BATESBURG-LEESVILLE, S.C. — A historic marker was dedicated on Saturday to honor an African-American soldier who was brutally beaten in Batesburg-Leesville over 70 years ago.
According to the town, in February of 1946 Sargent Isaac Woodard was traveling on a bus from Winnsboro to Fort Gordon, Ga to return home. Sgt. Woodard was then recently discharged after serving in World War II.
While on the bus, there was a disagreement between the driver of the bus and Woodard. When the bus stopped in Batesburg-Leesville, the bus driver then contacted police and law enforcement ordered Sgt. Woodard off the bus.
“As Woodard began to explain himself, he was struck with a night stick by officers,” the Town of Batesburg-Leesville said in a press release. “The initial beating and subsequent beatings while in custody left Woodard blind in both eyes. He was charged with “drunk and disorderly” and ordered to pay a fine. Sgt. Woodard would spend more than three weeks in an Aiken hospital recovering from his injuries.”
Many consider the blinding of Sgt. Woodard the event that sparked President Harry Truman to create the President’s Committee on Civil Rights. This was the first national civil rights commission.
“The incident also changed forever the thoughts and feelings of Federal Judge, J. Waties Waring. Judge Waring, upon seeing the acquittal of police officers charged with violating Sgt. Woodard’s civil rights, would go on to issue landmark civil rights rulings including a dissent in Briggs v. Elliott (1952). This ruling would become the model for Brown v. Board of Education (1954),” said the Town of Batesburg-Leesville.
On Saturday, February 9th, an historical marker was placed at the corner of Fulmer and North Church Street. This is the location of where the old police station once stood.
The town says the Sgt. Isaac Woodard Historical Marker Association, Disabled American Veterans Organization, and the Town of Batesburg-Leesville worked together to put the marker up.
Last year, the town vacated the conviction of Sgt. Woodard. The veteran passed away back in 1992.
According to officials, more than 300 people attended the ceremony Saturday, including Sgt. Woodard’s nephew and caretaker Robert Young.