Historian, author and former Coastal Carolina University professor Charles Joyner died Tuesday, a CCU official confirmed to The Sun News. He was 81.
A graduate of Myrtle Beach High School, Joyner held a 50-year career as a social activist, Southern historian and folklorist. He held doctorate degrees from the University of South Carolina and the University of Pennsylvania. In addition, he was an author and professor of history at CCU from 1980 to 2007.
During that time he “wrote books and articles about Southern history and culture,” said Dan Ennis, dean of the Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts at Coastal.
Walter Hill, director of the Horry County Museum, said Joyner was “the most influential Southern historian to the area.”
Joyner focused his work on the slave life around the Myrtle Beach area and also worked to amend ties between black and white culture. Joyner also worked in the Waccamaw Neck region, Ennis said.
Hill and Lee Brockington, senior interpreter at Hobcaw Barony, a 16,000-acre property dedicated to research and ecological education, were students under Joyner.
“I was proud and privileged to take classes under Professor Joyner,” Hill said.
“He immediately changed my life,” Brockington said. “I was able to declare a major because he changed my view of history. History was no longer just wars and dates. It was about the people, it was about their lives and their relationship to one another, and to the land on which they lived.”
Joyner is most known for his book “Down by the Riverside: A South Carolina Slave Community.” The book focuses on slave communities located in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. The community created its own religion, language and culture, which is known today as the Gullah culture.
“In 1984, when I was hired to work at Hobcaw Barony, it was exactly the year ‘Down by the Riverside’ was published,” said Brockington. “Much of his research was done at Hobcaw Friendfield Village, and it was his research that guided me in being able to better interpret the lives of slaves and their descendants at Hobcaw.”
Other than being a beloved South Carolina historian, Joyner also was a friend and husband. Hill said that Joyner was “always a distinguished Southern gentleman,” who was respectful and “who always put your mind at ease.”
Among his many honors, Joyner was one of the first recipients of CCU’s University Medallion, which was created in 2012 to honor individuals who have contributed to the university in service (to education and the community), entrepreneurship, philanthropy and/or scholarship.
He received the S.C. Humanities Council's Governor's Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Humanities, the Lifetime Commitment Award from Bluegrass on the Waccamaw and held an honorary life member of the British American Nineteenth-Century Historians.