While employed at Penn Center, helped people register to vote and encouraged people to go to SCLC training to be trained to help others register to vote. 1967
Drove Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from airport to Penn for SCLS meetings. Represented South Carolina at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's funeral.
Right after legislation was passed, went to restaurants in Beaufort and Hilton Head. Got denied in Beaufort and contacted FBI. Was allowed access to Hilton Head. 1968.
Helped to recruit students from Bluffton and Hilton Head for summer pre-training for school integration and housed some of the tutors.
First black from Hilton Head to run for board of Palmetto Electric Co-op (1972 – was not successful)
Applied for Holiday Inn franchise (1967) on Hilton Head Island and was turned down.
Instrumental in organizing Hilton Head Fishing Co-op and Bluffton Oyster Co-op. Participated in successful community efforts to stop BASF from coming to the area. 1969
(See Heritage Library for May 20, 2014 document)
Instrumental in getting passenger boat for Daufuskie Island. 1969
First Black to serve on board for Heritage Savings and Loan. 1978
Only Black member of Advisory Committee of South Carolina to Provide Grants of Funds for Public Water (1st Congressional District) 1975-1979
Developed affordable housing (single family and multifamily) on Hilton Head Island. Only black member of the Carolina Council for Affordable Housing.
Instrumental in the development of Beaufort -Jasper Comprehensive Health Services. 1967-1970
Advocated for Food Stamps in Beaufort County. 1968
Made the motion to Lowcountry Council of Government to grant certificate of need and allow the Hilton Head Hospital to be built. 1970
Testified before State Senate Subcommittee (in Columbia) requesting Volunteers in Medicine doctors be allowed to practice at VIM waiving the license requirement.
Only black on Health Forum of SC State Board of Health and Environmental Control (1970-1977)
He was chairman of the Board of Deacons at Central Oak Grove Baptist Church, and he had been a leader in his church in Sayannah.
We also know that, despite the time it took to run several finesses, he found time to give of himself in civic affairs. He was commended for his service on the Town of Hilton Head Island's Election Commission and he was on the board ofdirectors of Palmetto Electric Cooperative Inc.
As a notary public, he was a grassroots community leader. Often, we are told, he was called on to offer advice on matters of insurance, home purchases, contracts and the like.
Other than his church work, perhaps Mr. Bolden's most lasting service to his adopted island was serving as president the local NAACP chapter in 1971, and the first person to lead the revived chapter since the 1940s. He was elected as president of the chapter in 1949 and served as president until 1976. That took courage and it surely called for great diplomatic and leadership skills. -
During that tenure, the chapter challenged the way that was Beaufort County was doing its zoning and saw results. And fie-is said to have played a key role in getting the old Courthouse Annex into the hands of the county, where it was used for years to bring services to north island neighborhoods. Young men and women of all races could look to the even temper, the sage advice, the record of service, the spirit of gying that marked the life of Samuel Bolden and model their own lives after it. If they have the good sense to do that, Mr. Bolden's quiet contributions will bear fruit for years to come.
The contributions of Emory Shaw Campbell to the cultural and environmental heritage of South Carolina are enormous. He and his family live on Hilton Head Island, where he grew up and developed his love of the Sea Islands. Born in 1941, on Hilton Head Island, where he grew up and developed his love of the Sea Islands. Born in 1941, on Hilton Head Island, SC. He graduated from high school in 1960, as class Valedictorian. In 1965, he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Savannah State College and in 1971 he earned a MS in Environmental Engineering from Tufts University in Boston.
Mr. Campbell's concern for the future of the Sea Islands became apparent as he began to apply his education to real life situations in 1971 at the Beaufort-Jasper Health Center. For almost ten years thereafter in his capacity as an Environmental Health engineer he addressed issues that affected the daily lives of island people. His goad was to inform ad disciss methods of preserving and enhancing the unique and rich Gullah culture and environmental heritage I the face of rapid development on the islands.
In 1980, he took a step closer to his goal, becoming the Executive Director of Penn Center, locate on St. Helena Island. He vigorously embarked on a program to revive the Center's historical significance and its educational programs, and to preserve the cultural and environmental assets of the Sea Islands. To help achieve this, he organized the now nationally recognized Penn Center Heritage Days Celebration. He also revised the family farm program and expanded the cultural program to assist cultural artisits, environmentalists, linquists, filmmakers and authors – among them Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, Patricia Jones-Jackson and VertaMae Grosvenor. He served as Chariman of the Gullah Geecheer Cultural Heritage Corridor, a Federal appointed Commission for preserving Gullah Geechee culture, 2008 to 2012.
Mr. Campbell has appeared in many documentaries, news magazines, films and radio and television programs, including 60 minutes, The Today Show,a PBS special, Family Across the Sea, as well as on C-Span's Washington Journal. He heas been awarded the Governor's Award for Historical Preservation (1999). He was awarded the Carter G. Woodson Award for Civil Rights by the National Education Association in 2006. In 2010 his essay titled, “ a Sense of Self and Place: Unmasking My Gullah Cultural Heritage,” was published with ten other essays in the book, “African American Life in the Georgia Lowcountry” by the University of Georgia Press. Later that year he received the Environmental Stewardship Award from the SC Aquarium. He was awarded honorary Doctors of Humane Letters by Bank Street College, NY in 2008 and by the University of South Carolina, Beaufort in 2012.
He authored the guide book, “Gullah Cultural Legacies,” in October 2002, Second Edition 2005, Third Edition 2008.
He retired from Penn Center in December 2002 after twenty-two years. He is currently President of the Gullah Heritage Consulting Service whence he conducts institutes on Gullah Cultural heritage and related issues through lectures, short courses and the Gullah Heritage Trail Tours of Hilton Head Island. He and his wife, Emma, reside on Hilton Head Island, SC and are the parents of two adult children, Ochieng and Ayoka; one grandchild, Carver.
Henry Driessen, Jr. was born on September 28, 1927 on Hilton Head Island, SC in the Chaplin community. He was born to Leola Driessen and William Patterson
and was raised by his loving grandparents, Henry Driessen and Annie Miller Driessen. During his formative years, he worked in his grandparents’ gas station and learned the value of hard work and customer service to the community he loved. In addition to working at an early age, he attended Chaplin Elementary School and Jonesville Junior High School. He continued his high school education
at Penn School on St. Helena Island, SC where he graduated in 1947.
Subsequent to his high school graduation, he was drafted into the United States Army and served bravely and honorably in the Korean War and obtained the rank of Corporal. His military service taught him extreme focus, attention to detail, and the ability to listen more than he speaks.
While in the army he married Phoebe Wiley in November 1951 and three children were born, Leon, Ann and Bernard. Having his devoted family taught him to strive to be a better, more tolerant, and loving.
After his honorable discharge from the army, Mr. Driessen attended Saint Augustine College in Raleigh, NC. He also attended Savannah State College in
Savannah, GA where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Education with an emphasis in auto mechanics, in 1953.
Mr. Driessen taught school for several years in Sylvania, GA until he returned to Hilton Head, SC to manage his grandparents’ business; which Mr. Driessen later built into a full service gas and auto mechanic station.
Due to his commitment to education and strong sense of duty to the community he loved, Mr. Driessen was led to serve as the PTA President of Hilton Head
Elementary School and Bluffton High School. His devotion to the Island also led him to serve as Vice Chairman of the Hilton Head Medical Clinic and Chairman of Hilton Head Public Service District.
He was later asked to serve on the first Hilton Head Town Council Board. He was reluctant at first, and was asked multiple times before saying yes. He ultimately
agreed because he understood that diversity, and specifically a voice for the black community was essential to the origin of the Board. His decision to join the council was solely governed by God, his Faith, and a sense of purpose to the community he held so dear. He recognized that his presence and black representation served a greater purpose. This duty led Mr. Driessen to become the first black member of Hilton Head First Town Council Board where he faithfully served for ten years. In addition, he served as Mayor Pro Tem for the last four years of his duty. Mr. Driessen is presently serving on the Board of Directors at Palmetto Electric Cooperative, Inc. He is a member of the Happy Home Lodge #125 in Hardeeville, SC. Mr. Driessen is proud to be a member of the American Legion Arthur E. Wiley, Post 42. The post is named in memory of his wife’s father.
Most importantly, Mr. Driessen loves God and his church. He is a faithful member and Deacon of the historical, First African Baptist Church on Hilton Head. He once served as the chairman of the Deacon Board.
Mr. Driessen often tells heartfelt stories about the progression of Hilton Head Island. Those stories are told with humor and love about the strength, perseverance, and pride of the people on Hilton Head Island. Mr. Driessen is a pillar of this great community whose service, commitment, and generosity stems
back almost a century.
Willie was an avid gardener who also tremendously enjoyed the game of golf. He could often be seen hitting golf balls in his yard with the grand kids. On Sundays, he would join the “fellows,” in a round of golf; in addition, he also enjoyed playing in local charitable tournaments. Bill often talked about starting a mentorship program for young Native Island golfers and sought to provide a way for them to be able to golf at local courses that would offer discounted rates for practice and play.
Bill was born on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina on December 4, 1947 and passed away on August 23, 2013. He lived in Savannah, Georgia during his early childhood until his parents relocated to Hilton Head Island. Following graduation he was drafted into the military and served in the United States Army from (1967-1970). After returning from the military, he worked in the food and beverage industry in various capacities, the most memorable being in “fine dining”, at the once world renowned Hilton Head Inn on South Forest Beach.
Bill moved to California in 1974 to pursue his education. He attended San Francisco State University, and San Jose City College, concentrating on Food and Beverage management, Golf and Horticulture courses. He returned to Hilton Head Island in 1984. He missed his family and was energized with the prospect of encouraging the Native Islanders to organize and develop their community. In pursuit of his goals, he developed the Original Islander, Inc., established The Island Gardener landscaping company and later the Ferguson Community Development Corporation. Mr. Ferguson, former Hilton Head Island Town Councilman represented Ward 1 for 19 years, from 1993 until 2012. He was Hilton Head Island’s longest serving member of Town Council. Bill ran for Mayor in 2010 and was unsuccessful, but he also considered it a victory because he had fulfilled one of the items on his “bucket list.”
His number one concern for the citizens of the Island was the lack of water and sewer services in Ward 1 and unpaved roads across the Island. Protecting and preserving Native Islander property was also of utmost importance to him. While on Town Council, he proposed and voted for changes in town zoning, land management laws and permitting processes that allowed property owners to develop their property.
Bill was a loving and devoted husband, father and grandfather, a warrior and activist, with an endless untiring passion for Hilton Head Island. If he were still alive, he would continue to fight for the rights of others and of course he would golf as often as he could.
Born to Edward Jr. and Eugenia Wright-Lawyer on Hilton Head Island, SC on September 28, 1933. I am the last of twelve children. We llived in the Squire Pope Community area, known as the Sticks. I attended elementary school in Pope. It was a one room building. I was then transferred to Jonesville Elementray School where I completed sixth grade. I then attended Robinson Junior High located on Beach City Road from January 1949 to may 1949. That was the year Robison Junior High opened.
During those years, I attended Mount Calvary Baptist Church on Pope Road. I joined the church at the age of 12. I was baptized in the waters by Hudson's. I attended Sunday School and sang in the choir. I left home in August of 1949 and went to new York to live with my sisters. I have memories of a beautiful childhood with family and friends here on Hilton Head Island. I completed my education through high school in New York City, New York. I then entered the US Air Force. I stayed in the Air Force for seven years and was discharged as a Staff Sergeant. I returned to New York City, NY then considered it to be my home.
I was employed by the Federal Reserve Bank of NY, I worked there for thirty-two years. During those years, I went to school and graduated from American Institute of Banking and also attended Pace University in NYC with a Business Administration Degree in Finance.
When I returned to NYC, I joined the United Presbyterian Church USA. I became a Deacon and I am currently an Elder at Providence Presbyterian Church. At Providence, I also serve as an active Stephen Minister. I love the Lord and have always enjoyed serving Him....
I enjoy helping people and animals in need. I have worked with block associations, clubs, the IRS Vita Program yearly for 26 years. Annually worked to support the Heart and Lung Association and a Healthy Life.
When I returned to HHI in 1993, I worked with Deep Well as a Board member and serving the neighborhood cleaning houses helping to give people livable housing, Low Country Hospice of HHI, The Hilton Head community Foundation, United Way, Bluffton Self Help, NIBCAA, the Gullah museum of Hilton Head Island and anyone who rings my phone if I can help.
David John Jones; better known as David Jones #1 or to many native islanders as (Top) and family members as “Bubba.” He was born and reared in the Jonesville area of Hilton Head Island. He graduated from Penn Center on St. Helena Island and went on to attend North Carolina A&T University. He also, served in the U.S. Navy in Korea.
David Jones was a very enterprising man. He created many ventures and had many first in business opportunities throughout his lifetime. One of his first business
ventures were Jones Garage, which was the first garage on Hilton Head Island. This service grew to include a heavy-duty wrecker service, (that pulled many vehicles out of the mud on the beaches of Hilton Head Island). He owned a fleet of shrimp boats; which included the “Capt. Dave” which became known to many as carrying the banner of hope to keep our waterways clean. It also became known to many African Americans across the diaspora thanks to Ebony magazine in November of 1969.
David helped shed a light on a little island that was not the tourism giant it is today. Thanks to him, and the foresight of many others they created the foundation for what we have. He continued to further his business ventures to include B&J Fuel
Company and D and R Charters, a bus service that went on to help many who worked for him create their own business.
As his business ventures grew, so did his continued drive to assist his community he loved so much. He set his sights on political aspirations and continued community involvement. He was the captain of the Hilton Head Island volunteer
fire department, one of the founding members and the president of the Hilton Head Fishing Cooperative. He was the first elected African-American from Hilton Head Island to serve on the Beaufort County Council from 1967 -1977. In fact, one of the paramount accomplishments for his community was leading the fight against the BASF Chemical Plant. The chemical giant threatened our waterways and at that period in history many inhabitants’ on this island very way of life, not to mention changing the landscape and marine life in Beaufort County as we know it. From Hilton Head Island to Washington D.C., he took the fight to our nation’s capitol, and carried others as the unified spirit of Lowcountry and Gullah Community. His primary shrimp boat, “Capt. Dave” carried the banner as a beacon of hope and pride, while he drove his charter bus full of island residents straight to Washington to meet with then Secretary Hickle of the Department of the Interior and deliver 45,000 signatures opposing the chemical plant.
One statement that he said often was, “we need to stand up to this Goliath” yet through his vigilance, entrepreneurial drive, pride and willingness to stand up for his people and community, many viewed him as such a goliath.
Anyone who knows anything about the local history of Bluffton, can't help but to know Andrew Kidd, Ben Bruin, Henry Hamilton, and Sonny Higgins. These “fishermen” were part of skilled men who made a living and feed their family by knowing the sea.
Andrew Kidd taught his grandson, Frank Kidd some of these skills at a early age. He showed him how to build “battles”, how to make crab pots, pick pysters, fish, pick conch, make nets, how to follow the tides and most of all, how to survivie. Frank, has worked most of his life in the waterways in Bluffton, Hitlon Head, Florida, Texas, and Virginia.
He worked on at least 30 shrimp boats. He personally owned 3 shrimp boats. He has watched the local oyster factor change many hands from Old Junior Grave to Beaufort County. Frank has seen the times when a person could go out and just fish and get what you wanted to and now there is a limit to everything that the sea provides.
Frank Kidd is one of the last master craftsman of the traditional bateau in the area. Two of his last bateaus that he made can be seen at the Gullah Museum of Hilton Head and at Mitchelville.
Johnnie Mae Frazier-Jones Patterson was born into pioneering families to two pioneers of the
Hilton Head community. Her Frazier-Jones-Johnson-Patterson family roots are deep in the rich
history of the Hilton Head history that the Gullah Museum champions under the leadership of
Dr. Louise Cohen. Johnnie’s mother, Lucinda Frazier-Jones Patterson, was a pioneer in Education, Community Leadership, Activist for Equality and Justice, and church work at the Historic First African
Baptist Church. Her father, John Patterson was a pioneer in Transportation, Business, Finance,
and church leadership at the Historic Queen Chapel A.M.E. Church.
Johnnie entered this World as a pioneer, becoming the first biological child of Lucinda, who at
the age of 40, was conceived, after 16 years of marriage, with the treatment of a fertility doctor.
With that background, Johnnie was one of the first of the Islanders to be born in a hospital, in
Savannah, Georgia. Johnnie excelled in school, graduating as Valedictorian from high school in three years from the M.C. Riley High School in Bluffton, SC.
She then became the second from the Island, to graduate from Spelman College, in Atlanta,
Georgia; following the footsteps of her pioneering Aunt, Mary P. Houston.
Following in those footsteps, Johnnie Mae, would make her own contributions, on her beloved,
Hilton Head Island, with the following accomplishments:
First employment was in the precursor Head Start program by Educator Phoebe Driessen,
as a Teacher’s Aide at the Hilton Head Elementary School: Mr. I.W. Wilborn, principal
First African American real estate agent on the Island
Owner of First, children’s clothing store, Kidsware
Pitched the idea of what would become the Gullah Celebration, to the Town of Hilton
Head Mayor and head of Chamber of Commere
Introduced the Historical significance of Mitchelville at the first Gullah Celebration, in
her first publication, the Scrapbook of a Native Islander
Introduced, and sponsored the first celebration, of National Freedom Day, along with a
group of pioneering women who are in this room tonight
Organized with Sister Brenda, the first community, Kwanzaa celebration
Co-owner (with Sister Brenda) the Gullah Creations Gallery at the Hilton Head Mall
And the Author of The Jig is Up: We Are One!
And the architect of the Case Against Human Disparity based on the Hoax of Race and Racism
"If I can help somebody as I travel along this way, then my living will not be in vain." Veronica Pleasant Simmons Miller, affectionately known as Pebble or Ronnie was born September 9, 1949, on Hilton Head Island, SC. She was a daughter of the late Albertha S. Perry and the late Lawrence Simmons. A native of Hilton Head Island, she was reared in the Native Island Community of Stoney and was one of the original "Stoney Girls".
Veronica attended the local public schools of Beaufort County, where she graduated in 1967 from Michael C. Riley High School in Bluffton, SC. She began her secondary education at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA and earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Savannah State College in Savannah, GA. She received her Master of Education from Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, GA. At the age of nine, she confessed Christ as her personal Savior and became an active, cqmmitted member of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church. While at Mt. Calvary, she served in many capacities and was a dedicated member of the Missionary Society. Later in life, her walk with Christ lead her to Greater Pentecostal Temple, where she served as a deacon, missionary and trustee. She was always willing to lend a helping hand.
For many years Veronica was employed by Beaufort Jasper Comprehensive Health Services. In putting her love of science to work, she went to work for the Memorial Medical University Hospital, where she worked as a laboratory tech and phlebotomist. For the past 36 years, she was employed by Hilton Head Hospital. Continuing her position at the hospital, she was also employed by the Beaufort County School District for the last 16 years as a science teacher. Education was very important to Veronica and she felt compelled to mentor youth. She actively sought to involve and introduce them to local and regional culturally enriching experiences.
Driven by her desire to educate youth, she revived the Institute for Community Education and Training (ICET) that was founded by Gardenia White. Under Veronica's direction ICET thrived and many youths in the community were exposed to many life experiences through the establishment of its afterschool tutorial and summer enrichment programs.
Being a Native Islander, Veronica inherited her love of community and desire to preserve Gullah culture from her mother. She was very involved in the community through various organizations. Most recently serving as the Chairman of the Property Owner's Association, Vice President of the Native Island Business and Community Affairs Association and Board Member for Palmetto Electric Trust. Mild mannered by nature, she wasn't afraid to speak her mind or let her passion come through on matters of inequality, injustice and educational suppression.
Gloria Dalaine Simmons Murray was born on April 6, 1948, in Savannah, Georgia. She was the daughter of the late Albertha S. Perry and the late Lalvrence Simmons. A native of Hilton Head Island, she was reared in the Stoney community of Hilton Head IsLind and in Brooklyn, New York. Gloria attended the local public schools of Hilton Head Island before moving to New York. In Brooklyn, she attended PS177 and graduated from Erasmus all High School in 1966. Gloria pursued higher education and training in accounting and finance at Brooklyn College, Northwestern University, Savannah Career Institute and Technical College of the Low Country. She didn't have one career. She was always considered a "Jill-Of-All-Trades," but mainly focused on finance and office administration. For many years, she volunteered as a tax preparer for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. Gloria was most recently employed as the church administrator for Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church and was a notary public.
Gloria's Christian education began as a toddler as she attended Sunday school and services at St. James Baptist Church. While living in New York, she attended Browns Memorial Baptist Church. Continuing her walk with Christ, she was baptized and became a member of Mount Calvary Baptist Church. As a member, she worked untiringly and was a dedicated and strong supporter of the church in many areas. She sang beautifully in the Gospel Choir. She kept meticulous notes as a church secretary and historian. She applied her leadership and business skills as a trustee. She brought her giving spirit to the Missionary Board and Charity Sisters. She served on the Church Anniversary Committee, the Women's Fellowship, the Sunday School, the Homecoming Ministry, the Secretarial Staff; the Grandparents Day Committee, the Floral Ministry, the Mother's Board, the New Member Orientation Ministry and the Mt. Calvary Achievement School staff. She assisted wherever she was needed, shared her strong faith with others and always trusted in the Lord.
As a native islander, Gloria was very involved in the community and always reached out to help others, a trait she inherited from her mother. She was a community organizer and a liaison between the native islander community churches. She worked as a poll manager and organized voter registration efforts for the elderly. Her contributions to the community and her aid to others were so vast that they reflected the words of Mahalia Jackson: "If I can help somebody as I pass along, if I can cheer somebody with a word or song, if I can show somebody that he's travelling wrong, then my living shall not be in vain. If I can do my duty as a good man ought, if I can bring back beauty to a world up wrought, if I can spread love's message as the Master taught, then my living shall not be in vain."
Gloria was one who knew how to get tasks done. Politicians and community leaders from across Beaufort County and the state of South Carolina sought her assistance when they needed advice and inroads into the native islander community. Gloria was a member of the Staff of Marshel's Wright-Donaldson Home For Funerals for many years. Gloria shared her gift of getting things done with Marshel's and could be counted on to make the necessary connections to do just that....from contacting Kenny, the gravedigger to making sure that the family got whatever assistance they needed and that every integral part for a family's loved one was met.
While Gloria loved her community and her church, she was especially fond of and cherished her family. She enjoyed cooking for her family — a passion she also inherited from her mother- hosting family gatherings and spending time with her grandchildren. She also enjoyed traveling and shopping.
The South Carolina General Assembly put forth a bill to have the bridge to Hilton Head Island, SC in the Gullah/Geechee Nation properly renamed to honor Gullah/Geechee community leader and ancestor, Charlie Simmons, Sr. The entire bill can be found at http://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess120_2013-2014/bills/3781.htm . The Town of Hilton Head officials will be held a ceremony for the late Charlie Simmons, Sr. and renamed a bridge after him on Wednesday, Sept. 24 at 9 a.m. at the Honey Horn Discovery House Fountain Terrace.
Charlie Simmons, Sr. was a native Gullah/Geechee of Hilton Head Island who passed away on May 10, 2005, just two months before his 100th birthday. He was a member of the First African Baptist Church on the island all of his life. He attended prayer meetings there up to three nights a week and served as a deacon for 75 years. Mr. Simmons truly lived his life in service to all as one can take note of through the various names that Gullah/Geechees and others that came to the island called him. The names included “Cap’n Charlie,” “Mr. Transportation,” “Mr. Hilton Head,” “Mr. Charlie,” “Bubba,” “Pop” and “Deac,” but he called most men “Brother.”
“Cap’n Charlie” spent the greater part of his life on the sea transporting goods and people to and from Hilton Head before a bridge connected the island to the mainland in 1956. Thus, it is quite fitting that his name will be memorialized in the means by which people get transported onto the island today.
“Cap’n Charlie” piloted sailboats and later was the first to own a motor boat on the island. He would bring butter beans, watermelons, shrimp, oysters, crabs, cows, and chickens to the market in Savannah, GA from Hilton Head Island along with many Gullah/Geechees from the island three times per week. He also transported students to school and midwives to the bedsides in a number of places. He brought home supplies that community members needed on his return trips. Much of what the Gullah/Geechee needed that they did not grow, they could purchase in one of the two general stores that Mr. Simmons owned. His stores helped to keep the lights on when the Gullah/Geechees needed Kerosene for lamps, they could head over to Mr. Simmons.
“Cap’n Charlie’s” last boat was the “Alligator.” He probably had no idea how many of these creators would now live on Hilton Head in lagoons nor how many of his people would be transported off the island and never return because they could no longer afford the taxes to live there. In many indigenous cultures, alligators represent the instinct to survive. No doubt Mr. Charlie Simmons, Sr. had this instinct and was a true example of the communal living and service that is central to Gullah/Geechee traditions. May his name live on beyond the bridge! Gwine on Cap’n! Gwine on! GAWD bless hunnuh soul!
Real estate developer Charles Edward Simmons, Jr. was born an only child on December 6, 1928 on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina to Estella and Charles Edward Simmons, Sr.. Gullah natives of Hilton Head Island. Simmons' parents owned many acres of farmland, and his father was a shrewd businessman who owned the only ferry transportation service to Savannah, Georgia from Hilton Head Island before the bridge connecting Hilton Head to the mainland was built in 1956. He also operated a bus service that catered to laborers and schoolchildren.
Simmons attended elementary school in the Spanish Wells community but later would be in the last graduating class of the Penn Normal Industrial and Agricultural School on St. Helena Island. This school was begun in 1862 as an experimental program to educate Sea Island slaves freed at the beginning of the Civil War.
After graduation, Simmons was drafted into the United States Army where he served for two years. In 1952, Simmons entered South Carolina State University where he was President of the Commercial Club and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. He received his B.A. degree in business in 1956.
Simmons became the Director of the Beauford-Jasper County Equal Opportunity Commission and was the liaison between the land developers and the residents of St. John's Island, South Carolina. While the corporation began to develop the upscale town of Kiawah, he worked to ensure employment opportunities for local residents. In 1976, Simmons went to work for Hargray Telephone Company as a technician. He then retired in 1993. Simmons owns Simmons Properties. He is also on the Trustee Board of the Penn Center, a founding member of the Native Island Business and Community Affairs Association, Inc. (NIBCAA) and is the President of the Spanish Wells and Native Island Property Owners Association.
Simmons lived on Hilton Head Island with Rosa, his wife of fifty-four years.
Perry White, a native of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina was the son of the late Johnny and Matilda White. He grew up in a family of ten brothers and sisters. He was married to Barbara Griffin White of Albany, Georgia. They had four daughters, Drene, Valarie, Venita, and Gina (who preceded him in death), one son-in-law, eight grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren.
Perry graduated from Penn High School, St. Helena, South Carolina in May 1952. He attended Vallejo Junior College, Vallejo, California; the European Division, University of Maryland, Madrid, Spain; and Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio.
Perry retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1972, and after serving for 20 years he achieved the grade of Master Sergeant. His training and experience were in the areas of administrative and personnel management. Foreign assignments took him to Okinawa, Turkey, Spain, and Vietnam. After retirement from the Air Force he was employed as a salesperson with Georgia Pacific Company in Manchester, New Hampshire, and then as Business Manager and Personnel Manager for the Beaufort-Jasper Comprehensive Health Organization in Ridgeland, South Carolina. He was also the former manager and co-owner of the Gullah Flea Market on Hilton Head Island. After retiring he spent time on his hobbies of fishing, gardening, and reading. He also loved time with his grandchildren.
Perry was a member of St. James Baptist Church on Hilton Head Island, where he served on the Board of Deacons, and was former Chairman of the Building Committee. He was also a lifetime member of the NAACP and was on the Board of Directors of the Native Island Business and Community Affairs Association (NIBCAA).
Having the heart of a servant, Perry served in many roles throughout this community since his return in 1973. He was President of the NAACP, Hilton Head Chapter, Commissioner of Beaufort Joint Planning Commission; Chairman of Advisory Board of Directors, Dept. of Social Services of Beaufort County; Chairman of NIBCAA's focus Committee; member of School Improvement Council; Hilton Head Elementary School; member of Board of Directors Child and Youth Center, Hilton Head; member of Board of Directors, Penn Community Service Center, St. Helena, SC; as well as member of Mayor's Resource Committee for Native Affairs, Hilton Head Island. Before his illness he actively worked against the expansion of the Hilton Head Airport, and was a founder of the Arthur E. Wiley Post 49 where he served as the Assistant Adjutant.
Caesar Henry Wright, Jr., was born July 30, 1935, on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. He was the only child of the late Caesar Henry and Olivia Joyner Wright. At the time of his passing, he held the distinct honor of being the eldest deacon at Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church on Hilton Head Island. He was known as “Deacon Wright” throughout the community.
Deacon Wright was a Christian and a wise man who displayed humbleness, obedience to God and respect for others. At age 12, he accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior and joined Mt. Calvary in August of 1947. He attended local schools and finished his education at Penn School on St. Helena Island, South Carolina; he was a member of Penn’s last graduating class in 1953. He attended Claflin College (now Claflin University) in Orangeburg, South Carolina, for a brief period and then joined the United States Air Force, where he served for eight years. After his stint in the Air Force, Deacon Wright became the first rural letter carrier for the United States Postal Service on Hilton Head Island and worked in that position for 30 years. During his tenure, he witnessed the expansion of mail routes and postal services as the island’s population grew. He was a charter member of American Legion Arthur E. (Conrad) Wiley Post 49 and served as its chaplain.
In 1965, Deacon Wright was joined in Holy Matrimony to the former Annette Jones of Orangeburg, South Carolina. They were married for 50 years before God called her to rest in 2015. The couple was blessed with four children. They resided in Squire Pope, one of Hilton Head Island's historic Gullah communities.
At Mt. Calvary, Deacon Wright witnessed the church’s growth and took on leadership roles in ministry and outreach. He served on the Deacon’s Board, the Trustees Board, which he was chairman of for many years; the Senior Choir, the Men’s Fellowship, the Men’s Choir and the Building Committee. His favorite passage of scripture was Isaiah 6 and he encouraged all to read it. Deacon Wright said that passage of scripture inspired him to do all he did for the Lord and for others. Deacon Wright was a jovial man. He had a pleasant smile and the heartiest laugh that brought great joy. He was a man of few words but when he spoke, everyone listened to the history, wisdom and stories he shared. Family, friends and church members sought his advice. Deacon Wright was always present at church services and when called upon to pray or give remarks, he spoke with sincerity and passion. Over the years, ministries at Mt. Calvary recognized Deacon Wright numerous times for his dedication and countless contributions. In February 2019, he was recognized as one of Mt. Calvary’s Black History Honorees and received the Men’s Fellowship service award.