McClellanville’s first black Charleston County magistrate, Gussie Humes, was laid to rest last month. He was 92.
Gussie Humes was known as ‘the Man’ in McClellanville’s black community. At the northern end of Charleston County where the bounty of water and woods were essential to those who lived off their wits and ability Gussie Humes loomed as a staggering figure of black manhood.
Rev. William Alston recalled his old friend. Born in 1924 in the SeeWee plantation hinterlands of North Santee, Humes was the son of Sam and Julia Humes, the older of their two children. He left North Santee as a young man, but didn’t go far. He settled in McCellanville, less than 20 miles away, where he met and in 1946 married Hester Singleton. They had two children.
‘Bubba’, as Humes was called, was an entrepreneur, Alston said. What he lacked in formal education, he made up for with ‘mother wit’. Like some other black men in rural areas, Humes saw an opportunity in providing transportation to black residents in rural communities where few owned cars and public transportation didn’t exist. It was a lucrative business.
But Humes wasn’t just about the money. He wanted to help people, Alston said. By the mid-1960s both men had emerged as leaders in their respective communities – Alston in Awendaw, Humes in McCellanville. One day, Humes came to Aslton and suggested they partner with several others to advocate for progress in their neglected communities.
The group of black men focused on improvements in housing, education and employment for their underserved communities. And they sought to gain political power. Collaborating with others like Esau Jenkins from the Sea Islands and ‘Big’ John Chisolm from the Charleston peninsula, they battled to be involved in their local political processes. Alston said they met with some successes and wrested political power from those in the minority who monopolized that resource.
Ultimately Alston would become mayor of the newly incorporated Town of Awendaw.
Humes became known as ‘Mr. McClellanville’ among blacks in the town, said Awendaw resident Dan Martin who grew up in the area decades later. Humes was the man to go to, he said. The characterization became literal. Humes in the mid-1970s became McClellanville’s first black Charleston County magistrate. Later Humes would serve as a member of McClellanville Town Council. He served on the council from 2004-2013.
Yonges Island Magistrate Earl Bligen said Humes served as a pioneering role model for the six African American magistrates who currently serve among the contingent of 18 county magistrates. Humes paved the way and made it possible for others to have the opportunity, Bligen said.
Humes is survived by his two children; 12 grandchildren; 18 great-grandchildren; six great-great grandchildren; sister-in-law; and a host of nieces and nephews, relative and friends.