When is the Right Time to Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

Criminal Defense Lawyer in St. George, SC


If you have been accused of a crime, the only thing standing between your continued freedom and harsh legal penalties is a seasoned criminal defense lawyer in St. George, SC. That may seem harsh, but in this time of turmoil and uncertainty, having a skilled and dedicated criminal defense lawyer on your side is key. Because the truth is that dealing with legal charges in St. George can be a highly distressing ordeal, with even minor violations causing a considerable impact on an individual's personal and work life. The repercussions of having a criminal record can be severe, leading to loss of employment, severed relationships, and even alienation from loved ones.

At Theos Law Firm, we offer trustworthy legal representation to those who need it most. Our criminal defense team has years of experience and is committed to ensuring our clients maintain their freedom and can move forward with their lives. From handling drug-related charges to more nuanced federal cases and sexual misconduct offenses, we take a personalized approach to every case. By utilizing cutting-edge legal strategies and decades of combined experience, we have a much better opportunity to achieve the best possible client outcomes.

Service Areas

We help clients overcome criminal charges in a wide range of cases, including the following:

  • Homicides
  • Drug Crimes
  • Juvenile Crimes
  • Sex Crimes
  • Theft Crimes
  • Theft Crimes
  • Violent Crimes
  • Misdemeanor Offenses
  • Federal Offenses
  • More

If you are facing one or more of the charges above, it's imperative that you establish contact with a legal advocate ASAP. At Theos Law, you can rest easy knowing our phone line is always open. When your future is up for grabs, let our team of criminal defense lawyers fight for your rights. It all starts with a free consultation at our law firm in St. George, where we'll educate you on the particulars of the charges you're facing and explain the next steps ahead.

At this point, you probably have many questions in mind. Keep reading for more information on criminal law in South Carolina and some of our criminal defense specialties at Theos Law.

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Understanding Criminal Defense Cases in South Carolina


In South Carolina, criminal cases are classified into different categories based on the severity of the crime. Generally speaking, offenses that carry a maximum sentence of three years or less are categorized as misdemeanors. On the other hand, crimes that carry a punishment of more than three years in prison are generally classified as felonies.

State and Federal Criminal Defense Cases in South Carolina

Crimes in The Palmetto State are usually split into two categories: state crimes and federal crimes. Classifications are based on whether a crime violates state laws or federal laws. Ultimately, it's up to the prosecutor to decide which category to pursue charges under. State crimes generally include assault, robbery, domestic violence, theft, and rape. Federal crimes, on the other hand, may be more complex and can include computer crime, major drug trafficking, hate crimes, and money laundering. These types of crimes are often investigated by agencies like the FBI or IRS.

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The Difference Between Misdemeanors and Felonies in South Carolina

Understanding the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony crime can be challenging for someone facing their first charge. Misdemeanors are generally considered minor offenses, resulting in fines or a short stay in a local county jail. Trials and plea deals for these cases move quickly due to their nature.

Conversely, felonies are more severe crimes classified by degrees, with first-degree being the most severe and sixth-degree being the least. Those charged with a felony may face significant fines and a prison sentence of over a year in a federal or state institution. Convicted felons may face difficulties after their release, making it crucial to have a reliable criminal defense attorney in St. George, SC.

Plea Deals in South Carolina

It is not uncommon for legal cases to be resolved outside of court through a plea deal. This allows the defendant to acknowledge their guilt on one or more charges without the need for a trial. Both your criminal defense lawyer and the prosecutor collaborate to come up with a mutually beneficial arrangement, which helps avoid the uncertainties and dangers of a trial. By accepting a plea deal, you may receive a lighter sentence and avoid the anxiety that comes with a lengthy legal battle.

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When is the Right Time to Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer in St. George, SC?


At Theos Law Firm, we often receive questions from potential clients about when they should hire a criminal defense attorney for the charges that they're facing. Although each situation and client are unique, there are some common criminal situations to keep in mind. In general, it's always best to reach out to an experienced attorney as soon as you're charged or have been arrested.

Below are some guidelines to help you decide when it's necessary to retain a criminal defense attorney for your case in South Carolina.

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When You've Been Accused or Charged

Thinking about hiring a criminal defense lawyer when you're charged with a crime is a no-brainer for most, and for good reason. A defense lawyer can offer assistance with various offenses, ranging from minor crimes like retail theft and cyberstalking to more serious ones such as sexual assault and manslaughter. Regardless of the charges, navigating the legal system can be complex, and without the guidance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer, the situation can escalate rapidly.

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When Investigators or Police Question You

As you may have observed in movies or television shows, the police might request you to provide a statement, giving the impression that you are not under arrest. If they suspect you of committing a crime but lack sufficient evidence to detain you, they may aim to put you at ease and elicit information that can be used against you. Remember, it is within your rights to have a criminal defense attorney in St. George, SC, present during questioning, and you should absolutely use that to your advantage.

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When Authorities Search Your Residence

In the event that law enforcement officers arrive at your residence with a warrant, it indicates that a judge has determined there is reasonable suspicion that evidence related to a criminal offense is present in your home. Regardless of whether they discover and confiscate anything, it is advisable to seek the guidance of a seasoned defense attorney to discuss the situation and receive assistance in determining any potential charges or locations they may investigate in the future.

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When You Are Wrongly Accused of Committing a Crime

Could you imagine being accused of something you didn't do? When law enforcement, a judge, or a prosecutor accuses you of committing a crime that you didn't do, it can be an arduous task to prove your innocence, especially if you have a prior record. It can also feel hopeless and like it's impossible for you to get someone to listen to your side. The truth is that your past mistakes should not be used against you. To increase your chances of being cleared of charges, it's advisable to have a defense lawyer who can support your innocence and fight for your rights. Criminal defense attorneys at Theos Law don't just listen - we act swiftly and always with your best interests at heart.

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When Your Child Is Involved

The legal system for juveniles in South Carolina is different than it is for adults. It comes with its own complications and hurdles to overcome. If you think or know that your child has been accused of a crime, it's imperative to get legal counsel swiftly. Failure to do so could ruin their life or result in a longer-than-needed jail sentence.

Keep reading to learn more about just a few of the most common criminal defense cases we accept at Theos Law Firm.

Criminal Defense for DUIs in South Carolina


In terms of common criminal offenses in South Carolina, DUIs top the list, especially regarding mindful drivers with clean driving records and no criminal history. Unfortunately for these drivers, a DUI conviction in South Carolina stays on your record and cannot be expunged. Even first-time offenses with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent can be costly. Your insurance premiums go up for years, you may end up paying almost $1,000 in fines and fees, and there's a good chance you'll have to perform community service or serve jail time.

If your breathalyzer test result is more than .15%, you refuse the breathalyzer, or it is recorded as a refusal, your license will be automatically suspended, which complicates matters further. Throw in the possibility of interlock device rental, and your life may never be the same. For those reasons alone, it is crucial to approach such charges with the help of a DUI defense lawyer. At Theos Law Firm, our attorneys have years of experience in successfully fighting these types of charges.

Fortunately, if you or a loved one has been charged with DUI, there is hope. That's especially true if the accused has undergone a breath or blood test for DUI. In fact, cases that involve such tests are successfully beaten every day. At Theos Law Firm, we will thoroughly investigate your DUI case in St. George and explore every possible angle to have it dismissed.

To begin that process, your criminal defense lawyer in St. George, SC, may seek answers to many questions, including:

  • Was your DUI stop legal? If not, your case could be thrown out.
  • Is there enough probable cause or evidence for an arrest? If there is not, it's possible to file a pre-trial motion for your case to be dismissed.
  • Did officers explain implied consent rights? One of the most common errors police make is failing to take this step.
  • Did the police maintain your BAC and breathalyzer results? Breath testing often comes with inherent weaknesses. This can create doubt in a juror's mind.
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Criminal Defense for Drug Cases in South Carolina


If you are dealing with drug-related crimes in St. George or another city in South Carolina, it is crucial for you to understand the potential penalties involved. Possession of a controlled substance may fall under the category of a misdemeanor, but many drug offenses are considered felonies. Even a minor drug offense conviction can result in long-lasting negative consequences. As such, it's always advisable to explore your options and seek the assistance of a St. George drug crime attorney. A skilled criminal defense lawyer can help safeguard your rights and may help achieve a favorable outcome.

One of the most frequent questions we hear at Theos Law is, "What does possession mean?”

Drug charges based on possession in South Carolina are divided into three categories:

  • Simple Possession
  • Possession with Intent to Distribute
  • Drug Trafficking

However, the state also has other drug charges that are not based on the weight of the drugs. These include:

  • Drug Distribution
  • Manufacturing
  • Distribution Near Schools, Parks, or Playgrounds
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Possession-based drug charges in South Carolina are deemed "graduated offenses" with penalties that grow more severe based on the weight of the drugs. It's important to note that the charges can be based on either actual or constructive possession. Contact a criminal defense lawyer in St. George, SC, today to learn more about the complexities involved with drug cases in St. George and other cities in South Carolina.

Some of the most common drug charges we see at Theos Law include the following:

  • Marijuana
  • Heroin
  • Ecstasy
  • LSD and Hallucinogens
  • Cocaine
  • Meth
  • Prescription Pain Killers
  • Fentanyl
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Can I be Arrested for Drug Paraphernalia in South Carolina?

The simple answer to this question is a resounding "Yes.” Drug paraphernalia can refer to various items such as pipes, bongs, syringes, scales, grinders, and rolling papers which are linked to drug usage, preparation, storage, or hiding. Even though some of these items may have legitimate uses, like tobacco pipes or medical syringes, they can still be scrutinized by law enforcement if there is proof of illegal drug use or intent.

Criminal Defense for Assault and Battery Cases in South Carolina


If you are facing assault and battery charges, it is possible that you haven't actually physically harmed someone. Many people associate assault and battery with brutal beatings, but that is just one example. There are other situations that are less severe than what people typically imagine.

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It's a common misunderstanding that physical injury is required for assault and battery charges. The fines, penalties, and jail time you may face depend on the severity of your charges and the number of offenses. Regardless of the degree of your charges, Assault and Battery is a serious offense that should not be taken lightly. The consequences of a conviction can be life-changing, and as such, your criminal defense lawyer in St. George, SC, should work relentlessly to fight the charges being levied against you.

Though this list isn't comprehensive, here are some of the biggest factors that dictate the severity of your assault and battery charges:

  • Age of Victim
  • Severity of Injuries Sustained
  • Size and Weight of Accused vs. Size and Weight of Victim
  • Whether or Not the Victim Presses Charges
  • Whether or Not Weapons Were Involved
  • Whether or Not the Victim's Privates Were Touched

Understanding the Degrees of Assault and Battery in South Carolina

Third Degree

Causing harm to someone or threatening to do so with the ability to carry out the threat can result in a charge of third-degree assault and battery. This misdemeanor offense is typically heard in municipal or magistrate courts and may carry a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail.

Second Degree

Causing harm or making threats to harm someone that results in moderate bodily injury can lead to charges of second-degree assault and battery. Additionally, touching someone's private parts without their consent can also result in charges of assault and battery in the second degree. This misdemeanor offense is heard in General Session court and can carry a maximum sentence of three years in prison.

First Degree

Assault and Battery in the first degree can involve a number of actions such as inflicting an unlawful injury when kidnapping, touching a person's privates "with lewd and lascivious intent,” and much more. Contact Theos Law Firm for more info on the degrees of Assault and Battery in South Carolina.

Everyone Deserves a Reliable Criminal Defense Attorney in St. George, SC


At Theos Law firm, we work tirelessly to ensure that our client's rights are not overlooked. Because unfortunately, the rights of everyday citizens are often trampled by law enforcement oversights and legal system failures.

That's why every criminal defense lawyer at our firm works hard to provide guidance and support throughout the legal process by keeping you informed of updates and as comfortable as possible during this trying time. Benefits of hiring Theos Law Firm include:

  • Thorough Knowledge of South Carolina Criminal Law & Procedures
  • Seasoned Legal Representation in the Courtroom
  • Years of Experience Structuring Plea bargains
  • Ability to Identify Due Process Violations
  • Fierce Dedication to Clients & Vigorous Representation
  • Skilled Negotiation Tactics Involved with Bail, Sentencing, Appeals, and More
  • Familiarity with Local Prosecutors

Unlike some criminal defense law firms in South Carolina, our team believes that everyone deserves a great lawyer when their freedoms are on the line. If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime in South Carolina, trust Theos Law to have your back without judgment.

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Latest News in St. George, SC

Over 30 dogs found living in 'deplorable' conditions at Dorchester Co. home

DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCIV) — Over 30 dogs were seized from a house in St. George today, April 20, after living in terrible conditions.Dorchester County Sheriff's Office (DCSO) deputies said they escorted animal control to the 290 Smoak Rd. residence due to a history of violence at the location.While on scene, deputies found a subject with a warrant and detained them.Read More: ...

DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCIV) — Over 30 dogs were seized from a house in St. George today, April 20, after living in terrible conditions.

Dorchester County Sheriff's Office (DCSO) deputies said they escorted animal control to the 290 Smoak Rd. residence due to a history of violence at the location.

While on scene, deputies found a subject with a warrant and detained them.

Read More: Dorchester Paws takes in 50 dogs in seven days; has no room for more

Some dogs were extremely sick, dehydrated, and malnourished. Others just looked scared.

Sadly, some of the dogs they do not expect to make it.

Over 30 dogs were seized from a house in St. George today, April 20, after living in terrible conditions. (WCIV)

"It was something that we have not seen in this county in a long time,” Danielle Zulauf with Dorchester Paws said.

Dogs living in their own filth, locked in small crates inside and outside, and dogs tied to trees with heavy chains. This is the scene Dorchester Paws walked into Thursday morning.

Read More: Dorchester Paws runs out of space for more dogs

"Absolute deplorable conditions, all different sizes, all different breeds,” Zulauf said. "They describe the smell to be where even if they had a mask on, they wouldn't be able to breathe. It was so horrid of a smell.”

According to a press release, the shelter was called to assist, after Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office and Animal Control went to a house with a history of violent incidents.

There they found a subject who had a warrant and dogs living in terrible conditions.

"For them to see dogs with blood coming out of their nose, you know, their lungs, not breathing, right? It's horrible,” Zulauf said.

Sadly, Dorchester Paws does not have room for all of the dogs found. They are asking the public to adopt, foster, or donate.

We do not want any animal to be living in a pop up crate," the shelter wrote in a press release Thursday. "If the public can foster, they can come tomorrow 8am-5pm. Fosters needed for as long as they can commit.

Adoption fees are being waived for dogs who have been at the shelter more than 15 days.

"We need to get the animals that are on our floor right now into homes so we can free up panel space for these 30 plus dogs that just came in. If you can't foster forever, can you foster for the weekend? Can you foster for a week?" Zulauf said.

If you can foster, go to the shelter Friday, April 21st in between 8 A.M. and 5 P.M.

Those interested in donating to Dorchester Paws can do so on the shelter's website.

Read More: Mel's Mutts: Meet Richard

Thanks to law enforcement and Dorchester Paws, some of the pups will have a second chance at life.

"We'll scan them for microchips - we're they somebody else's? We will provide them the vaccinations, all the medical assessments, start them on whatever treatments they need, antibiotics and those things, and then they will be fed and they will put into a kennel,” Zulauf said.

Majority of the dogs need serious medical attention. Some have been found to be in end stage heartworm disease.

"We need resources. We will know after all 33 are medically evaluated we'll know how much it's going to cost to treat them, but I'll tell you right now that our funding does not anticipate moments like this, so we need donors whether it's $1 to whatever you can give right now,” Zulauf said.

Questions surrounding how these dogs were put in these conditions still remain.

"We at this moment do not know if charges will be filed, but we will be looking into everything as the days come,” Zulauf said.

The DCSO says this is an ongoing investigation.

To help, click here.

Dorchester County school gets attention for its role in history

Rosenwald Schools helped educate Black students in segregated South. Could a national park follow?ST. GEORGE, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - A part of history in St. George that was set to be bulldozed now has a bright future.The Rosenwald School in St. George was a building many people may never have been aware of, but it was one of thousands across the south that educated black children during segregation. It opened in 1925 and closed in 1954, eventually falling into an extreme state of disrepair with a caving ceiling, deteriorating floo...

Rosenwald Schools helped educate Black students in segregated South. Could a national park follow?

ST. GEORGE, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - A part of history in St. George that was set to be bulldozed now has a bright future.

The Rosenwald School in St. George was a building many people may never have been aware of, but it was one of thousands across the south that educated black children during segregation. It opened in 1925 and closed in 1954, eventually falling into an extreme state of disrepair with a caving ceiling, deteriorating floors and chipped, peeling walls.

But a group of former students got together and came up with a plan to save their historic upper Dorchester County school. The newly renovated St. George Rosenwald School will officially become a museum and community center.

It was in schools like the Dorchester County site, and nearly 5,000 others built in the American South a century ago, that Black students largely ignored by whites in power gained an educational foundation through the generosity of a Jewish businessman who could soon be memorialized with a national park.

They are now called Rosenwald Schools in honor of Julius Rosenwald, a part-owner and eventual president of Sears, Roebuck and Co., who teamed up with African American educator and leader Booker T. Washington to create the program to share the expenses of schools for Black children with the community.

There was no public transportation for the school’s students so most had to walk to school except for the lucky few, like Ordie Brown, who caught a ride on a donated bus.

“My father was fortunate enough to buy an old school bus and by getting that bus, I was able to drive that bus from the St. Mark community, bringing children from there, here to this school,” Brown said.

Rosenwald School historian Andrew Feiler says every county in the state had at least one Rosenwald School. Some had up to five. With no public transportation, attempts were made to place the schools in central, accessible locations.

Rosenwald gave $1,500 to each school; the remainder of the cost of each school had to be split between the Black community and local governments. For the Black community, cash, land, material or labor could count as their contribution, Feiler said.

“The leaders of this program reached out to the Black communities of the south and they said, ‘If you would contribute to the schools, because we want you to be a full partner in your progress.’” Feiler said.

Ralph James attended first and second grade at the school and now serves as chairman of the group of seven responsible for restoring the school to repair a caved ceiling, decayed floor and chipped, peeling walls.

“It’s a center of hope. It’s a center of encouragement,” James said. “It inspired us in spite of the odds and challenges we faced.”

The 76-year-old retired municipal judge has made it his life’s goal to restore his old school.

“Education has always been the key to success. Julius Rosenwald gave us that key,” James said.

The six-classroom building will now serve as a museum, historic site, field trip venue and community gathering place for years to come. When visitors walk inside, they will see some of the original floors and some of the original student desks.

The building will feature memorabilia from the school including yearbooks, homemade band uniforms, major red uniforms, and pictures of graduating classes.

State Sen. John Mathews secured $65,000 in state funding while the group raised around $4 million for the project on their own.

“This community came together in a great way to make this project work,” U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn said. “This is the kind of thing that brings people together, and I’m so pleased that they are preserving this history.”

The St. George school was one of the larger ones with six classrooms and an auditorium. Most schools only had one or two classrooms. More than a third of America’s Black children in the first half of the 20th century were educated in a Rosenwald school.

Other Rosenwald schools have been converted into senior centers, town halls, special event venues or restaurants. Many remain recognizable by the careful plans Rosenwald approved. Tall windows oriented to the east and west assured an abundance of natural light and ventilation in rural areas where electricity often didn’t reach until after the Great Depression.

In St. George, the vision isn’t just restoring the school, but providing a sense of the thriving African American neighborhood surrounding it during segregation. Businesses including a grocery store, barber shop and pool hall benefitted the Black community.

Inside the restored school, two classrooms look almost as they did 70 years ago. Another classroom is a public meeting room. The auditorium has been turned into a multipurpose space and will have exhibits detailing the school’s history and hands-on science displays, James said.

“You can feel what it was like just like I did,” he said.

A grand opening is planned for September.

Copyright 2023 WCSC. All rights reserved.

Rebirth of St. George Rosenwald school preserves history, promises new future

ST. GEORGE — School’s open.This renovated Rosenwald school — one of about 500 in the state, and one of nearly 5,000 in the American South, all constructed between 1913 and 1932 — hosted its first big meeting when members of the board of the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina gathered in the auditorium on Aug. 8.It was an occasion to remember the history of the school, to celebrate its rebirth and to consider its future. Plans already have been laid to partner with the ...

ST. GEORGE — School’s open.

This renovated Rosenwald school — one of about 500 in the state, and one of nearly 5,000 in the American South, all constructed between 1913 and 1932 — hosted its first big meeting when members of the board of the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina gathered in the auditorium on Aug. 8.

It was an occasion to remember the history of the school, to celebrate its rebirth and to consider its future. Plans already have been laid to partner with the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry on establishing a satellite location here, an idea first proposed by Patsy Knight when she was a state representative, and with the Dorchester County Library to furnish the small library room adjacent to the school’s auditorium.

This historic building in rural South Carolina has been restored thanks to a herculean effort by local advocates and financial support received from lawmakers and private sources. Board members of the nonprofit St. George Rosenwald School now hope to build on their success, adding amenities and historical features to the property, securing 3.5 acres of adjacent land to create public green space and more parking, organizing special events and arranging activities for children.

In short, they want this venue to become a community center and, thus, the epicenter of town.

They have supporters:

The project got underway more than a decade ago, led by Ralph James, a former educator and municipal judge who attended the St. George Rosenwald School as a child. Matthews found $65,000 in rural development funding to help the community purchase the property. Charleston-based architect Glenn Keyes was engaged to salvage the water-damaged and badly deteriorated structure.

Money trickled in over the next several years, about $4 million, and little by little the restoration work was accomplished, documented in a series of pictures by Alan Nussbaum, a rheumatologist and amateur photographer. Reeves joined the effort, becoming James’ close collaborator and engaging the interest of other electric cooperative leaders.

An employee of the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, Micah Thompson, managed to find dozens of old iron-and-wood desks, the kind once used in the school. One or two of them were part of the St. George Rosenwald School’s original furnishings.

Last year, Stephens sponsored an earmark worth $500,000 to help cover costs. This year, he sponsored another for $400,000.

“I’m not stopping, trust me,” he said, referring to his staunch support of the efforts in St. George. “They won’t let me stop.”

James said the main building is ready for public use, but there are still a few pieces of the puzzle to put in place. A train carriage eventually could sit on a short stretch of rail by the school and become a café, as well as a memorial to the late schoolteacher Ezekiel L. Gadson — a poet, singer and disciplinarian who worked as a railway porter before becoming an educator. A current version of the old sweet shop that once was located nearby could entice youths.

An outhouse and shop building behind the school, once was used for vocational training, could soon be renovated and transformed into an exhibit space featuring information about domestic life in the Black community during Jim Crow.

The wooded area just east of the school perhaps could be purchased for the purpose of creating public greenspace, with trails, historical interpretation, an amphitheater and extra parking.

Historic partnership

Clara Dixon Britt, 101, remembered attending the school for third grade and, later, for eighth grade. She’d walk five miles to get there, except on days she could ride an ox.

Ordie Columbus Brown, 94, had to travel farther — 6 miles or so — but often found a ride. His father eventually purchased a small school bus, and a teenage Brown would drive it, full of students from his community, south to the school.

He played on the basketball team, which used a rough-cut court located between the two wings of the building. The team was good, and one year made it to the tournament level. Brown visited the nearby White high school to ask permission for the players to prepare for the tournament by practicing on the high school’s hardwood court. School officials said no.

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Julius Rosenwald was a Chicago-based businessman and the son of immigrant German Jews who became president of Sears Roebuck and Co., the biggest retail store of the early 20th century. Sears sold pretty much everything, and it distributed a thick catalogue through the mail, enabling many Black people forbidden by legalized segregation from shopping in regular White-owned retail stores to purchase all kinds of items, from seeds to lumber to kitchen supplies.

After Rosenwald made his fortune, he became an avid philanthropist. He met Booker T. Washington in 1911, and the two men worked out a plan to build a network of schools for African American children. At the time, the separate-but-equal legal doctrine codified by the Supreme Court in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case resulted in unequal public education. White schools generally were much better funded than Black schools, and the entrenched poverty among African Americans that was a consequence of nearly three centuries of slavery and Jim Crow meant that education was a privilege that not all families could afford.

Rosenwald and Washington changed that. Eventually, the 5,000 Rosenwald schools ensured that about a third of all African American children could receive a quality education. The schools produced a new generation of achievers, setting the stage for the freedom struggle of the 1940s and ’50s, followed by the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

This historic SC school once united a community. Now, they plan to bring it back to life

Growing up, Edith Williams-Oldham never realized the historical impact of her small school that sat just a “stone’s throw away” from her home.She knew that she learned to play basketball on the St. George Rosenwald School’s dirt court and that the school was where her favorite literature teacher inspired her to be a writer and poet herself.But it wasn’t until she started researching for her book, “...

Growing up, Edith Williams-Oldham never realized the historical impact of her small school that sat just a “stone’s throw away” from her home.

She knew that she learned to play basketball on the St. George Rosenwald School’s dirt court and that the school was where her favorite literature teacher inspired her to be a writer and poet herself.

But it wasn’t until she started researching for her book, “What Grandma Forgot to Tell You,” that she realized that her years at St. George Rosenwald School in the late 1940s and early ‘50s were an important part of history in St. George, S.C., and across the country.

By 2014, when the school property was given to the town of St. George, the walls were decaying and the basketball court was full of shrubs. But now, after an extensive restoration effort lead by alumni and community members, the school is on track to reopen to the public this fall.

From a place that afforded precious opportunity to generations of Black children to a place that fostered community and progress in the Civil Rights era, the newly restored St. George Rosenwald School is a place community members now hope will inform and inspire the next generation.

The St. George Rosenwald School is one of many schools built throughout the South by Julius Rosenwald, a philanthropist and president of Sears and Roebuck, and with the help of educator Booker T. Washington.

The historic South Carolina property was built in 1925 during a time when segregation and Jim Crow laws made it harder for Black students to receive a quality education. The building served as a school and gathering place for Black students until 1954 and after was a meeting space and community center for the surrounding area.

“If you saw the pictures before they cleaned it off, we even wondered if it could be salvaged,” Oldham said.

The school was one of only two Rosenwald Schools in Dorchester County and is the only one still standing, according to the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.

Ralph James, the chairman of the St. George School Board and one of the last students to attend the school before it closed, said the school was partially preserved by the neglect.

“It really was neglected to allow these trees to grow up around it, and then there were a lot of cement blocks and cement pieces stored around 6, 7, 8 feet high all around it,” James said. “So when the storm wind blew, that buffered the school from a lot.”

Since 2014, the board, made up of alumni and local legislators, has worked on restoring the building. They have added a kitchen, bathrooms and a board room. They also plan to recreate the old principal’s office and fill the small library with a mix of modern books and ones that James and his classmates would have read.

The school’s updated auditorium will include updated stage lighting, a projector and multicolor walls, which James said tell a story.

When the school hosted an early childhood education program, different walls were painted different colors for different age groups, James said. When the wooden boards from those walls were cleaned and reinstalled, all the colors were mixed up.

“So this was the pattern that was placed up there with intent to paint, and a few persons came in said not to paint,” James said. “It’s original, and it tells a story.”

However, one part of the south wing of the St. George Rosenwald School will feature two rooms most similar to what the building would have looked like while it was open. The board plans to host classes for visiting children in two classrooms fitted with original floors, a blackboard and a stove that would have been used to heat the classroom in the winter.

With the help of the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, old desks were located from across the county and restored so that visiting students can sit it them while learning about the history of the school.

Doug Reeves, the vice president of the St. George Rosenwald School board, said the desks were just part of the board’s effort to preserve the memory of the school.

“We’ve got some alum that’s graduated from that school, and they keep coming back saying, ‘OK, well, this is where it was, you know, when I was here. …Yeah, you ought to do this, or do that.’ And that’s what we kind of kept in mind the whole time,” Reeves said. “We wanted to save as much of that as we possibly could.”

The project has become a community effort, according to Oldham, who said the alumni group even sponsored the restoration of a nearby restaurant themselves.

In the 1920s, the Black community held fish fries and fundraisers to be able to build the Rosenwald school, and Oldham said for the restoration project, the alumni did the same.

“Well, what we did was we just emulated what our parents, foreparents had done,” Oldham said. “We raised money.”

Oldham said she hopes the continued effort to rebuild the school and surrounding buildings will help to uplift the community that the school sits in the center of.

For Oldham and James, the Rosenwald school represents a time of unity and support throughout the Black community in St. George.

James described the school as “the jewel, the pride of the community.” The Black community flourished around it, with restaurants, shops and movie theaters creating a vibrant uptown St. George that was nicknamed “Little Harlem.”

“As I walked the streets as a child, everyone knew of me, and you could just, from house to house, you can depend on a little helping hand along the way,” James said. “You were never a stranger. So that feeling is something that can’t be duplicated in a way, but it does tremendous to build citizenship and to strengthen humankind.”

Oldham said that the St. George Rosenwald School itself was so popular that it was overfilled and had to hold classes in the nearby church or in auxiliary buildings.

For many students, Oldham said the school was a life-changing opportunity that many Black children didn’t have. One of the school’s oldest alumni even begged her mother to ride their family’s bull to school during a particularly bad storm so she could maintain her perfect attendance.

“This school was a prayer, an answered prayer,” Oldham said. “To be in a room where there was no leaking room, there were heaters with wood, coal burning to keep them warm, there was toilet paper, even though it was an outdoor toilet, it was flushable.”

Even after the school closed, it acted as an organizing place in the Civil Rights movement, according to the National Park Service, which recognized the school as a part of the African American Civil Rights Network in 2021. The building was used to prepare community members to vote and hosted “Project Deep” which helped prepare Black students to enter integrated schools in Dorchester County.

“That school has been a venue for progress since the day it was built,” Oldham said. “We want to make it even more so now.”

James said the additions to the St. George Rosenwald School were made to help make the building a community space again. He hopes to see the school host everything from history lessons to Rotary Club meetings to birthday parties.

“Hopefully, we will be able to demonstrate not only here what can happen, but to other communities just what would happen if you would, again, begin to find something that would bring you together, bring the area together and give you a common cause,” James said. “Give us hope, again, create love for one another and more than that ... an education and to stimulate our minds and to do good things.”

In addition to classrooms and meeting spaces, the updated St. George Rosenwald School will partner with the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry to include informational exhibits for younger visitors on the south side of the building, James said.

“I think one of the slogans, ‘a mind is a terrible thing to waste,’” James said. “So here we are not wasting minds, but we are rejuvenating them, we are strengthening them.”

To Oldham, involving and engaging the youth, which she considers anyone from children to 40-year-olds, will lead to the success of the project.

“This is the greatest gift that your foreparents could have given you. The opportunity to learn about where you came from, who they were, why you’re here and how you got here and what this school has contributed to the community in St. George and surrounding areas,” Oldham said. “We would hope that you would take interest and learn and keep supporting it to build a better community.”

According to James, the St. George Rosenwald School is on track to host a grand opening in September.

This story was originally published August 4, 2023, 5:30 AM.

Saving the Jewel of the Town, St. George community members revitalize historic landmark

ST. GEORGE, S.C. (WCIV) — During the 1920s in the heart of the Jim Crow era, Black and white students were not allowed to go to school together. Unfortunately, white students had better quality schools and Black students would have to learn in schools that were almost falling apart.In 1915, Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald, the owner of Sears, set out on a mission to fund and create better-quality schools for Black students. These schools became known as Rosenwald Schools.READ MORE:...

ST. GEORGE, S.C. (WCIV) — During the 1920s in the heart of the Jim Crow era, Black and white students were not allowed to go to school together. Unfortunately, white students had better quality schools and Black students would have to learn in schools that were almost falling apart.

In 1915, Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald, the owner of Sears, set out on a mission to fund and create better-quality schools for Black students. These schools became known as Rosenwald Schools.

READ MORE: SC school helped educate Black students in segregated South. Could a national park follow?

Nearly 5,000 schools were created and became that paradise for young Black students who wanted to learn.

One of those schools currently sits in the heart of St. George: St. George Rosenwald School.

Unfortunately, over time, these schools began to disappear and became neglected. But recently, community members have been working to revitalize what they call the "jewel of the community."

St. George Rosenwald School is one of the few Rosenwald Schools remaining in the state. The plan is now to turn it into a museum where children from across the country can visit and sit in a classroom that takes them back in time. People hope children can learn about the changemakers who paved the way.

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"We have two classrooms that go back to the original classrooms from the 1920s, and they'll get to sit in the chairs that their grandfather or whomever came to school here," said Douglas Reeves, the chairman of Edisto Electric Cooperative. "They're going to have some diplomas and report cards, it's going to be on display and they're going to look and think, 'oh hey, wow, I never thought my grandaddy did this! I never thought my grandparents had to do this to get an education.'"


The school closed in 1954.

Ralph James was only in second grade when the doors closed, and he says he remembers it like it was yesterday. James credits the school with granting him the gift of learning, and now years later, he is a co-chair on the board tasked with revitalizing the classroom he once called home.

He hopes every child who visits this landmark learns the value of education and that they chase any dream they want, despite the obstacles.

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"I hope they see the importance of preparation for a good education, be serious about it and hopefully the experiences that we experienced then will be shared with them and it will instill hope," said James, the co-chair of the Board of Directors for St. George Rosenwald School. "It will let you know that you are capable of being somebody, that it will encourage you to reach beyond what you can visibly see and really look to the future and prepare yourself."

Tuesday morning, the hallways of St. George Rosenwald School will be packed as it will host the first gathering held in the school since the 1950s. The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina will host its state board meeting on the historic landmark, and South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster and Congressman James Clyburn (D- South Carolina) will be in attendance.

The opening of the school is planned for September, but no official date has been set.


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