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Time to do the Reconstruction Trail ourselves

in Bill Rauch/Contributors/Voices by
VOICES SMALL HOUSE

Photo above: The Robert Smalls House at 511 Prince Street in Beaufort is where Congressman Robert Smalls (1839-1915) began his life in slavery and where, after emancipation, he returned to purchase the house and live out his days.

By Bill Rauch

Budget negotiations are in full swing in Washington now for the last budget over which the Obama Administration will preside. And there is silence in Washington once again about the National Park Service’s proposed Reconstruction Trail here in Beaufort County.

Throughout the Obama Administration it has seemed that, as politicians like to say, “The stars are lined up” for bringing this modest proposal to fruition. Mayor Billy Keyserling working with Congressman James Clyburn and others seemed to be just the group to get for the city and county a National Park Service designation that would put a federally-funded plaque in front of The Robert Smalls House on Prince Street and in front of the Arsenal on Craven Street in Beaufort, another couple of plaques at The Penn Center and The Emancipation Oak on St. Helena Island, a plaque at the other Emancipation Oak on the Naval Hospital grounds in Port Royal, a similar designation at the site of the freed slaves community known as Mitchelville on Hilton Head Island, and at several other nearby places.

All these places, each significant in U.S. History during the years immediately following the Civil War, would then be gathered into a “trail” about which a brochure would be written and distributed by the National Parks Service. This simple mechanism would help bring tourists to the area to enjoy Beaufort’s restaurants and maybe even overnight in Beaufort’s hotel rooms that now fill up only two nights a week for graduations at Parris Island.

But the initiative seems to have run completely out of steam.

That it has is, of course, good news to some – like the Sons of Confederate Veterans whose representatives have lobbied effectively against the effort. But it is not good news to Beaufort’s business community. And it should be an embarrassment to elected officials who, in the name of business development, continue to spend hundreds of thousands of locally-raised tax dollars each year to support and promote Beaufort’s (NO) Commerce Park that they seem unaware is located in the heart of the AICUZ at the end of MCAS Beaufort’s main runway where the roar of F-35s climbing to 1000 ft. is deafening. There is a water tower painted in orange squares that stands next to the park’s entrance sign. Prospective tenants will inevitably be curious about military aircraft and they will soon learn that the Navy has said in its most recent Environmental Impact Statement that F-35 flights at MCAS Beaufort are expected to quadruple in the next few years.

But I digress…

Beaufort’s Reconstruction Trail had an auspicious beginning in 2000 in the waning days of the Clinton Administration. Then-Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt (Interior has oversight over the Parks Service) was seated next to Columbia University history professor Eric Foner at a White House dinner. A dozen years before, in 1988, Foner had brought out the big book on the Reconstruction period. According to Babbitt, he turned to Foner at the dinner and said, “You know professor, the Parks Service has parks, sites and trails all over the country that celebrate every twist and turn in American history, but there is none for the Reconstruction era. If the Parks Service were to designate such a site, where should it be?”

And without missing a beat the nation’s foremost historian of 19th century America replied, “Beaufort, South Carolina, the site of the Port Royal Experiment.”

In the weeks following that dinner Secretary Babbitt organized for himself and key Parks personnel from the National Parks Service office in Atlanta a tour of the significant Reconstruction era sites in Beaufort County. As the newly elected the Mayor of the City of Beaufort, I went on the tour, which is where I heard firsthand Secretary Babbitt’s story of the proposal’s conception.

There was excitement in Beaufort’s business community about the Reconstruction Trail then, but Secretary Babbitt had wisely cautioned, “There is not time for us to do this now. It must be the next administration.” And the next administration was of course two terms of highly-partisan George W. Bush who meticulously closed out Congressman Clyburn and the other Democrats.

But that was then. What of the Obama Administration and President Obama’s famous and real friendship with his long-time ally, Congressman Clyburn the primary sponsor of the Gullah-Geechee Corridor? With Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling doing “the ask” couldn’t this group find the money in the $3.8 trillion dollar Federal budget for a handful of plaques and a brochure?

Apparently not.

Okay, so maybe it’s time to get real and try another approach. Could the Beaufort County Council maybe ask the Beaufort County Preservation Review Board to seek a Beaufort County Accommodations Tax grant to hire as a consultant a preservation historian to identify the appropriate Beaufort County Reconstruction era sites and assemble a draft brochure that describes their significance? The consultant could maybe even put in some driving directions to help visitors find their way up the trail. Then next year maybe they can put in another proposal to buy and put up the plaques and print up and distribute the brochures. By that time maybe the city will be on board and they can go to their A-Tax committee to get a few dollars to promote the trail and sell some meals and hotel rooms.

After 16 years of waiting for Uncle Sam to do it for us, let’s just do it ourselves. It’s not like it’s such a tough job that it needs Seal Team Six.

County A-Tax grant applications, according to Beaufort County’s website, are due in September so there’s still plenty of time to get something going here don’t you think?

The elusive cell phone signal

in Contributors/Lee Scott/Voices by

By Lee Scott

Living in a large metropolitan city you normally don’t have a problem picking up your cell phone and chatting with someone at any time and any place especially in your car. The landscape is adorned with large cell towers to enable people to be connected. Oh, there are those times when you drive into a parking garage or a tunnel and the signal drops; but even that is changing as cell phone companies scurry to put repeaters in those areas so you never drop a call.

However, I have noticed that it is a little bit different living here in the Lowcountry, an area that is thankfully less populated. You can drive for miles looking at the scenic views and never see a cell tower. But that view comes with a price. It means that you will find yourself entering areas where there are no precious bars lighting up the phone. It is so strange to be driving along and one minute hearing a voice through the Bluetooth and then suddenly it disappears as you inadvertently drive into a dead zone. Of course, it does not take long after you move here to discover those special cell coverage zones where four or five bars light up on your phone. As a matter of fact, you have probably found yourself seeking those areas. I have personally discovered certain parking lots where I can pull into and complete a conversation before entering one of those “no cell phone service” zones. And sure enough, there are other people doing the same thing. You can spot them sitting alone in the car talking animatedly into the air.

Then there are communities where one side of the community has great coverage and the other side has none. You might even see a car sitting on the side of the road with the emergency flashers on and the driver’s hand sticking out the window holding up a cell phone, desperately seeking a phone signal. I confess to doing this myself!

But the good news is that we are not living in a large metropolitan area. We have beautiful views to enjoy and many places to pull over to make those calls. And I have discovered a spot where my phone calls are very rarely interrupted. Turns out my landline has excellent coverage.

Keeping my Gift Closet stocked and my heart open

in Cherimie Crane/Contributors/Voices by

By Cherimie Crane Weatherford

Like most growing up in the deep delectable south, pleasantries and poetic behavior is as expected as the humidity in the air we breathe. Not all standards of practice were enthusiastically enchanting, but intertwined deeply and artfully into all that I am nonetheless. The unspoken, unwritten laws of co-existence that were fiercely upheld by mothers, grandmothers and church leaders all over the Southern states.

One in particular still causes butterflies and post traumatic stress. The in-person apology, although completely foreign in today’s society, is the courtesy of choice by my gentle yet fierce mother. Slightly akin to a dead man walking, the longest mile or any other horrific showing of dread that is multiplied when forced to face your debts with the audience of your debtors. Regardless of offense, it was mandatory that all apologies be eloquent, sincere and in person. My life was forever impacted by the many merciless, collective mea culpa.

As if the in-person apology wasn’t harsh enough to win claim as the most difficult southern grace, the female ankle cross was a mighty contender. Often I wondered if Chiropractors and those that created southern customs were in cahoots. There is just no way a well meaning woman came up with this custom of contortion. It mattered not whether perched on a pew or teetering on a tailgate, my Momma could hear from 20 miles away even the slightest uncrossing of the exhausted ankle. No allowance was given for attire, function or injury, the ankle cross was necessary at all costs. Fear of the under arm pinch or the paralyzing ‘I will talk with you later stare’ kept ankles crossed stiffly in compliance all over towns and counties below the Mason Dixon line.

Not all southern manners were punitive in nature. Many have served me well. Like Mammaw’s cream infused grits,some things just stick with you. All the women in my family kept a Gift Closet. A small closet both highly regarded and protected filled with specialty soaps, delicate hand towels, crafted candles, beautiful note cards and always at the very top was chocolates and jams. As a child it seemed rather silly to imprison perfectly good presents for people and circumstances not yet revealed, especially chocolate. Purchasing these recipient-less presents was as high a priority as tithing on Sunday. The heart of a Southern woman knows well the importance of the timely gift. It never failed, it never ran low and it never discriminated. If one needed a gift, the closet was always ready.

What seems to be 100 years later, I open the door to my very own Gift Closet. One that I must constantly stock, protect from little hands and turn too when it is time. The gifts often go to an acquaintance, sometimes a stranger, many times a friend. It is always the perfect gift at the perfect moment. No matter where I am, I always seem to find something that belongs in my Gift Closet. Just as my Momma did with me, I shoo little hands away and explain the importance of the enigmatic custom. I wonder how many battles have been averted, hearts healed and days made by the simple contents.

What a difference we could make, if such a concept could be implemented in all aspects of our lives. Quietly tucking away, kindness, sincerity, generosity and thoughtfulness to have at the ready when life produces an opportunity to give.

I adore my Gift Closet and the simple humanity it represents. It is far less tumultuous than the in-person apology, far less uncomfortable than the ankle cross and far more important than even I previously understood. If you want to make your corner of the world a little brighter, keeping your Gift Closet stocked is a wonderful way to keep your heart open.

What we hear when we need to hear it

in Awakenings/Contributors/Health by

By Martha O’Regan

Even when you don’t realize you are searching for answers to life’s tough questions, sometimes answers appear in strange yet magical ways and wake you up. I have come to believe we all have an opportunity to ‘awaken’ to our purpose on the planet, yet too often life is so busy and noisy that we either miss the signs or misinterpret the messages.

Back in the day, not too very long ago, when I believed that I was ‘in charge’ of my life and that if I wanted something done, I had to do it myself, I put expectations on someone who didn’t come through for me on ‘my’ time, ultimately slowing down ‘my’ progress. My immediate reaction was anger along with a few words about incompetency and ‘ruining everything’ I was working towards! It was on a Friday and there was nothing I could do to ‘fix’ it, so I went home to take out my frustrations by playing in the dirt and pulling a few weeds. After calming down, I went inside to check my business voicemail, a message had come in about the time of my ‘upset’ that ultimately woke me up and continues to direct my life today.

A very robust female voice repeated ‘Clean House, Help Others, Trust God’ three times then hung up. The first was as a statement, the 2nd with a ‘duh, don’t you get it’ tone to it, and the 3rd was with the most joyful laughter I could ever imagine at the time. There was no caller ID or info from *69. I listened to it several times but because I was living in my ‘’I make things happen’ mentality, I wrote it off as an advertisement of some sort. As I shared the story with friends, I was surprised that no one else had received the same message. As days went on, I began to contemplate the meaning of this strange communication, settling on the literal interpretation because at the time, we were trying to get our home on the market, I was beginning a professional organizing business as an adjunct to my muscle therapy business, and seldom going to church…it made sense, I guess.

Fourteen years later, I continue to apply my ‘phone call from God’ to every aspect of my life including physical, spiritual, financial, political, environmental, emotional, and bio-chemical, continuing to find ways to simplify all areas (clean house), discovering ways to be in service (help others), trusting that there is a Divine plan unfolding (trust God), and realizing that I am not in charge after all….who knew?

Despite the great comfort and sometimes frustration in its simplicity, I have come to believe this message was not intended just for me but to be shared for others’ consideration. This timeless statement can be interpreted literally and/or figuratively depending on your personal circumstances as you move towards slowing down, taking care of your mind and body, while discovering your higher purpose in life. I continue to hear it from many perspectives depending on what I am seeking to learn in the moment.

As a culture, it is apparent we are going through a time of ‘cleaning house’, some due to external circumstances beyond our control and some by conscious choice, either way, we’re discovering that it feels better to release the attachments and all the associated ‘gunk’ than the pressure of trying to ‘hold on’ to it. It also appears we are becoming more compassionate, seeking ways to support efforts to be of service to those under-served in our community and beyond, not just through money but ‘hands on’ labor of love. And, regardless of specific affiliations with a church community, there is a sense that more folks are seeking comfort in a ‘Higher Power’ to show them the way through both good and difficult times, uniting us more deeply.

So, it is with great joy that I share my ‘phone call from God’ with hope that it serves a purpose for someone else. Live Awake….Have Fun!

A Beaufort family marks a milestone

in Bill Rauch/Contributors/Featured/Voices by
Osvaldo and Noris Mujica taken in 2016.

Photo above: Osvaldo and Noris Mujica taken in 2016.

By Bill Rauch

The patriarch and matriarch of one of Beaufort’s foremost families just celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary. Osvaldo and Noris Mujica came to Beaufort in 1962 with their three children, Ozzie, Omar and Lizette, and the Mujica family now 33 strong has flourished here since. A fourth child, Otto, was born here.

Theirs is a great American story.

Osvaldo and Noris Mujica on their wedding day in 1946.
Osvaldo and Noris Mujica on their wedding day in 1946.

The Mujicas came to the US on one of the last planes out of Cuba before the Cuban Missile Crisis shut down flights to the US. Osvaldo had been running Sumner Pingree Jr.’s ’s 65,000 acre cattle ranch, Hacienda San Andres, since as a U.S. citizen Pingree had been forced to leave Cuba by the rise to power of the revolutionary Fidel Castro in 1959. These were desperate times. As the Castro government, the communists, consolidated power in the 1959-62 period they nationalized more and more of the Pingree family’s ranch.

In its day Hacienda San Andres was the chief rival of Texas’ King Ranch as the world’s top cattle ranch.

Osvaldo Mujica, assigned by Pingree to run the ranch in his absence and the family’s adjacent 20,000 acre sugar-producing operation too, watched helplessly as the government piece-by-piece took over the majestic place. Yet he was clearly so inventive and so competent at running its operations that Castro ordered him to prepare to come to Havana and run all Cuba’s nationalized cattle operations. It was then in 1962, with the red handwriting indelibly on the wall, and after secret conversations with and firm assurances from Pingree, Osvaldo and Noris Mujica secreted their family out of Cuba to the US. With them were just the clothes they could fit into a couple of suitcases.

Exotically good-looking, smart and fun-loving – and with a brilliant and discreet father, and a doting mother — the Mujica children were popular from the moment they stepped out of the station wagon in Beaufort. Grown up and parents (and grandparents and great-grandparents!) themselves now, each of Osvaldo and Noris’ four children has achieved success in their own ways. Ozzie and Omar each ran automotive businesses here for many years. Lizette was a Spanish professor at the University of South Carolina until she came home to Beaufort two years ago, and Otto is All State Insurance’s catastrophe specialist for the Southeast US.

Sumner Pingree, a leading Beaufort philanthropist, lived for many years at his Bray’s Island Plantation in Sheldon. In those days Osvaldo and Sumner were like brothers. More than a plantation manager, Osvaldo functioned more like a chief of staff or consigliere for Pingree who was biding his time raising cattle and hogs in Sheldon, and shooting and fishing around the world, while he awaited the opportunity to return to Cuba and reclaim his rights to Hacienda San Andres. It was an opportunity that never came to him.

Sumner Pingree, Jr. died quietly at his home on Bray’s Island, a few days before last Christmas. He was 88.

Osvaldo had been with him in Cuba, at Huspah Plantation, at Bray’s Island while Bray’s was operated as a family-owned farm, and at Bray’s in the years after 1988 when Sumner transitioned the plantation to the outdoors-oriented community it is today.

Now, with the gradual re-opening of Cuba to US citizens, in the upcoming years there will be opportunities for those who left in the 1959-62 period to revisit Cuba. Some Mujicas may take the opportunity to visit as tourists, but probably not Osvaldo and Noris. “South Carolina is our home,” Osvaldo says. “People ask me what I would change about my life … and I say nothing … I’ve had a wonderful life.”

It’s time to enjoy the colors of spring

in Contributors/Lee Scott/Voices by

By Lee Scott

There is a strange transition taking place in my clothes closet right now. It happens each year. I discover that my black slacks and navy tops have migrated to the back of the closet and have been replaced with white pants and pastel colored capris. It always starts as a subtle change. I open up my closet and instead of my dark blue and brown dresses worn during the past few months, I begin to see the yellow, pink and green cotton dresses ready to be brought out. The winter clothes are somehow forgotten and the wool sweaters worn during January and February which were so important then are packed away as the cotton sweaters suddenly appear. Who knows what happened to my gloves that were only used a couple of times over the winter? My leather boots are lost in the back of the closet as the open toe shoes and sandals miraculously appear. It is actually fun to discover some summer clothes sitting in shopping bags, undoubtedly purchased at some year-end sale. Of course, to make room, I am required to give away the outfits that I have not worn in years. Even my husband starts rummaging around looking for short pants as the thermometer moves up. And the LL Bean fleece jackets he wears in the winter have disappeared.

This closet transition typically co-insides with the spring equinox which comes on March 20th. The equinox coupled with the daylight savings time change means that we get more of that South Carolina sun in the evening to warm us up and as we shed our coats and uncover our pale winter skin we put away our long sleeved shirts and put on our t-shirts. Even the straw hats hanging on hooks all winter are coming out of the closet as I am reminded of the strong southern sun.

Then of course, Easter time brings its own colors and the decorated eggs seem to reflect the colors of the clothes that are coming out of my closet. Light green shirts and pastel blue slacks are not just for golfers now. Even the grass in our yard is shedding its winter browns and coming up a nice colorful green. So go ahead ladies, take out those Lily dresses. Men, put on those pastel colored slacks. Spring is here. Enjoy all those colors.

Is that your real name?

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By Lee Scott

A new friend of mine recently e-mailed me and asked if “Lee” was my real name. The question does not come up very often here in the south since the name Lee is very popular. But her question was valid, because Lee is actually not my real name. It was a nickname given to me by my parents when I was a baby. My real name is Leslie. A name that only telephone marketers seem to know. In my family, many of us had nicknames because there were so many relatives with the same name. My brother David was named after our father David and our grandfather David. So he was given the nickname Sandy to help keep all the Davids straight. My father’s nickname was Buddy, named after the family dog that had died. Needless to say he used David outside of his immediate family.

Then there is former President Carter whose real name is James, but even at 91 years old is still called Jimmy, his childhood nickname. And a female friend named Elizabeth was nicknamed Nimmie, rather than one of the more typical nicknames like Beth or Libby. And heaven help you if you are stuck with a name from one of your older siblings. I know a woman whose real name is Susan but her older sister Joan called her Tu-Tu and it stuck. Now at 70 years old, she still goes by Tu-tu.

Since moving here, I have met women named Dolly, Sugar Belle, Baby and Sissy. Then there is Biddy and Coco, Ce-Ce and Weedy. Sometimes it is difficult to figure out what is a nickname and what is not. When I reached out to The Island News editor to ask her if Molly was her real name she was surprised by my question. “No,” she said. “It’s Martha.” Who knew?

Something else that I noticed is if someone is called Billy, you would assume that their real name is William, but sometimes, here in the south, their real name is actually Billy. It made me question our Mayor’s real name. Is his name Billy or William? Everything I read says Billy Keyserling. So I called him. He was kind enough to call me back and answer my question. “It’s William, but everyone knows me as Billy.” “No problem, Mr. Mayor, I understand. It’s Leslie, but everyone knows me as Lee.”

Younger looking skin…the rest of the story

in Awakenings/Contributors/Health by

By Dr. Robert Knitzer

No matter what our age, we all want to look our best. Many of us are also thinking about ways to turn back the hands of Father Time.

The Skincare/Beauty Industry has a multitude of products all claiming to promote “younger looking skin.” From soothing to superficial, there is a huge spectrum of offerings. But how many of these products actually help the body to be healthier?

Recently the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health analyzed 2,983 chemicals used in personal care products. What they found was astonishing. Eight hundred and eighty-four of the chemicals were toxic; 314 caused biological mutations; 218 caused reproductive complications; 148 caused tumors and 376 caused skin and eye irritations. This is unacceptable in this day and age. Industry can do better.

In my previous article of January 21, I discussed a safe, non-toxic, breakthrough health technology which promotes accelerated cellular healing based upon the cutting edge science of Redox Biochemistry. In this article, I want to share some of the recently completed science studies in this new field and what this means for us in our never ending quest to look younger.

To truly look younger you need to be younger at the cellular level. Cells are the building blocks of all tissues, organ systems, in fact, the entire body. Here Redox Biochemistry, through the creation of tiny signaling molecules gives our bodies messages of what needs to be done to rejuvenate healthy cells and either repair or replace damaged cells.

Unfortunately, over time, due to stress and the barrage of environmental toxins in our lives, our immune function declines and normal skin cell function is diminished. We lose the balance of redox signaling molecules required for optimal health.

One company has developed a skin renewal product based on this technology. It has undergone independent testing by global leaders in dermatologic research. Dermatest Lab in Germany has done several studies on this product. Their initial studies on women using this product alone for 28 days showed an improvement in six key areas of skin health: decreased eye wrinkle depth and overall wrinkle depth of greater than 20%; increases in facial skin texture, skin smoothness, skin elasticity of greater than 20% and an increase in skin moisture of 11%.

A more recent clinical study on cellulite noted a 20% increase in skin elasticity and an improvement in the appearance of cellulite. Based upon these findings and its safety, the product was given Dermatest’s coveted 5-star clinically tested seal of excellence.

Stephens & Associates in Dallas, Texas performed studies on the topical gel applied to one forearm. It found skin cell renewal and turnover was increased by 16% in that arm as compared to the arm without the redox signaling gel. They also studied whether there was increased blood flow in the skin as an explanation of enhanced skin healing. Those results indicated a 49% immediate increase after first application which increased to 55% by day 4.

Combined, these studies indicate that the application of the redox signaling gel enhanced replacement of damaged skin cells with healthy cells and increased blood flow and oxygenation to the treated area.

This is a safe, revolutionary and foundational approach to how we think about and improve skin health. “And Now You Know The Rest Of The Story.”

This is definitely not just spring allergies

in Contributors/Lee Scott/Voices by

By Lee Scott

This time of the year, some people are starting to feel the ominous effects of the blossoming flowers and budding trees. Yes, it is the beginning of allergy season. I thought of it when I noticed a tickle in my throat. However, by midnight, I knew it was not an allergy. I was sick. I rummaged through the medicine cabinet and found a package of Sudafed with a 2013 expiration date. Wow, had it been that long since I was sick. I swallowed the pills anyway hoping that there was at least a little bit of antihistamine left in them.

By morning, I was full blown miserable. My husband came into the living room where I was sitting with my box of tissues. “I have a weely, weely bab cold.” I told him in my most serious voice.

“You have a bad cold?” he responded.

“Yes, can I have a hug?”

“Not on your life.” he said and went to get the thermometer for me. Not the good old dependable mercury filled thermometer, but one of those digital ones. Unfortunately, every time we go to use it, the little round battery is dead. He gladly volunteered to run to the store and get a new one (healthy people hate being around sick people).

When he got back I was sitting next to a window wearing a sunhat and sunglasses.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“The sun feels so good, but my eyes are burning.”

He put the new battery in the thermometer and told me to go to bed and take my new box of decongestant, my unscented tissues and my Smith Brother’s cherry cough drops with me. Then he brought me some hot tea and took the thermometer out of my mouth.

“98.6” he said.

“No, it’s broken. It’s got to be 105 degrees. I have pneumonia.”

He told me to go to sleep and when the dogs followed him out, I knew even they did not want to be around me.

Ultimately, the cold ran its course. After a long hot shower and a fresh set of clothes, I walked into the kitchen. My spouse looked at me and said, “Now you can have a hug.” But when I approached him, he started to sneeze and with an uncertain voice he said, “I think I have an allergy.”

On heroes, villains and time – Pat Conroy remembered

in Bill Rauch/Contributors/Voices by
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Photo above: Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling, left, and Pat Conroy. Photo by Bob Sofaly.

By Bill Rauch

With the passing of Pat Conroy this week the Lowcountry lost a good and talented friend. Pat used his storytelling gifts to describe, in unique and memorable ways, the bountiful physical gifts that are singularly provided to us here, and we are better for that. But it was his intuitive sense of people — their conflicting motivations, their craziness and his courage to describe them honestly — that marked his genius.

He explained us to us.

The Island Packet’s David Lauderdale wrote a very nice daily newspaper-style tribute to Pat that appeared over the weekend. In the piece Lauderdale exhumed a quote from The Beaufort Gazette’s morgue in which Pat graphically expressed his displeasure with the proposed 2006 Clarendon Farms annexation by the City of Beaufort. The annexation occurred when I was mayor and Pat’s attack was directly upon me for, he said, loving real estate developers more than I loved Beaufort.

When fighting the illness that finally took his life Pat said he wanted to continue to live because he had more books to write. I understand fully. A part of one of those books might very well have been the Clarendon Farms story. When you knew the players the whole thing was plenty crazy, convoluted and conflicted enough to fit in a Conroy novel.

Just for starters, at the end of the endless 2006 public hearing on the annexation and development agreement, as I was about to cast as “Aye” my swing vote to permit more houses at Grays Hill than existed in all of present day Beaufort, I said: “It may seem inconceivable now, but my vote is a vote for conservation.” Look it up. Thankfully The Gazette ran the quote exactly.

Things got so nuts that evening after the 3-2 “Aye” vote that Police Chief Jeff Dowling insisted I be protected by the police as I turned out the lights in the hearing room. Most people thought what I really needed were the men in the white coats.

I was doing what I knew was right for Beaufort. And I knew I would pay a huge price for it.

Here’s how it happened.

In the midst of the craziness of the 2004-7 real estate bubble, an attorney came to the city representing Cox Enterprises, the owners of Clarendon Farms in Grays Hill. Clarendon was contiguous to the city limits and the attorney said its owners wanted to bring their land into the city with new zoning and a development agreement that would permit about 14,000 rooftops on the farm’s approximately 2500 acres.

If you knew the players, you knew how it would go down. Jim Kennedy, the CEO of Cox Enterprises, was in charge of his family’s interests with respect to the deal. Under Kennedy’s leadership Cox had caused nearly a hundred miles of hiker-biker trails to be built in Atlanta, the company’s headquarters town. A committed conservationist, he had overseen the protection of thousands of acres of his family’s land, and as a board member of Ducks Unlimited and the Wetlands America Trust he had preserved countless tens of thousands more acres.

Luckily, and importantly, I knew Jim Kennedy and I knew his conservation background. Seeing the storm coming, I said to him: “If we take you in, I know you’ll be a good citizen.”

Meanwhile, as the final vote approached mayhem ensued. My family was split with one brother-in-law insisting I vote “no” while another one was equally insistent I vote “yes.” The letters to the editor, including Pat’s, and the editorials were running 100-0 against the deal. Although their leaders knew Clarendon would ultimately go green, the major local environmental group that I had helped bring to Beaufort ran a 24/7 campaign against the deal to help make their 2006 fundraising target. Even Hank Johnson, the Mayor of Bluffton who annexed half of southern Beaufort County called me up to say, “If you actually vote “yes” on that, you’re through.”

But here’s what I knew. When Clarendon goes into deed restriction it will be the best thing that ever happened to MCAS Beaufort, Beaufort’s largest employer, because future encroachment of the airfield will be vastly limited. Also, the Air Station and a forever green Clarendon together will create a green buffer on the Whale Branch side of Beaufort that will stop the march of commercialization at Laurel Bay Road, thus preserving as “country” the great Lobeco/Whale Branch/Grays Hill entrance to one of America’s great small cities. Two years after the vote the Northern Area Plan formalized this boundary, and now a decade later it is stronger than ever.

If Cox Enterprises benefited, great, … so long as it was good for Beaufort.

Oh, the fun Pat would have had with the characters: the hypocritical environmental group boss and his legions of blind loyalists, the brothers-in-law…and their then-wives, the Operation Jackpot veteran turned crack land use lawyer, the callous Yankee mayor in cahoots with his greedy CEO buddy and, yes, the celebrity author who storms into the controversy with both barrels blazing.

And then there’s the ending: all 100% true.

Without Good Citizen Cox Enterprises there wouldn’t be three thousand all-green acres in perpetuity next to the Air Station that together form an important green belt on Beaufort’s outskirts; without Cox Beaufort’s largest employer would face ongoing and escalating encroachment issues; without Cox the trailer parks in Grays Hill would still be the drug-dealing capitals of Beaufort County; and without Good Citizen Cox Enterprises there would be no Spanish Moss Trail where we all now — oblivious to its origins — safely walk, run, bike and visit together.

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