I stopped by to visit downtown Sumter, SC after walking through Swan Lake and Iris garden at the end of March 2021. The area was known as Craven County back in 1740 then Claremount County and now Sumter County. The city of Sumter was established on 1/1/1800. A large percentage of its population is military due to Shaw Air Force Base being within its city limits.
It was named after General Thomas Sumter (1734-1832) a highly respected patriot from the Revolutionary war. He established and settled in Stateburg, a town in Sumter County on Highway 378. I had blogged before about the historic Church of The Holy Cross which is located in Stateburg. The city’s web site mentions that Stateburg missed by only 1 the vote to become South Carolina’s capital in 1789 when it was moved from Charleston. There is a beautiful statue of General Sumter in front of the town’s courthouse that you can see in the photographs below.
The city’s web site highlights prominent African Americans tied to Sumter County having been born or having lived there including:
- Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) educator and civil rights activist
- James T. McCain (1905-2003) educator, civil rights activist
- Four of the Tuskeegee airmen: Lt. Willie Ashley, Jr., J. Philip Rembert, Dr. Leroy Bowman and Emmett Rice (from Florence but lived in Sumter. He is Susan Rice’s father)
- Ernest Finney (1931-2017) first African American chief of Justice in SC, he started his practice after moving to Sumter
- William April Ellison (1790-1861) who was the wealthiest free African American in South Carolina
- Bill Pinkney (1925-2007) born in Sumter County, he was a singer with the original Drifters.
In the photos note the 100ft. clock tower on top of the Sumter Opera House, built in 1894. Sumter offers its visitors three museums, the opera house, a cultural center various historic churches, the beautiful Swan Lake and Iris Garden. Its downtown continues to be renovated, I saw old buildings next to gleaming modern ones. I love it when renovation efforts strive to preserve the look and feel of old small town America.
Reference Sumter Web Site
- Swan Lake 2021
- Poinsett State park/The Wateree passage of the Palmetto Trail
- Church of the Holy Cross
- Wateree Heritage Preserve
- The City of Sumter, SC
- Swan Lake 2023