Historic sword returned
By Stephan Drew, Editor
Donated almost 40 years ago, a World War I era sword was returned to Georgia Ross on Saturday, August 20th at the Darlington County Cultural Realism Complex. Ross, a longtime Darlington resident remembered growing up with the sword in the house. “It was my grandmother’s,” Ross related, “We don’t know exactly how she came by it but, we knew not to bother it.”
Gathered at their location at 302 Pearl Street to participate in the historic event were Dr. Iris Johnson Arnold, Executive Director of the DCCRC; Angela G. Johnson, Treasurer of the DCCRC; boardmember David Longacre; Brian Gandy, Director of the Darlington County Historical Commission and Museum and others.
Johnson stated, “The bottom line is, it was a weapon. It’s a wonderful historic artifact now, but it began as a weapon.” Ross added, “And, at that time, black men were not allowed weapons in the war so, I’m not exactly sure how grandmama came by it. But, it was hers. We all understood that.”
Her grandmother was Essie Allean Hodges Sims, who lived in Society Hill before moving to Darlington.
The Darlington County Cultural Realism Complex was founded in 1972, by Darlingtonian, former council member and school teacher Mrs. Wilhelmina P. Johnson. She worked tirelessly for decades to uplift minorities and others who seemed to have been “left behind” in educational and cultural studies.
Dr. Iris Johnson Arnold and Angela G. Johnson are her daughters and are carrying on her legacy through the organization she began.
The sword had been in Ross’s family since shortly after World War I and Robert “Bobby” Ross donated it to the DCCRC Museum of Ethnic Culture in 1985. Bobby was Georgia’s younger brother and worked very closely with Mrs. Wilhelmina Johnson for many years before his death.
Miss Ross recalled memories, not only about her brother, but also Darlington as it was decades ago. “We walked everywhere,” she said, “to town for shopping, to church, everywhere we went. I walked from South Pine Street to Brockington to school for 7 years straight.”
When asked if she recalled the sword from her childhood, Ross stated, “Yes, I remember it well. It was grandmama’s and you didn’t even cut your eyes at that sword if you knew what was good for you.”
Ross explained that she didn’t get many spankings but stated, “My sister carried more bumps from that sword than any of the rest of us. She was always getting into things.”
Ross also told a story that happened during her term in the military. “I was up for a security clearance,” Ross said, “Well, they evaluate you and send someone to your hometown to ask people about you.” Relating how Darlingtonians interacted with those who were asking questions, Ross continued, “Darlington is a nickname town. If you come here and don’t know someone’s nickname, you may not learn anything about them. No one knew me as Georgia. They all called me ‘Tootie’.” Eventually, the military personnel found someone who knew Georgia’s nickname, “Oh! You mean ‘Tootie’”, they said, and began to talk with the evaluators.
Ross also remembered “Pokey” the mailman, the ice man with his mule and wagon, non-electric irons you heated up on the stove and so many other interesting things. “I love history”, Ross said. And, we’re fortunate she remembers so much.
It is not clear what will happen next to this historic artifact. Ross said, “I’m in contact with a few people but I haven’t decided yet.” It has been in her family’s possession approximately 100 years and will remain so in the meantime.