Edward Matthew “Gippy” Gibson, Sr.

Born in Charleston on July 26, 1922, the son of the late Jennie and Edward Green Gibson, he graduated from Burke High School and Avery Institute.

During World War II, Gibby Gibson enlisted in the United States Army Air Force as an aviation cadet and completed the training to become a Tuskegee Airman at airfields in several states.

In 2006, Gippy became a member of the Hiram E. Mann Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Incorporated, which meets on the site of the former Army Airfield in Walterboro.

He returned to the Charleston Naval Shipyard after the war to become a ship progressman, or shipwright, and later served there as the first fulltime equal employment counselor, retiring with thirtyeight years of continuous employment in 1980.

Gippy served his community on the board of directors and Supervisory Committee for Charleston Naval Shipyard Federal Credit Union, as secretary and chairman of the Credit Committee, and as director of the League of Credit Unions for South Carolina.

Gippy had extensive Masonic career, member and past Master of Nehemiah Lodge #51, F&AM; a member of George Washington Carver Consistory #162; a thirtythird degree Mason and a Noble of the Mystic Shrine; and past Potentate, past Imperial Organizer, and honorary past Imperial Potentate of Arabian Temple #139; and, a member of Poinsettia Chapter #129, Order of the Eastern Star, Right of Adoption, he is a past Grand Master for the F&AM for the State and Jurisdiction of South Carolina, and retired in December 2011 as the Right Worshipful Grand Secretary for the Prince Hall Grand Lodge for the State and Jurisdiction of South Carolina after thirtynine years, he served as Right Worshipful Grand Secretary Emeritus until his death July 2, 2012.

Gippy served as the president of the Unity and Friendship Society, which has owned and operated its own cemetery since its formation by free Blacks in 1843, and he is a member of Calvary Episcopal Church where he served in numerous offices and is an associate member of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Joseph Hayne Rainey

Joseph Hayne Rainey (June 21, 1832 – August 1, 1887) was an American politician. He was the first black person to serve in the United States House of Representatives, the second biracial person to serve in the United States Congress (U.S. Senator Hiram Revels was the first), and the first biracial presiding officer of the House of Representatives. Born into slavery in South Carolina, he was freed in the 1840s by his father purchasing the freedom of his entire family and himself. Revels and Rainey were both members of the Republican Party.

In 1861, with the outbreak of the American Civil War, Rainey was among the free black people who were conscripted by the Confederates to work on fortifications in Charleston, South Carolina. He also worked as a cook and laborer on blockade runner ships.

In 1862, Rainey and his family escaped to Bermuda. They settled in St. George’s, Bermuda town (from which Charleston and South Carolina had been founded in 1669 under Governor William Sayle), where Rainey worked as a barber, while his wife became a successful dressmaker with a shop. In 1865, the couple moved to the town of Hamilton when an outbreak of yellow fever threatened St. George’s. Rainey worked at the Hamilton Hotel as a barber and a bartender, where his customers were mostly white. He became a respected member of the community. They made a prosperous life in Bermuda.

Return to the U.S. and politics Edit
In 1866, following the civil war’s end, Rainey and his family returned to South Carolina, where they settled in Charleston. In 1870, 43 percent of the city’s population was African American, including many people of color who, like Rainey, had been free and held skilled jobs before the war. His experience and wealth helped establish him as a leader and he quickly became involved in politics, joining the executive committee of the state Republican Party. In 1868, he was a delegate to the state constitutional convention.

In 1870, Rainey was elected to the State Senate of South Carolina and became chair of the Finance Committee. He served only a short time as that year he won a special election as a Republican to fill a vacancy in the Forty-first Congress of the United States. This vacancy had been created when the House refused to seat Benjamin F. Whittemore, the incumbent. He had been censured by the House for corruption but re-elected.

Rainey was seated December 12, 1870 and was re-elected to Congress, serving a total of four terms. Serving until March 3, 1879, he established a record of length of service for a black Congressman that was not surpassed until that of William L. Dawson of Chicago in the 1950s. He supported legislation that became known as the Enforcement Acts, to suppress the violent activities of the Ku Klux Klan. This helped for a time, before white insurgents developed other paramilitary groups in the South, such as the White League and the Red Shirts.

Rainey made three speeches on the floor of Congress in support of what was finally passed as the Civil Rights Act of 1875. In 1873, he said he was not seeking ‘social equality’ and was content to choose his own circle.

He went on to say,
But we do want a law enacted that we may be recognized like other men in the country. Why is it that colored members of Congress cannot enjoy the same immunities that are accorded to white members? Why cannot we stop at hotels here without meeting objection? Why cannot we go into restaurants without being insulted? We are here enacting laws for the country and casting votes upon important questions; we have been sent here by the suffrages of the people, and why cannot we enjoy the same benefits that are accorded to our white colleagues on this floor?

With violence against black people increasing in the South, in 1874 Rainey purchased a “summer home” in Windsor, Connecticut. As a U.S. representative from South Carolina, Rainey could not use Windsor as his primary residence, but he moved his family there for their safety. While visiting, he became an active member of the First Church of Windsor. The “Joseph H. Rainey House”, a c.1830 Greek Revival, is located at 299 Palisado Avenue (it is used as a private residence). It was designated as one of 130 stops on the Connecticut Freedom Trail, established in 1996 to highlight the achievements of African Americans in gaining freedom and civil rights.

During his term in Congress, Rainey supported legislation to protect the civil rights of Southern black people, working for two years to gain passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1875. He also worked to promote the southern economy. In May 1874, Rainey became the first African American to preside over the House of Representatives as Speaker pro tempore.

In 1876, Rainey won re-election from the Charleston district against Democratic candidate John Smythe Richardson. Richardson challenged the result as invalid on the grounds of intimidation of Democrats by federal soldiers and black militias guarding the polls, but Rainey retained his seat. The 1876 election was marked by widespread fraud in the state. For instance, votes counted in the upland Edgefield County for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wade Hampton III exceeded by 2,000 the total number of registered voters in the county; similar results were counted in Laurens County. That year Democrats ultimately took control of the state government, and the next year the federal government withdrew its troops from the South as part of a national compromise; Reconstruction was ended.

In mid-1878 Rainey warned President Hayes of increasing violence and rhetoric meant to limit the African-American vote in South Carolina.

In 1878, Rainey was defeated in a second contest with Richardson, although black men continued to be elected for numerous local offices through much of the 19th century. White Democrats used their dominance of the state legislature to pass laws for segregation, Jim Crow and making voter registration more difficult, effectively disenfranchising black people. In 1895 they passed a new state constitution, that completed the disenfranchisement of most black people, stripping them of political power and excluding them from the political process for the next several decades into the 1960s.

Rollins Edwards

Rollins Edwards, 15th Most Worshipful Grand Master of Prince Hall Grand Lodge of South Carolina.

Long after his service in World War II Edwards launched a historic political career, serving as the first African-American elected to Dorchester County Council in the 1970s and the Summerville Town Council.

During the war in 1944, Edwards and other minority soldiers were sent to a secret camp deep in the backwoods of Louisiana where they were repeatedly exposed to deadly chemical agents including mustard gas and Lewisite.

He described the sensation as, “a million fire ants on you and stinging at the same time,” in a 2015 interview with The Post and Courier.

Testing continued for about 30 days. When the trial ended, Edwards was told never to speak about what happened or he would face 40 years in prison. He rejoined his unit and was sent overseas with the Army’s 1329th Engineers, seeing duty in Europe and in the Pacific.

Although the testing was over, its impact lasted a lifetime. He received megadoses of penicillin that left him unable to have children and whatever-worked-to-soothe-the-burn treatments for the lesions that erupted on his body. Bloody sores would open up all over and his skin began to crack and flake off, leaving behind pinkish blotches.

He kept secret about the testing until 1993, when the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs opened a search for as many as 4,000 veterans exposed to mustard gas during the classified tests. It’s widely accepted the military primarily targeted black GIs, along with Puerto Rican and Japanese-American minorities as well.

Rollins continued to address the federal government about recognizing the servicemen who were forced to submit to the chemical exposure.

In June 2017, Michael Owens, an adjunct professor of English at the College of Charleston, published a book about Edwards titled, “Burned: Conversations with a Black World War II Veteran.”

Henry E. Hayne

Henry E. Hayne (b.c.1840–d.n.d.) was a Republican politician in South Carolina during the Reconstruction era.

Henry E. Hayne was born c.1840 into slavery; his mixed-race mother was enslaved. His father was a white planter and state politician. His father acknowledged him and arranged for him to get some education, to provide social capital to help him in his later life.

He was elected in 1870 to represent Marion County in the South Carolina Senate. He was next elected as Secretary of State of South Carolina, serving from 1872 to 1877. Later while serving as secretary of state, in 1873 Hayne enrolled as the first student of color in the University of South Carolina medical school.

The legislature had passed a new constitution in 1868 making public facilities available to all students. He was responsible for bringing Masonry to men of color in Marion, Dillon, and Horry counties.