By Beverly Gadson-Birch
Sunday, June 17 has been set aside to honor fathers. Father’s Day really got me thinking this time around. We go overboard for mothers and while mothers are so deserving of all the hoopla, let’s not forget the many contributions of fathers.
There are some deadbeat dads and dads who have flown the coop and neglected their children. Yes, I get that! While deadbeats may seem like they have abandoned their kids, in their hearts, they have not.
Yep, I know, a few fathers have fallen off the wagon but there are many who have not abandoned their children and they need to hear that from you. Oftentimes, fathers are beaten down to the dust from whence they came and just don’t know how to get up. And, sometimes when they get up, we step down on them again.
I thought about my subject for today and I thought about so many ordinary fathers who changed not only me but had a hand in changing the world through life’s lessons, experiences and in some cases outright defiance. Let me begin with my late father, John T. Gadson. Like many old school fathers, my dad came from a very humble beginning. His dad died when he was three and his mother shortly thereafter. His sister raised him up in Sunday School and church and he did the same for his children.
Yes sir, John T’s “chern” weren’t lacking Jesus, discipline, manners and home training. And everyone of ‘dem chern” are pretty much law-abiding citizens and so are their seeds. Well, maybe one or two of those seeds thirst for water and didn’t sprout as well but ‘dey still have manners. I am proud of my dad’s invention of the first moped. Although he didn’t get it patented, he invented it. I am most proud of how dad struggled to make sure all of his children were educated and had survival skills. No sir, John T didn’t want any handout and he taught his children to work for what they wanted. Well, y’all know the rest of my story. If y’all know any of those Gadson chern, they may not be rich and famous but they work and play by the rules. Thank you dad for teaching your “chern” how to fish.
ESAU JENKINS – Hailing from Johns Island, Jenkins made such a significant impact not only on Charlestonians, but the state as well. He had very little formal education, but he used wisdom to become a legend. He used faith to change people and people to change their destiny. He was a successful businessman and a giant in the civil rights movement. I remember him for his voter registration drives. He also founded the Progressive Club and help founded a Credit Union in downtown Charleston that still exists.
WILLIAM “BILL” SAUNDERS – Looks like we can’t get off Johns Island, but y’all know Bill and his work with the Hospital Strike that gained national attention. He led the strike with Mary Moultrie, a hospital worker, who represented the strikers. Bill later founded COBRA for persons suffering with sickle cell. He also was the owner of one of our local radio stations, WPAL. These are just a few of his accomplishments. Also, Bill is still in business!
TOBIA GADSON, SR. – A barber and businessman, born in Walterboro, SC, later moved to Charleston and had a barber shop on Spring Street. He served in the legislature and a street West Ashley is named in his honor. It wasn’t easy being Black and getting elected to the legislature.
REV. ROBERT WOODS – A Presbyterian minister, Woods went on to become one of the most powerful legislators in the House of Representatives from Charleston. He also paved the way for others from Charleston to be elected to the House. Because of his position and influence in the House, he was able to get things for his people.
FRED “THE MAN” DAWSON – A down home preacher who knew no boundaries. I tell you Rev. Dawson didn’t mind protesting injustices. Post & Courier needs to erect a sign in Reb’s memory. He wore the sidewalk out in front of the newspaper’s office on Columbus Street. Rev. Dawson led countless demonstrations while pastoring at Calvary Baptist Church.
REV. OMEGA NEWMAN – Newman is another one of those legends that stirred up the hornet’s nest in Charleston and this state. He was a great father, leader and orator and a great mover and shaker in the field of Civil Rights.
I can go on and on, but I am about to run out of space so let me just pay tribute to a few living legends, fathers, who are or have done extraordinary things: David J. Mack, Jr., David J. Mack, III, Rev. Nelson B. Rivers, III, Rev. Edward McClain, Jr., Elder James Johnson, Rev. Lawrence Bratton and James “Jim” French, Sr.
And, for all other fathers who I did not have room to mention, thank you for all that you do, not only for your families, but for your community and nation as well. You deserve a day of recognition for all that you do.
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY TO ALL FATHERS! ALL Y’ALL MATTER….