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Charles E. Simmons

Real estate developer Charles Edward Simmons, Jr. was born an only child on December 6, 1928 on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina to Estella and Charles Edward Simmons, Sr., Gullah natives of Hilton Head Island. Simmons’ parents owned many acres of farmland, and his father was a shrewd businessman who owned the only ferry transportation service to Savannah, Georgia from Hilton Head Island before the bridge connecting Hilton Head to the mainland was built in 1956. He also operated a bus service that catered to laborers and schoolchildren.

Simmons attended elementary school in the Spanish Wells community but later would be in the last graduating class of the Penn Normal Industrial and Agricultural School on St. Helena Island. This school was begun in 1862 as an experimental program to educate Sea Island slaves freed at the beginning of the Civil War.

After graduation, Simmons was drafted into the United States Army where he served for two years. In 1952, Simmons entered South Carolina State University where he was president of the Commercial Club. He received his B.A. degree in business administration in 1956.

Simmons became the Director of the Beauford-Jasper County Equal Opportunity Commission and was the liaison between the land developers and the residents of St. John’s Island, South Carolina. While the corporation began to develop the upscale town of Kiawah, he worked to ensure employment opportunities for local residents. In 1976, Simmons went to work for Hargray Telephone Company as a technician. He then retired in 1993.

Simmons owned Simmons Properties. He was also on the Trustee Board of the Penn Center, a founding member of the Native Island Business and Community Affairs Association, Inc. (NIBCAA) and was the President of the Spanish Wells and Native Island Property Owners Association.

Simmons lived on Hilton Head Island with Rosa, his wife. They had four adult children, Charlesetta, Palmer, Greg and Benjamin.

Simmons was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on January 29, 2007.

Simmons passed away on May 26, 2016.

Accession Number

A2007.032

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/29/2007

Last Name

Simmons

Maker Category
Middle Name

E.

Occupation
Schools

Penn Normal Industrial and Agricultural School

South Carolina State University

First Name

Charles

Birth City, State, Country

Hilton Head Island

HM ID

SIM05

Favorite Season

Spring

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica, Hawaii, Cruises

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

South Carolina

Interview Description
Birth Date

12/6/1928

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Hilton Head Island

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Beans (Lima), Cornbread, Chicken, Fish

Death Date

5/26/2016

Short Description

Real estate entrepreneur and civic leader Charles E. Simmons (1928 - 2016 ) served as the director of the Beaufort-Jasper County Equal Opportunity Commission. He also acted as a liaison between the land developers and the residents of St. John’s Island, South Carolina, in the development of the upscale town of Kiawah, ensuring employment opportunities for local residents.

Employment

Sea Pines Company

Hargray Telephone Company

Beaufort-Jasper Economic Opportunity Commission

Favorite Color

Black, Gray, Khaki, Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Charles E. Simmons' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Charles E. Simmons lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Charles E. Simmons describes his maternal grandparents, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Charles E. Simmons describes his maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Charles E. Simmons describes his mother, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Charles E. Simmons describes his mother, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Charles E. Simmons describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Charles E. Simmons describes Hilton Head Island's Spanish Wells community

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Charles E. Simmons describes his father

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Charles E. Simmons talks about his father's legacy

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Charles E. Simmons recalls his childhood responsibilities

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Charles E. Simmons describes his family's land on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Charles E. Simmons recalls his elementary school on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Charles E. Simmons recalls his childhood aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Charles E. Simmons describes Penn Normal, Industrial and Agricultural School on St. Helena Island, South Carolina, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Charles E. Simmons recalls his experiences at Penn Normal, Industrial and Agricultural School

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Charles E. Simmons remembers 'Randy's Record Shop Show' on WLAC Radio

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Charles E. Simmons recalls the Colored Normal, Industrial, Agricultural and Mechanical College of South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Charles E. Simmons recalls returning to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina for holidays

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Charles E. Simmons recalls the harvest at Penn Normal, Industrial and Agricultural School

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Charles E. Simmons describes Penn Normal, Industrial and Agricultural School, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Charles E. Simmons remembers his U.S. Army training

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Charles E. Simmons recalls serving in a segregated U.S. Army unit

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Charles E. Simmons recalls his U.S. Army service in Germany

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Charles E. Simmons recalls returning to college in South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Charles E. Simmons recalls graduating from South Carolina State College in Orangeburg

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Charles E. Simmons talks about Hilton Head Island's segregated schools

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Charles E. Simmons describes the incorporation of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Charles E. Simmons describes the new infrastructure on Hilton Head Island

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Charles E. Simmons recalls the development of Hilton Head Island

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Charles E. Simmons recalls experiencing racial discrimination in Savannah, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Charles E. Simmons recalls the lack of medical services on Hilton Head Island

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Charles E. Simmons describes the herbal remedies of Hilton Head Island

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Charles E. Simmons recalls local government officials from Hilton Head Island

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Charles E. Simmons describes his father's businesses on Hilton Head Island

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Charles E. Simmons describes the impact of development on Hilton Head Island's residents

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Charles E. Simmons talks about property taxes on Hilton Head Island

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Charles E. Simmons shares his perspective on property ownership

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Charles E. Simmons talks about the beaches on Hilton Head Island

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Charles E. Simmons describes his marriage to Rosa Simmons

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Charles E. Simmons recalls his career at Hargray Telephone Company, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Charles E. Simmons remembers the Beaufort-Jasper Economic Opportunity Commission

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Charles E. Simmons describes his work for the Sea Pines Company, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Charles E. Simmons describes his work for the Sea Pines Company, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Charles E. Simmons describes Hilton Head Island's Sea Pines Plantation

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Charles E. Simmons recalls the Native Island Business and Community Affairs Association

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Charles E. Simmons talks about the Gullah culture

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Charles E. Simmons describes his community activities on Hilton Head Island

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Charles E. Simmons describes his concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Charles E. Simmons reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Charles E. Simmons describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Charles E. Simmons shares a message for future generations

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Charles E. Simmons talks about his children

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Charles E. Simmons narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$2

DAStory

2$9

DATitle
Charles E. Simmons describes Hilton Head Island's Sea Pines Plantation
Charles E. Simmons recalls the harvest at Penn Normal, Industrial and Agricultural School
Transcript
Can you let me--give me a little background information on Sea Pines [Sea Pines Plantation, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina]. I know that it's a private residential community, but these were the people who actually were developing--they helped develop Hilton Head [Hilton Head Island, South Carolina] and now Kiawah [Kiawah Island, South Carolina]. Who were some of the people who were a part of this development team?$$Well, it started with Charles Fraser [Charles E. Fraser] and like--it started way back, they were the lumber people, you know, when I told you that they came with the lumber. They bought the timber right and they cut the timber, and they sold it and I guess they must have made enough money off the timber to, to really buy that part of the island that was undeveloped. And Charles Fraser--Charles was still in school then too, 'cause Charles and I finished school about the same time. And he got this idea of developing the part of the island that--what happened there were two sections. Charles Fraser and his family got Sea Pines [Hilton Head Island, South Carolina], that area, that part of the island and Fred Hack [Fred C. Hack] and his family got the north end of the island. Sea Pines [Sea Pines Company, Inc., Hilton Head Island, South Carolina] and Hilton Head Company [Hilton Head Island, South Carolina], this end of the island was known as Hilton Head Company. And out of Hilton Head Company came Port Royal Plantation [Hilton Head Island, South Carolina] and Palmetto Hall [Palmetto Hall Plantation, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina] and now it's, it's Main Street and Indigo Run. But Charles, Charles was the one that really started it the development. Sea Pines was developed long before the Hilton Head Company and the other areas. Because what Charles did while he was in school, he recruited some of his schoolmates to come down and join him in doing the development, and just like they do now. When they start a project they have everybody in place. They have their attorney, they have their engineer, they have their architect, you know, and everybody give their time and whatever. And where it would cost me out of my pocket, they have all the expertise right there. And that's how Sea Pines got developed. And, of course, he had to sell the idea of selling lots and stuff, you know, he traveled quite a bit and got people committed to buy property in Sea Pines. And, and that's what--that's how he got started.$$Okay, and the land--they just pur- he purchased the land. It was underdeveloped but these were just--this was still land that black people owned?$$No.$$No?$$Unh-uh.$$Okay.$$These were lands that they cut the timber off when they bought the timber right from, from Thorne [Langdon K. Thorne] and Loomis [Alfred L. Loomis], the people that owned the bulk of the island. And they, they usually--basically used the island just for hunting those people that really owned the bulk of the property. They would come down during the hunting season and they stayed at Honey Horn [Honey Horn Plantation, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina], you hear me mention Honey Horn. They would stay at Honey Horn, that's where they stayed when they came, you know, to do their hunting and that's all they did, so the land wasn't all that to them because they lived in New York. But they came here during the hunting season to go hunting. They hunt deer and birds and things like that, and then of course they bought the timber right and after they bought the timber right and they cut all the timber then they bought the land--$$I gotcha, okay.$$--then they started developing it.$Penn [Penn Normal, Industrial and Agricultural School, St. Helena Island, South Carolina] had--$$Try and explain, explain what it really was like, what it looked like, what was--how did it look so that we can get the idea?$$Penn, as I said earlier, was an industrial, agricultural (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Agricultural. Um-hm.$$--and normal school. Penn has hundreds of acres of property right now but they don't farm it like they did back then. See, they had a boarding department and they grew just about all the food that they served in the boarding department. The sweet potatoes, the white potato, and the beans, and even the syrup, you know, they'd grind the cane and made syrup. And they just had a--they plant rice, you know, it was just--and the girls, what we called the harvest week, that's doing the Thanksgiving holiday, instead of letting you come home to spend the holidays at home, you'd stay at Penn and harvest the crops, you know, because come November is harvest, is usually harvest time. And, you know, we'd get a kick out of that because the girls are in the field along with us so we had fun doing what we was supposed to do. And the girls enjoyed it too because they get a chance to come out, you know, and be with the fellows. So, we had, we had a nice time. But the milk--they had their own dairy. You know, we were almost like an Amish community I guess (laughter), you know, do our, did our own things. And that's just like I said, everybody worked. You had a job. The fellows who work at the dairy, they had to get up out that bed early in the morning because the fellow who was director of the dairy, he milked the cows. Very seldom a student milked the cow, then sometime they did. But that student had to get up in the morning early enough to go down there and process that milk, bottle it and all that, and take it to the, to the dining room.$$What job did you have?$$I had two or three different jobs. Mostly my job was on the farm, I worked with a fellow who was in charge of the farm. I drove trucks and tractors, and things like that. And go with him when he has to go to town to pick up anything from town. He would take me with him so I could do the driving (laughter) because you know.