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Interesting article from the Sun News!

Posted on Mon, Aug. 09, 2004

Development group buys

slice of McKenzie Beach

Plans could boost former black retreat

By Zane Wilson

The Sun News

McKenzie Beach near Pawleys Island once rivaled Atlantic Beach as a recreational center for blacks in the days of segregation, but it has lain dormant since it was destroyed by Hurricane Hazel in 1954.

Now the 23 acres that stretch from the mainland side of U.S. 17 across Midway Creek to the south tip of Litchfield Beach may be revived as something else with a change of ownership and formation of a development company.

Alex Sanders, recent U.S. Senate candidate, former state legislator, chief judge of the state Appeals Court and college president, had a half-interest in the property for 28 years but sold it July 3 to McKenzie Beach LLC, a company formed May 21.

Michael "Toddy" Smith of Columbia is the attorney for the company.

"I cannot divulge who the principals are," Smith said. Nor could he say what the company's plans are or if it has any, and whether it is attempting to acquire the other half-interest in the property.

Georgetown County Planning and Zoning has not received any applications from the company, said interim Chief Planner Paul Battaglino.

The owners of the other half-interest in the property are children of the late Walter Manigault who do not live in the area.

How Sanders came to acquire part of a storied property that once drew black beachgoers from across the state only adds to the lore of McKenzie Beach.

He bought his half-interest in 1976 from famed civil rights firebrand Modjeska Simpkins. She was a leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and it was on her dining-room table that the documents were signed in South Carolina's portion of the Brown v. Board of Education case that reversed the "separate but equal" precedent.

"Mrs. Simpkins and I were very close to each other during the turbulent period of the civil rights era," Sanders said.

He was one of the few white activists in the NAACP and vigorously defended her against accusations that she was a communist.

She knew he liked to come to Pawleys Island and offered her share of the land to him. He paid $25,000 for it in 1976. He sold it for $380,000.

Simpkins, whose family owned a black-oriented bank in Columbia, was recruited by Walter Manigault to step in and help when Frank McKenzie couldn't pay the mortgage from the Small Business Administration that he took out to rebuild McKenzie Beach.

In 1956, Simpkins and Manigault, a mortician, paid Frank and Elizabeth McKenzie $5 and assumption of the mortgage to SBA, which was owed $40,153.

Sanders said Simpkins, who died in 1992, told him she wanted McKenzie to rebuild the facility and give him back the property, but it never happened.

Sanders said he and the Manigaults often talked about doing something with the property but that it has problems that will be hard to solve.

Some believe Frank McKenzie didn't acquire the land properly, and that cloud remained on the title, Sanders said.

The other main issue is access to the beach. The causeway McKenzie built across Midway Creek was destroyed by Hazel, and it is unlikely that permits for such a structure could be obtained under modern regulations.

Road access is closed off by a gated community on the south end of Litchfield Beach.

Sanders said that besides being a place of historical significance, McKenzie Beach is most likely the only beachfront property between Myrtle Beach and Charleston still in black ownership.

The Manigault heirs could not be reached for comment.

McKenzie Beach held fond memories for many of those who visited.

In an interview with The Sun News in 1996, former Pawleys Island Magistrate Nathan Brown said he missed the place.

"We used to come over to the pavilion and dance the night away," he said. "We had wonderful times."

"It was all we had at one time, and it would be nice to have a place we could still call our own," Brown said.

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