Names of fame from the Society Hill area
By Bobby Bryant, Editor
If you asked people today to name the most famous person from Society Hill, they’d probably say David Beasley.
Beasley, born in 1957, was raised in Lamar and now officially resides in Society Hill. Beasley was a state lawmaker who became S.C. governor in the 1990s and is now the head of the U.N. World Food Programme.
The World Food Programme’s offices are in Rome, and Beasley travels the globe, more or less a citizen of the world. His group won a Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to fight hunger around the world, and Beasley accepted the honor on the group’s behalf.
But … if you asked that question decades or centuries ago, you might get far different answers.
One prominent name would be Zachariah Wines, an African-American merchant and educator who owned a store in the Society Hill area. He represented Darlington County in the S.C. House from 1876-78. Gov. Wade Hampton honored Wines by commissioning him as a captain in the National Guard in 1877.
Wines was also postmaster of Society Hill from 1897-1904, according to histories of the region.
And the Cokers! There was Caleb Coker, businessman and proprietor of a local store, and his son James Lide Coker, who made Coker Feed & Seed into a regional powerhouse of a business. (More on them in separate story.)
And recall Dr. William A. Starks, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Venice, appointed in 1845. He was educated in the Society Hill area and his family operated a ferry, said Darlington County historian Brian Gandy.
Gandy cites some other noteworthy Society Hill-area names:
–During the Depression, professor J. Harvey Rogers advised President Roosevelt on the gold standard. Some histories describe him, somewhat bafflingly, as a “proto-Keynesian” – meaning that he anticipated some of the later economic theories of John Maynard Keynes.
— A chief justice of the S.C. Supreme Court, Henry McIver, hailed from Society Hill, Gandy said.
— Alexander Gregg of Society Hill served as the first Episcopal Bishop of Texas, and also was chancellor of the University of the South at Sewanee.
Who’s the most famous person from Society Hill? Debate among yourselves. Odds are that this is an issue on which everyone is right.
Debate among yourselves. Odds are that this is an issue on which everyone is right.