By Barney Blakeney
September 7, The Citadel will remember Joseph Dawson Shine, a 1971 graduate of the military college. Shine was the military college’s second African American to attend the school. Many younger Charlestonians may not know of Shine or remember him. He died in 2003 at age 53. But Shine’s unsung legacy is one that speaks to triumph of the human spirit in spite of adversity. He also was remembered this week by his friend and colleague, Judge Arthur McFarland.
Both Shine and McFarland attended the now defunct Immaculate Conception School, Charleston’s Catholic school for Blacks, first opened in 1903. The two graduated one year apart – McFarland in 1966, Shine in 1967. Both aspired to become lawyers. McFarland said Shine was “a special” person. A likable, friendly guy, Shine had an enjoyable personality, said McFarland. And he was unintimidated.
Shine chose to attend The Citadel at a time when The Civil Rights Movement progressed through engagement. In 1967 Shine became the second Black person to enroll at the military college which had its birth through the 1822 Denmark Vesey slave rebellion. Charles Foster, a 1966 graduate of the former Charles A. Brown High School, entered The Citadel the year before. Each was the only Black graduate in their respective classes.
Shine was a distinguished student and served on the regimental staff his senior year. He was a founding member of the college’s African-American Society. He distinguished himself through sheer tenacity and will. In the book about The Citadel, “Marching In Step” by Alexander Macaulay, Shine said he met both support and outright racism while attending The Citadel.
McFarland related a story about a hazing incident during which Shine was so severely challenged, he passed out. Shine never spoke about the incident, McFarland said.
“That’s indicative of who Shine was. He never spoke about the downside of being at The Citadel,” McFarland said. Like Foster, Shine didn’t have the luxury of quitting, that would validate the belief that Blacks couldn’t ‘stick it out’, Macaulay wrote. McFarland said it also wasn’t in shine’s nature to quit. He, in fact, wanted to excel facing adversity.
Shine went on to graduate from The Citadel. He went to Harvard Laws School and graduated in 1974 then worked in the office of the Secretary of the Air Force. In 1976 Shine became the City of Charleston’s first full time attorney and the first Black person to serve as the city’s attorney. He held the position until 1987. He earned an MBA from Southern Illinois University. Beginning in 1987, Shine served as South Carolina’s chief deputy attorney general until 1993, when he became the first legal counsel for the state’s Budget and Control Board. At the time of his death in 2003, he was general counsel for the Savannah River Site.
Last year, 50 Blacks were among the graduated from the Corp of Cadets. On Thursday, his classmates Tip Hargrove, Jim Lockridge, and other members of the Class of 1971 will share first-hand accounts of their experiences with Shine and discuss the dedication, perseverance and class unity it took for Shine to complete knob year and join the Long Gray Line. Shine’s wife, Judge Margaret B. Seymour, and Dr. Larry Ferguson ’73 (eldest living African-American graduate of The Citadel) will be in attendance for the reflection as the historic occasion is celebrated.
McFarland noted that Shine died while at work at the Savannah River Site. “The trajectory of his life was to achieve and accomplish, to open doors,” McFarland said. “Shine was a change agent who broke down a lot of barriers. He managed to gain a lot in his abbreviated life. His whole life speaks of a person who broke down barriers. Just coming back to South Carolina after earning a law degree from an Ivy League university speaks to who Joe Shine was.”