Charlie Simmons Sr.'s commemorative marker will be placed on Spanish Wells Road near Jarvis Creek.
It reads: "Before the Island's first bridge, Charles Simmons Sr. became known as "Mr. Transportation" among the local community which was made up of descendants of freed slaves following the Civil War.
Until the late 1920s, sailboats were the primary means of transportation to and from the Island. Mr. Simmons bought the first locally owned motorboat. That boat meant that Islanders could make three trips to Savannah each week rather than one. Mr. Simmons also ran a general store, and when Islanders asked for an item he didn't have, he would have it the next day. Mr. Simmons' boats served a vital role in transporting goods and people to the Island."
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It's been a long time coming but Charlie Simmons Sr. -- known on Hilton Head Island as "Mr. Transportation" -- has finally gotten his due, a marker that remembers his work.
More than a hundred people gathered Saturday at the Discovery House of the Coastal Discovery Museum to honor the native islander who for decades ferried food, goods and people to and from the mainland before the first bridge was built.
Speakers shared memories of Simmons, who died in 2005 just two months short of his 100th birthday. Locals have been looking for a way to commemorate his legacy ever since.
A deacon at First African Baptist Church on Hilton Head, Simmons attended Bible study and prayer meetings until the end of his life, his pastor, Dr. Alvin Petty, said.
He was a friend to all and called everyone by the same nickname -- "cuz", said Bill Ferguson, a native islander and veteran Hilton Head Island town councilman.
Generations of the Simmons family, from his widow, Mary, to his great grandchildren, were invited to stand moments before the monument was unveiled.
There were gasps and applause as the curtain came off the tall black marker. Gold lettering describes the many hats Simmons wore. The marker will be placed on Spanish Wells Road near Jarvis Creek.
Simmons owned the island's first motorboat and with it linked the locals to essentials from medicine to education. He raised livestock, ran a dock and general store and loaned money to those in need before the island had a bank.
"He fed many a hungry people," said speaker and native islander Benjamin Stewart.
Simmons' son, 81-year-old Spanish Wells resident Charles Simmons Jr., said the commemoration took a lot of work as most worthwhile things do. For native islanders, honoring Simmons' legacy means "a whole lot", he said.
Gloria Pace of Savannah, Simmons' grand-niece, said the family will be able to look at the marker and feel proud.
"Look at it," she said. "it's beautiful. That is perfect."