Born in 1924, Georgetown resident Samuel Bonds passed away on Friday, June 7.
Bonds was involved in the community in many ways, including as a member of the Georgetown City Council from 1977 to 1997. Two of his daughters, Wendy Janowski and Sharon Map, sat down with the Georgetown Times to provide an account of their father.
The West End was the area Sam Bonds called home growing up, and where he conducted much of his business through the years. However, he lived on Orange Street during the latter parts of his life in a home he built. This industrious characteristic was a part of Bonds from his early years.
As a youth, he started selling candy from a wagon he pulled behind a bicycle, according to his daughters. Soon, he started adding to his inventory, selling household items as he recognized needs and opportunities to fill those needs. This vision to recognize the needs of his community was a driving force for Sam throughout his life, which led to action.
Sam had several businesses, including hospitality and entertainment ventures and even a youth recreation center. The Checkerboard Club was the name of the recreation center and it provided a place for the area’s youth to engage in wholesome activities, do homework and develop character, his daughters said. He was an advocate for African-Americans in the community and worked to provide opportunities. He helped secure funding for housing developments resulting in the first three homes for African-Americans in Maryville in 1963.
Sam opened Georgetown’s first African-American radio station. He was the first African-American bondsman in the city as well as the first African-American appointed to the Welfare Board of Directors, according to Arcadia Publishing’s Black America Series – “Georgetown County, SC.”
Bonds was a successful real estate developer and businessman who followed in his father’s footsteps, owning and operating a plumbing business. He was also the second African-American to be elected to the Georgetown City Council and the first to serve as a civil rights commissioner.
Sam was determined to lift those around him as he lifted himself, his daughters said. When his aunt’s children were orphaned, he took them in as his own. Additionally, he encouraged his children to be industrious and work hard in order to instill the same characteristics that drove him forward.
Despite racial challenges, Sam operated with poise and put himself into positions to have real impacts for minorities in the community, his family said. Realizing the importance of understanding law, he ran and won a seat on city council giving a civic voice to the African-American community.
Faith was one of the cornerstones of Sam’s life, his daughters said. Paul, the Christian prophet, spoke several times of running a race and finishing strong in regards to life and Christian obedience, including a blind passion for your fellow human beings regardless of age, money, race or any other factor by which we often divide ourselves and pass judgement. Sam treated everyone the same and worked to help those who experienced oppression obtain self-respect, self-reliance and equality.
Despite suffering from polio as a child, which left him with a limp, along with memories of fighting the sickness away from his parents in a “Blacks only” section of a Charleston hospital while other children around him died, Sam overcame a monumental challenge and never looked back.
Georgetown is better for it.
Bonds' funeral was Thursday at Bethel AME Church.