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PARIS SIMKINS IN RECONSTRUCTION’S VOTING CONTEXTS

by Dr. Joseph A. Bailey II, MD., FACS on 8th-September-2016

My great grandfather, Paris Simkins (1849-1930), a barber who taught himself and some Enslaved to read, became a lawyer, postmaster, landowner, licensed preacher, a South Carolina State legislator, and was very active in Civil Rights and voting. While playing with his infant son, he suddenly became aware of a KKK mob outside his home with the expressed intention of killing him because of being second in command of the State’s Black militia. Calmly, while holding his son, Paris faced down the mob and preached a sermon, directing comments to each of them. That cause the KKK to back off and leave him unharmed. Upon his death, his children wrote A Brief Narrative of the Life of Paris Simkins, ESQ., of Edgefield, S.C. in a newspaper: “Nearly four score and ten years ago, within a little hut in Edgefield County, within a few miles of the Court house, was born a slave boy, Paris Simkins. He was loved by the old coachman of his master, who had by stealth learned to read. At a tender age, one night between mid-night and dawn his Mother, Charlotte Simkins, heard him running thru the grassy path, almost out of breath. He tapped lightly upon the door and called in a whisper, “mother, mother, get up and open the door, I have learned my A, B, C’s.!” He and the old coachman had hid in the swamp and struggled with the alphabet all night, for it was against the law for a Slave to be taught to read. When the Civil War broke out he, a youth of less than twenty years, was taken along as a barber. He witnessed several battles, and was at the great battle of Gettysburg. After the din of the battles, he with another slave boy, ran and stumbled over the battle field from one wounded and dying soldier to another taking water to them and rendering whatever aid they could knowing that it was not for their cause that they were dying. When General M. C. Butler was wounded, he soon located him where he had been carried to a house nearby. There he hurried to him to be of whatever aid he could, for they were from the same town. General Butler was glad to see him and spoke very kindly to him. 

After the war he returned to Edgefield and opened a barber shop, and it was there that he battled with determination, with all odds against him, for an education. He studied every spare moment, and was assisted by the Rev. Mr. Luther R. Gwaltney and another learned scholar whose name cannot be recalled, for they took great interest in him. His barber shop was his class-room for he never attended school a day of his life. In after years we found in the home many college text books and asked him how came they here, then it was he told us the story of his life as very few know it. His children loved him and always regarded him with respect and reverence knowing the sorrows, disappointments and discouragements with which he has undergone. In 1868 he was married to Miss Mary Ann Nobles [Creek Indian/African wife–1850-1916], 16 children were born to them, eight of whom survive him–19 grand-children and 5 great-grand-children. He was married and baptized by his friend and counselor the Rev. Mr. Gwaltney and is the last of the original members of Macedonia Baptist Church. From early manhood to a ripe old age he was a great Sunday School and church worker. For many, many years he taught the Bible Class of his church. He arose to great prominence in his church, the community and his state. With the same determination, as in his apparently hopeless struggle for an education, so, also, in later years he resolved to become a lawyer. Day by day, step by step, only God knows how, he climbed upward to his goal. In 1872 he was elected to the Legislature of South Carolina and served four years. It was during this time that he had the privilege of entering the law class of the University of South Carolina, for a brief period, and from there he received his diploma. In 1885 in Columbia, S. C., he was admitted to the bar and became a lawyer of no mean ability. In the year of 1884 he drew up the Constitution and By-Laws of The Mutual Aid and Burial Society and was its first president. When in his community there was seen the need of a secret order of K. of P., he was advancing in age, but there being no one to take the lead and direct it he was again pressed into service. A life of service has he to lay down at his Master’s feet. To the poor and distressed he was always a friend in need. One of his outstanding characteristics through life was faith in God. Never once was he known to falter in faith. On Friday, Sept. 24th, his children standing by his bed, realized that he was crossing “The Bar” asked if he had any pain; in a matter of fact way, so characteristic with him, he said, ‘no, I have always prayed that I pass out without pain.’ So as long as his words were audible he talked with God. And never had a pain.  His children. Sept. 26th, 1930.” jabaileymd.com

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