County’s first black sheriff was actually elected in 1868

By Brian Gandy

Director, Darlington County Historical Commission & Museum

In reviewing the Nov. 11 issue of the News & Press, I read the article headlined “County elects its 1st black sheriff; senator fends off a close challenger.” I congratulate sheriff-elect Hudson and reaffirm that this article in no way is intended to detract from the significance of his election. I have known James Hudson for over 20 years and believe that he will execute the office of sheriff the best of who he is! I am excited about the opportunity to work with him in support of the citizens of Darlington County. However, as the historian for Darlington County and director of the Darlington County Historical Commission & Museum, I feel obligated to help disseminate accurate history. That is why I offer clarification on a point referenced by your article that James Hudson is the first African-American sheriff in Darlington County. The FIRST African-American sheriff in Darlington County was Thomas C. Cox. Cox, a freeborn native of Charleston, was elected sheriff of Darlington County in July 1868 and served two consecutive terms, ending in 1876. Cox came to Darlington to teach, and served as the first teacher of African-American students at Wilson School on the corner of Dargan and Palmetto streets. He was succeeded by Rev. Joshua E. Wilson. I feel that I may need to dispel the myth that Cox, being a Reconstruction sheriff, was inherently corrupt. W.A. Brunson of Darlington, the former president of the Pee Dee Historical Society, said in his work “Reminiscences of Reconstruction in Darlington” that “Cox was not a corrupt man.” On the occasion of the death of Cox, the Darlington News reported that “although an officeholder in the days of fraud and corruption, Cox bore a good reputation, both as to his personal conduct and to his management of the Shrievalty.” So, officially, James Hudson is not our first African-American sheriff; he is the second to serve our citizens. Hudson follows an African-American sheriff who understood turbulent politics, the polarizing effects of racial divide and the harsh reality of our local, post-Civil War poverty. Yet, through all of this, the historical record shows that he navigated the perils, temptations and pitfalls of power, and stood as a man of honor and integrity. I only write this in the humblest spirit of historical accuracy. When we state definitive fact in error, we set the public understanding of fact, and dissemination of incorrect history concerns me.

Author: Rachel Howell

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