Charlie Simmons, Sr. Gullah/Geechee of Hilton Head is Honored with Bridge Renaming
The South Carolina General Assembly put forth a bill to have the bridge to Hilton Head Island, SC in the Gullah/Geechee Nation properly renamed to honor Gullah/Geechee community leader and ancestor, Charlie Simmons, Sr. The entire bill can be found at http://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess120_2013-2014/bills/3781.htm . The Town of Hilton Head officials will be held a ceremony for the late Charlie Simmons, Sr. and renamed a bridge after him on Wednesday, Sept. 24 at 9 a.m. at the Honey Horn Discovery House Fountain Terrace.
Charlie Simmons, Sr. was a native Gullah/Geechee of Hilton Head Island who passed away on May 10, 2005, just two months before his 100th birthday. He was a member of the First African Baptist Church on the island all of his life. He attended prayer meetings there up to three nights a week and served as a deacon for 75 years. Mr. Simmons truly lived his life in service to all as one can take note of through the various names that Gullah/Geechees and others that came to the island called him. The names included “Cap’n Charlie,” “Mr. Transportation,” “Mr. Hilton Head,” “Mr. Charlie,” “Bubba,” “Pop” and “Deac,” but he called most men “Brother.”
“Cap’n Charlie” spent the greater part of his life on the sea transporting goods and people to and from Hilton Head before a bridge connected the island to the mainland in 1956. Thus, it is quite fitting that his name will be memorialized in the means by which people get transported onto the island today.
“Cap’n Charlie” piloted sailboats and later was the first to own a motor boat on the island. He would bring butter beans, watermelons, shrimp, oysters, crabs, cows, and chickens to the market in Savannah, GA from Hilton Head Island along with many Gullah/Geechees from the island three times per week. He also transported students to school and midwives to the bedsides in a number of places. He brought home supplies that community members needed on his return trips. Much of what the Gullah/Geechee needed that they did not grow, they could purchase in one of the two general stores that Mr. Simmons owned. His stores helped to keep the lights on when the Gullah/Geechees needed Kerosene for lamps, they could head over to Mr. Simmons.
“Cap’n Charlie’s” last boat was the “Alligator.” He probably had no idea how many of these creators would now live on Hilton Head in lagoons nor how many of his people would be transported off the island and never return because they could no longer afford the taxes to live there. In many indigenous cultures, alligators represent the instinct to survive. No doubt Mr. Charlie Simmons, Sr. had this instinct and was a true example of the communal living and service that is central to Gullah/Geechee traditions. May his name live on beyond the bridge! Gwine on Cap’n! Gwine on! GAWD bless hunnuh soul!
Charlie Simmons Historic Marker on Hilton Head Island, SC in the Gullah/Geechee Nation
written by Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation
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