2020 hasn’t had a lot of bright spots but one of them locally has been Brian Hicks’ series of columns outlining 350 years of Charleston history.
Not surprisingly, he wraps up the effort on Sunday, December 27 with his 34th installment “Charleston reclaims its former glory, and soul, in the late 20 century”
“For nearly 300 years, Charleston had famously resisted change. In the second half of the 20th century, the city would see almost nothing else.
In the 1950s, the Orphan House — a building so old President George Washington had laid the cornerstone — was demolished. In 1960, the grand antebellum Charleston Hotel was razed. A few years later, the Commercial Club/Timrod Hotel near the Four Corners of Law fell to the wrecking ball.
The city’s profile was irrevocably changing, as was its geography.
In the 1960s, Mayor J. Palmer Gaillard Jr. doubled the size of Charleston by annexing much of West Ashley. It was the first expansion of the city’s borders in more than a century.
Gaillard was, especially by Charleston standards, a progressive leader. He supported the election of St. Julian Devine to City Council, its first African American member since Reconstruction. Before Gaillard’s 1959 election, the NAACP had filed a lawsuit demanding Charleston’s new municipal golf course serve all races.
The new mayor wouldn’t fight something he recognized was illegal, and he made the Muni the state’s first integrated public facility. He also continued the policy of his predecessor, William McG. Morrison, by hiring African American police officers.
The city responsible for the importation of so many enslaved people (and which started the Civil War), saw far less upheaval than other Southern communities during the civil rights movement. But all was not well.”
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