We would like to congratulate and acknowledge our very own Anthony Sweat on being nominated by the Ronald McDonald House of Augusta for the Alvin C. Vogtle Volunteer of the Year Award.
Congratulations Anthony! We are consistently proud of your willingness to serve the community. Keep up the great work!
James Henry Sweat 1911-1995 - James Henry Sweat was a constant in the Appling area for over 60 years. Known throughout the area as Booker T, Sweat was a well respected man and had the ability to leave everyone he met with something that helped them. Growing up in Columbia County in a time when Blacks weren’t allowed the the same privileges as others, James rose above the disadvantages and set the ground work for his families present day success. In his early years, Sweat was instrumental in the construction of Clark’s Hill Dam, being apart of the blasting team. Soon after, he was hired to manage Wildwood Park and developed it with new roads and paths. Some of those paths still used today.
In the Appling community, Sweat was a gentle giant. Whether through his civil work as President of the Rosemont Baptist Association Inc, or as a Deacon at Second Mount Carmel Church, Deacon Sweat always answered the call. He has always had the best interest of his family and neighbors at heart, that led to him having a peddling route in which he would drive down to the farmers market in Augusta and peach orchards in Johnston SC to buy vegetables and fruit. He would then get up every Friday and Saturday mornings during the summer and fall months and drive around the areas of Clarks Hill, Winfield , Leah and Appling to provide fruits and vegetables to families at a fraction of the cost of grocery stores and allowing them credit on the goods ensuing that his neighbors had food for their family.
Sweat’s legacy continues present day through the foundation that bears his name, with the mission of what he always believed, that children and elderly were the people who drove the world - children because they are the future and elderly because they are full of wisdom.
Jarthur Harris, born in September 1937, has worked to advance race relations and improve the quality of life for everyone in Columbia County for much of his life. “I’ve been concerned about the community all my life,” said Harris whom became an entrepreneur at an early age. He was the first black executive director of the Harlem Housing Authority and an Assistant Director of the Harlem Community Development Project. He started his first business in 1954 at the age of 17. He has opened several of his businesses in the city of Harlem, Georgia. His businesses included a pool hall that sold hot dogs, hamburgers, and sausage dogs and a cafeteria. He has operated summer camps and programs to help young people find work.
Mr. Harris also was the president of the Columbia County chapter of the National Association for the advancement Colored People and has owned several businesses in Harlem including his own automotive shop and charter bus company. In 1994, he decided to purchase 3 greyhound buses and formed Harris Enterprises. That endeavor by Mr. Harris inspired entrepreneurship in his own family and spawned the creation of the Horizon Motor Coach Company, which is now owned by Alvin Harris, Mr. Harris’ son.
Mr. Harris has also been inspirational as an activist. He marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta in the 1960s and attended his funeral in 1968. When Coretta Scott King passed away, he felt honored and privileged to be able to carry 170 people to Atlanta. It was that devotion to his community that earned Harris two honors for community service. At an annual meeting, the Harlem Branch of the Key Women of America presented Harris with an award honoring his life’s service to the community and for providing transportation for anyone who wished to attend the funeral of Coretta Scott King. He also donated the proceeds of $2,000 to the King Center. In fact, besides his three children and grandchildren, Mr. Harris says that he is most proud to have received the opportunity to take as many people as he could to Mrs. King’s funeral to keep the message of the civil rights era alive. His main goal was to educate the people on history so they wouldn’t forget. Following that honor, the city leaders of Harlem, GA, awarded Harris a proclamation in appreciation for his service to all of Harlem. Jean Dove, the City Manager at that time says “He has been instrumental in getting the foundation laid for helping the African American community.”
Besides his three children, four grand-children and five great grand-children, Harris said, he is most proud to have received the opportunity to inspire others to participate in the civil rights movement and to educate them in Dr. King’s message. Mr. Harris whom is a lifelong resident of Harlem, says he has seen and been part of many of the landmark moments in the national and area civil rights movements. He feels that it’s not a racial thing, it’s a people thing. Through faith in God, Harris said he learned long ago that, “No matter what he has me deal with, I am no more than anybody else.”
Harris spearheaded a group of African American men that successfully petitioned Columbia County schools and pushed for mixed-gender classes after a racial integration that mandated same-sex schooling in the late 1960s. Later, Harris successfully petitioned the county to change its practice of segregating black and white jurors during meal times and forcing black jurors to enter the courthouse through a separate entrance. Despite often having to take his battles to court and facing discrimination himself, Harris said, he strived to live up to the ideas espoused by Dr. King. Mr. Harris says it best “We are all going to agree or disagree, but we can do it without being disagreeable.”
Velma Street Ethridge, born in September 1938- Velma Ethridge has impacted the CRSA for nearly 5 decades, she moved to Martinez in June 1971 after her husband Arthur ‘Sarge’ Ethridge was stationed at Ft. Gordon. She started teaching at North Columbia Elementary, the Phinizy building in the fall of 71. 3 years later , their family moved to Appling.
Mrs. Ethridge has made Columbia County her home for 50 years. She was one of the few women of color to teach in Appling in that era. She retired from the Columbia County School system in 2002 with 31 years of service all at North Columbia Elementary. Seeing a need for a Girl Scout troop in the Appling area, she became a Girl Scout Troop Leader, worked at Camp Tanglewood and became a member of the Central Savannah River Girl Scout Council Board of Directors which allowed her to introduce the Girls Scouts to little girls who now have little girls in Girl Scouts.
As a member of Second Mt. Carmel Baptist Church she sang in the choir and taught Sunday school and Vacation Bible School. Her love of youth in this community has been demonstrated through her teaching at North Columbia Elementary, through endless hours dedicated to CSRA Girl Scouts and her service to her church Second Mt. Carmel, She has been a role model for many generations of young people in our community and the Appling area is better because of it
Vernon Thomas, born in 1938, has been a pillar in Columbia county for over 50 years, Vernon Thomas humbly serves his community in various ways. Whether it’s leading devotion and singing in the choir at First Mt. Carmel Baptist Church or teaching our youth on the baseball diamond at the famed Winfield Stadium. Chief, as he is affectionately known, makes it happen!
Growing up in the CSRA, Thomas made a name for himself on the baseball diamond, his first love leading to a professional career with the Kansas City Monarchs and the Detroit Stars of the National Negro League in 1950’s. Presently, Thomas is still singing in the choir and using his baseball expertise by carrying on the sandlot baseball tradition in the CSRA. He was instrumental in starting the semi pro league here throughout the CSRA. You can't think of Columbia County baseball without thinking of the famed Winfield Tigers. We Salute you Chief!
We are super honored to be chosen as the Volunteer of The Month at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Augusta. Such a great organization that plays such an important role in our community. Go do some research on ways to help them keep families close! Karleigh Anne King, and Freda Smith Baker do amazing things at the house and I am honored to be able to be a small piece of the puzzle.
Read about here.