Warshaw was born on October 27, 1920. From an early age, he wanted to go to college at The Citadel. When his high school record seemed likely to derail his hope, direct appeal to Gen. Summerall got him in. After overcoming some early problems, Warshaw settled down and graduated in 1942. He received orders on graduation day to report on June 10, 1942, for active duty and soon was assigned to the 433rd automatic weapons battalion, an anti-aircraft unit. Shipped to Casablanca, on the Moroccan Atlantic coast, his unit was assigned a training and support mission until the July-August 1943 invasion of Sicily. After the conquest of Sicily, his unit joined the Allied invasion of Italy and advanced to the Cassino front where the attack stalled. Withdrawn from the Cassino front and sent to the Anzio beachhead, he was able to visit Rome after the breakout for one evening. Withdrawn once again, Warshaw’s unit left Italy to join the invasion of southern France, fighting from there into Germany. Warshaw was promoted to first lieutenant and to captain as the war progressed, but when asked he said that he had absolutely no interest in staying in the Army. The morning after the capture of the Dachau concentration camp, Warshaw’s colonel took him to see the camp. There they found the odor was such that “we could hardly stand it . . . piles and piles of bodies.” He opened one of camp’s four ovens where “Bones were still smoldering,” and the colonel handed him a camera and told him to take pictures, some of which are archived at the Jewish Heritage Collection at the College of Charleston. A retired merchant of men’s clothing, he resides in his home town of Walterboro, SC.
Civil rights leader and community activist William Saunders was born in 1935 and has resided most of his life in Johns Island, South Carolina. In this interview, Saunders reflects on the economic and cultural changes he has witnessed over the years. Many of the changes had a negative impact on the health and life expectancy of the African American community. Regarding land ownership and access to natural resources, he states- both poor white and black landowners lost their properties because of shark loan practices. He criticizes government policies that facilitated city annexations, profuse housing development, and promoted tourism industry without considering their impact in the life of folks residing in rural and urban areas of Charleston. He thinks organic farming is a positive practice but one that does not benefit poor families. Saunders states he keeps working on his community as a member of the Gullah/ Geechee Commission. He also co-chairs with Tommy Legare the organization Concerned Citizens of the Sea Island, which is against the extension of I-526. Saunders states that activism can carry a heavy toll. "If you got the knowledge, and you care, then you have to suffer. You really have to suffer because you’re the one that gets involved."
Clarence A. Renneker Jr. grew up in Orangeburg, SC, and enrolled at The Citadel in 1939. His brother-in-law, a graduate from the school, influenced his decision. He majored in business and graduated from The Citadel in May of 1943. Renneker was sent to Ft. Benning, GA, where he completed OCS and was commissioned. He was then assigned for a time to the 80th Infantry division. After training in the southwest, he was shipped overseas in June 1944 as an “excess officer.” After arriving in England, he was assigned to the 118th Infantry after speaking with the regiment’s executive officer by chance in a barbershop. The Regimental executive officer was Citadel graduate Colonel Caldwell Barron, Jr. As an officer in the 118th division, Renneker helped run training schools around England, and later in France, he helped train replacement troops from other branches as riflemen by teaching them map reading skills, to shoot and care for their rifles, and other basic infantry skills before they were sent to the front lines. After the surrender was signed in Germany, Renneker helped coordinate the post-war return of soldiers to the United States. In June 1946, he returned home to his wife and eventually took over his father’s clothing store in Orangeburg. He is retired and living in Mt. Pleasant with his wife.
Ida Ostendorff was born in Gilbert, South Carolina. At the start of WWII she traveled to Washington D.C. where she passed a typing course and began work as a “government girl” working in the Judge Advocate General’s office. In 1942, upon turning 21 and meeting the minimum age requirement, she jointed the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). She completed her basic training at Ft. Oglethorpe, Georgia, where she was trained to use a gas mask. She volunteered for an assignment overseas and traveled to New York City to embark on the Queen Elizabeth. She landed in Scotland on June 6, 1944, having no idea at the time that it was D-Day. She was then transported to her assignment at Stone Staffordshire, England. On her way there she remembers the commotion caused by the Normandy landings: “As we were going along, people were just waving wildly to us because they knew it was D-Day, but we didn’t know it.” She remained in England until the end of the war. She met her husband after the war when they both took the same French class. They were married for 61 years and have five children, several of whom have served in the military.
George Hopkins was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1947. He is a College of Charleston professor emeritus. This interview focuses on George Hopkins' long commitment to social justice and labor rights in Charleston. Initially, Hopkins' activism was mostly related to the College of Charleston and focused on racial issues and academic freedom. By the end of the seventies, he got involved with Carolina Alliance for Fair Employment (CAFE). Since then, he has been a member and has served as president of the organization. He remembers significant labor-related events such as the closing of the Navy Base in the nineties and the longshoremen protest in January 2000 that ended with the five men known as "The Charleston Five" arrested and charged with felonies. He also reflects on the crucial role the ILA 1422 and CAFE - now Charleston Alliance for Fair Employment - have played for Charleston's intersectional organizing and coalition development. Finally, Hopkins talks about his participation in other social justice endeavors in Charleston, such as the Quality Education Project and the Charleston Area Justice Ministry.
Circular Congregation Church senior pastor Jeremy Rutledge was born in Honolulu, HI, in 1971. When he was five years old, his family moved back to Houston, TX. Rutledge attended Bailey University and then Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, VI. After graduation, he returned to Houston and worked in chaplaincy for three years and the following ten as the pastor of a progressive church. In 2012, Rutledge moved with his wife and son to Charleston and became the Circular Church pastor. He recalls that by then, Charleston Area Justice Ministry was taking shape, and the country was shocked by the killing of Trayvon Martin. Rutledge talks about CAJM's organizing model, how white and black congregations came together to build power, and the learning curve necessary for local white progressives to demand accountability to public officials. He remembers the criticism that arose when CAJM demanded action from the Charleston School District Superintendent Nancy McGinley and later when asked for a Charleston Police Department and North Charleston Police Department racial bias audit. Finally, he reflects on the meaningful relationships that have been forge over the years among individuals and congregations thanks to the social justice work.
Corey Clayton is a College of Charleston graduate, University of Alabama Birmingham graduate, and a member of Omega PSI Phi Fraternity, Inc., who at the time of the interview worked for Brownstone Construction Group building the International African American Museum in Charleston, South Carolina. His interest in engineering goes back to the summers working for his grandfather and his father, both of whom were general contractors. Additionally, he always had an interest in history. When he learned that the International African American Museum was going to be built, he knew he had to be a part of that process and decided to work for Brownstone Construction Group, a Black owned company, as a Quality Control Manager. In the interview, Clayton remembers the college professors that guided him and provided readings that allowed him to understand better his history. Finally, he reflects on the museum's relevance to the region and the deep personal significance of playing a part in its coming to fruition.
Michael Roberts was one of the first participants of Occupy Charleston in the year 2011. At that time, Roberts had lost his job in the recession and was living with his wife, Kathleen Ellen Roberts, on a sailboat. In the interview, he remembers how Occupy Charleston came to life: a Facebook page, a meeting at Kudu, a coffee shop in downtown Charleston where six people discussed actions, and the first big gathering at the Gage Hall. He describes the occupation at Brittlebank Park and at Marion Square that ended when the Charleston police arrested several activists. After the arrests, he explains, the meetings moved to the ILA Hall and then each group that had converged at Occupy refocused on their own projects. Roberts reflects on Occupy Charleston lessons and contributions to change. In the second part of the interview, Robert’s wife joins the conversation, providing her own insights. At the end, Roberts discusses his military experiences, his current job, and online activism.
John Gardner was born in Hilton Head, SC, and raised in a tight-knit Black community in Beaufort, SC. In this second interview, Gardner recalls memories of the Penn Center, his father’s store, and describes his mother's community involvement. He also brings up his time at Morehouse University, including his memories of the jazz club Paschal's. After graduation in 1970, Gardner relocated to Rochester, NY. At the time of the interview, Gardner was a historical interpreter at McLeod Plantation and Historic Site on James Island in Charleston, South Carolina.
Philip S. Minges, Jr. was born on December 1, 1923, in Charleston, SC. He reported for active duty in 1942 during his sophomore year at Clemson University. Although he began training in the Corps of Engineers, combat replacement requirements led to Minges’ assignment as an infantryman to the Eleventh Armored Division. Minges reflects on his combat experience during the Battle of the Bulge when he had to try to dig a foxhole under fire in frozen ground. In his first battle, only three men of a 12-man squad, Minges and two others, came through unharmed. All others were wounded or killed. A few battles later, Minges was wounded: “I heard something hit on the side of the track, about waist high. I knew what it was. [If the shot] had been over about a foot [it would have gotten] me in the back…. I heard another pop and dirt flew up around my feet…. I got shot in the foot.” Following World War II, he enrolled at The Citadel in 1946 and graduated in 1948. After the war, Minges worked fifty years for Dupont in Camden, SC, and retired as an Army Reserve colonel with thirty years of service.