Myrtle Beach and Horry County’s roadways are bustling more than ever as the area continues to grow. More and more people are flocking to the Grand Strand and building a new nest here, and many newcomers, or even longtime residents, may not know the rich history behind some of its busiest thoroughfares that are mainly named for prominent leaders of the past or beloved citizens who left their legacies etched on the hearts of those who knew them.
“A lot times we don’t recognize our history like we should,” said Marion Foxworth, Horry County’s Register of Deeds and former county councilman. “Naming of roads and bridges, while it can be problematic at times, is a good way for us to recognize those that came before us and gave of themselves, their fortunes and their efforts to build what we have today.”
Cities here and the county honor many of those who paved a legacy, with dozens of roads, parks and buildings paying tribute to their contributions. Below are just some of the many named for those who contributed to the community with summaries on who they were, along with a brief story on Kings Highway – one of the area’s most historic roads with a legacy that spans centuries.
Mr. Joe White Avenue
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Julius “Joe” White pedaled into Myrtle Beach from the Georgetown area on a bicycle around the 1930s and made a name for himself with his shoe-shining skills and friendly personality. He came to the area with his wife Louise, and shined shoes in several barbershops and also polished the footwear of the stars who stayed at the now-gone, luxurious Ocean Forest Hotel, according to information from the City of Myrtle Beach. White eventually made Woody’s Barbershop near 10th Avenue his home base.
“He never met a stranger,” said Woody Elvis, owner of Woody’s Barbershop on Broadway Street. “Here in the barbershop he would shine all the doctors’ shoes, all the lawyers’ shoes … They would bring them to him by the basket full.”
Elvis described White as his “right hand” at the shop and commemorates his longtime colleague and dear friend with a chair in his honor.
“As long as I’m here the chair will stand,” said Elvis.
White called himself a “shoe stylist” and started his lifelong career while in grade school when he would charge a nickel for each shine with the money he made going to buy lunch at school or into the church collection plate on Sunday, according to information from the City of Myrtle Beach.
White never owned a car and rode his bicycle through the streets of Myrtle Beach from his home near the road that’s now named for him.
“He had an old red bicycle that he probably had half a million miles on,” said Foxworth.
While White was renowned for his shoe-shining skills, he was also beloved for his friendly spirit and easy smile. A Christian man, and later a leader at Shields Chapel Church in Myrtle Beach, he shared his faith with all those around him.
He died in 1997 at the age of 87, but the flicker of his flame still burned bright in the hearts of those who knew him, and when part of 10th Avenue was upgraded, a portion of the road was named for him, according to the City of Myrtle Beach. Widely known as “Mr. Joe” or Joe White, some controversy arose about what to call the road, according to Foxworth, who said some were confused or displeased by the name “Mr. Joe White Avenue” for the road.
White Street in Myrtle Beach is also named for him – the man who never met a stranger.
Robert Grissom Parkway
Robert “Bob” Grissom was one of Myrtle Beach’s longest-serving mayors, holding the office for about 12 years, and serving on city council in the years prior.
“At least until our current mayor, the longest-serving mayor in Myrtle Beach’s history was Robert Grissom,” said Foxworth. “He was elected in 1985 and served until 1997, serving 12 years … He envisioned … the metropolitan loop … Grissom Parkway being a portion of that. It was later named in his honor.”
From treasurer and city councilman to the city’s highest council seat, Grissom was a leader with political savvy who knew how to welcome people and champion for causes, said Foxworth, who acted as a consultant on some of his mayoral campaigns. Grissom also played an instrumental role in bring minor league baseball to the city.
He came to the area in the early 1950s and was a concrete plant owner. He later became the county’s treasurer and took a seat on city council.
“He did a lot of good things for the city,” said Foxworth, who described him as a man who understood how local government worked and was able to navigate through choppy political waters to get things accomplished.
Grissom died in 1998, about six months after losing the city’s mayoral election. The parkway that stretches from Harrelson Boulevard to Carolina Forest was named as a tribute to him in April 1999, and is sometimes called “the Bob” by locals, according to the City of Myrtle Beach’s website. His daughter, Susan Grissom Means, served the city as a councilwoman for 16 years until her retirement a couple of years ago.
“He was one of those people who is able to form a consensus with people. Even if they had a very different opinion, somehow he was able to work things out so that people could agree on something even if their opinions were rather diverse,” Means said.
She said she still misses her father each day, and remembers him as a man full of charisma and warmth.
“He was always laughing and telling jokes,” she said. “ He was great. He was the best father ever. … I still miss him every day even though he’s been gone for 20 years.”
Means said her father would be proud of Myrtle Beach today.
Dr. W. Leroy Harrelson Sr. was a pharmacist and Myrtle Beach’s first mayor. Elected in 1938, he was the first to hold the city’s highest seat on council. He served from March 1938 to December 1940 and then took office again from January of 1942 to December 1944. Mayoral terms were only two years long during the city’s early years.
During his first term, he had the idea for an airport, and the city purchased land for the municipal airport, and a terminal there was named as a homage to him, according to the City of Myrtle Beach. Fast forward to today, and it’s known as Myrtle Beach International Airport with its opening on Harrelson Boulevard.
Myrtle Beach was incorporated the year Harrelson was elected, and he had a guiding hand in seeing to the building of roads, sidewalks and the organization of local government, crafting much of the infrastructure still in place today, according to Mark Kruea, Myrtle Beach city spokesman.
Harrelson Boulevard was previously known as Jetport Road, and it was a two-lane road that only went to the jetport to the Bypass, Foxworth said. He was a county councilman as the road project was underway to extend the airport thoroughfare, and noted it took some doing for the project to be completed with a lot of push and pull between county and city governments.
“The road was envisioned as the first direct connection between Kings Highway, or 17 Business, and Bypass 17 between Mr. Joe White or 10th Avenue North all the way down to Highway 544 or Dick Pond Road,” said Foxworth.
Now, the once small pathway is a four-lane road connecting people to the airport from George Bishop Parkway. Harrelson’s son, Leroy Harrelson Jr., attended a ceremony, celebrating the completion of extension of the road to U.S. 17 several years ago, and told some great stories about his father, according to Kruea.
Robert Edge Parkway
Like Harrelson Boulevard, Robert Edge Parkway was named for one of a Grand Strand city’s first mayors. Robert Edge Sr. was the first to ever hold the mayor’s office when the beach towns of Cherry Grove, Windy Hill, Crescent Beach and Ocean Drive linked together to form North Myrtle Beach in 1968.
Edge served on city council and had been mayor of Crescent Beach before the consolidation, and took office as mayor when North Myrtle Beach was born.
Edge was servant-hearted and wanted to ensure the new city grew into something good, according to his eldest son, Robert Edge Jr.
Edge Jr., a former county councilman and the county’s coroner since 1989, remembers his late father as a quiet, kind man who cared about community service.
“He was kind of a quiet person,” Edge Jr. said. “He wasn’t a real big talker, but he would move to see that things got done.”
His father was a plumber by trade before getting involved in the motel business, running a place called the Jamaica Ocean Edge Motel at 1427 S. Ocean Boulevard, which the family still maintains today. His four children have all served the community. Edge Sr.’s son Tracy served in the House of Representatives for more than a decade and was also a city councilman. Donald Edge is a retired police officer, having worked for both Myrtle Beach and Horry County forces. Edge’s only daughter was a school teacher and later a principal in North Myrtle Beach, Edge Jr. said.
The parkway reaches from S.C. 90, connects to S.C. 31, and stretches over the waterway before emptying onto U.S. 17. Nearly 200 workers strove for about five years to complete the project, which included 2 million pounds of steel in a bridge and 8,000 linear feet of concrete beams holding it up, The Sun News reported in 2009.
Edge Jr. said he sometimes thinks of his father, who died in 2005, when he takes the parkway home.
“I’m sure if he were living, he’d be much appreciative of it,” he said.
Today, Kings Highway is busy with locals and tourists traveling to its many restaurants and shops. The roadway shines with bright signs inviting travelers to shop and dine, but the road that flows through the heart of Myrtle Beach and is home to many popular spots is centuries old and was once simply a dirt trail.
Prior to European settlers coming, it was often traveled by Native Americans, according to the City of Myrtle Beach. With the arrival of people to the New World, it served as a link between coastal communities, and the trail became known as the king’s road, stretching upward into the Northeast.
During the American revolution, it served as a main route where vital information was exchanged, and soldiers marched, local historians say.
“It tied several of the waterfront communities together. It was referenced in George Washington’s journal of his tour of the Southern states in 1791. It would later become part of a larger road system,” said Foxworth. “The U.S. Highway system, U.S. 17, also is known as the Ocean Highway except for here within Horry County, where it’s still known as the King’s Highway.”
The Theodosia Burr DAR Chapter is working to place a plaque and preserve the remains of Kings Highway’s unpaved section at Vereen Gardens in the Little River area, and other local historical organizations are striving to restore a bit of the roadway’s natural beauty and keep its historical meaning alive, according to Myrtle Beach Life.
So many others
Many other roadways in Horry County are named for citizens who performed heroic feats and community leaders who made a difference, or are paths that have origins spanning back centuries. Withers Drive, Alley and Swash are all named for members of the once-prominent Withers family who were some of the earliest landowners in the county and lived in a plantation there during the 18th and 19th centuries, according to South Carolina History Trail. Local legend says their family home was carried away in a huge storm in the early 1800s.
Some other roads notably named after Myrtle Beach citizens are Fred Nash Boulevard and Farrow Parkway, both running through the Market Common area by the former Air Force base.
William Farrow, a Darlington native, was a lieutenant with the famed Doolittle Tokyo Raiders and was captured while flying over Japan. He was killed by a Japanese firing squad at the age of 25, according to the City of Myrtle Beach.
Fred Nash of Myrtle Beach became a local hero on August 18, 1958 when he rescued an Air Force pilot who had crash landed a plane that burst into flames, according to the City of Myrtle Beach. Nash suffered serious burns while saving the pilot’s life, and was later given a service award by the Air Force for his bravery.
For more on historic roads and names in the City of Myrtle Beach, visit http://ow.ly/hy6730gLbvV.