Everyone knows that Charleston has produced some interesting famous people throughout it's existence. If asked to name a few, most of you would probably list the well known examples such as Stephen Colbert or Shepard Fairey, but we'd like to take to take a moment to educate you about some of the names you may have never heard before. From Hollywood producers to civil rights movement starters, all of these people have one thing in common: they were born right here in the #1 city in the world.
1. Arthur Freed began his career as a song-plugger and pianist in Chicago. After meeting Minnie Marx, he sang as part of the act of her sons, the Marx Brothers, on the vaudeville circuit, and also wrote material for the brothers. He soon began to write songs, and was eventually hired by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. For years, he wrote lyrics for numerous films.
In 1939, after working in the role of associate producer on The Wizard of Oz, he was promoted to being the head of his own unit within MGM, and helped elevate the studio to the leading creator of film musicals. His first solo credit as producer was the film version of Rodgers and Hart's smash Broadway musical Babes in Arms (also 1939), released only a few months after The Wizard of Oz. It starred Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, and it was so successful that it ushered in a long series of "let's put on a show" "backyard" musicals, all starring Rooney and Garland. He also helped shape the careers of stars including Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Red Skelton, and many others.
2. Samuel Augustus Maverick was a Texas lawyer, politician, land baron and signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. His name is the source of the term "maverick," first cited in 1867, which means "independently minded." Various accounts of the origins of the term held that Maverick came to be considered independently minded by his fellow ranchers because he refused to brand his cattle. In fact, Maverick's failure to brand his cattle had little to do with independent mindedness, but reflected his lack of interest in ranching. Unbranded cattle which were not part of the herd came to be labelled "mavericks". He is the grandfather of U.S. Congressman Maury Maverick, who coined the term gobbledygook (1944).
3. Septima Poinsette Clark was an American educator and civil rights activist. Clark developed the literacy and citizenship workshops that played an important role in the drive for voting rights and civil rights for African Americans in the American Civil Rights Movement. Septima Clark's work was commonly under appreciated by Southern male activists. She became known as the "Queen mother" or "Grandmother" of the American Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Martin Luther King, Jr. commonly referred to Clark as "The Mother of the Movement". Clark's argument for her position in the civil rights movement was one that claimed "knowledge could empower marginalized groups in ways that formal legal equality couldn't."
4. Robert Mills, known for designing the Washington Monument, is sometimes called the first native born American to be professionally trained as an architect. Mills studied in Charleston, South Carolina as a student of Irish architect James Hoban—who later designed the White House.
In addition to the Washington Monument, Mills also designed the Department of Treasury building, east of the Executive Mansion (White House) and several other federal buildings in Washington, D. C. including the U.S. Patent Office Building, patterned after the Parthenon (now renovated into two adjoining museums of the Smithsonian Institution, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery) and the old General Post Office.
5. Elizabeth Timothy was a prominent colonial American printer and newspaper publisher in the colony of South Carolina who worked for Benjamin Franklin. She was the first woman in America to become a newspaper publisher and also the first woman to hold a franchise in America.
Her history of becoming a newspaper publisher in America is interwoven with her husband's career. The Timothy family traveled with other French Huguenots from Rotterdam to Philadelphia on the ship Britannia of London in 1731 The ship's roster shows the Timothy family and their four Dutch children ranging in age from one to six.
Timothy's husband arranged with Benjamin Franklin to revive the South Carolina Gazette weekly newspaper on a six-year franchise contract, dated 26 November 1733. He went to Charleston in the later part of 1733 by himself initially. He started publishing the newspaper on 2 February 1734. Timothy followed later from Philadelphia and went to Charleston in the spring of 1734. She came to Charleston with her six children, four of which were born in the Netherlands.
Stay tuned for part two of this blogging segment. There's plenty more interesting folks to be inducted into Colony & Craft's Holy City Hall of Fame.