have since been exhibited at the Zeta Phi Beta Boule’ in Las Vegas in 2008; Florence (SC) Museum; Morris College in Sumter, SC; Morris Brown College, Atlanta; C. Williams Rush Gallery/Museum of African-American Arts & Culture in Kingstree, SC, Georgetown (SC) Museum, etc.
To be added: Williamsburg County 10 Rosenwald Schools
Williamsburg County Equalization Schools
Williamsburg County Schools from 1866 – Equalization Schools
African American Churches
African American Cemeteries