As a noisy train rumbles through a quiet part of Berkeley County, a small town is making big plans to honor a native son.
“I want to thank my hometown of St. Stephen. St. Stephen is a little town with one stop light and if it happens to be green, you’ll never see it. You’ll only see it if it’s red and you have to stop," Dr. Leo F. Twiggs said.
Twiggs made the comment after being inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame over the weekend. He’s a renowned artist, and started the art department at then South Carolina State College along with the I.P. Stanback Museum. He chaired the art department until he retired in 1998.
“He is a significant person who has done a lot of important things,” Dr. George West said.
West has known Twiggs all his life and looked up to him as a mentor. West is part of a committee organizing a celebration for Twiggs in St. Stephen.
Like many African American children during segregation, Dr. Twiggs got his start at an all black school. The building is gone, but there’s an historical marker, showing where St. Stephen Colored School used to sit.
The house where Twiggs grew up is still standing, he’s the oldest of seven children. His father died when he was just 15 years old.
West recounts what Twiggs’ father said on his dying bed to his young son.
“Leo, I don’t think I’m gonna make it, but when I die, you’re the man of the house," West said.
Twiggs got a job at the old Funk Theater as a janitor. It’s now a church, but in its day, this building was a place where blacks and whites would watch movies under the same roof.
He eventually got a promotion at the theater, and when he went off to college at Claflin, he continued to work and send money home to his family.
“It was just a gift he had, and still has,” West said.
That gift of art was Twiggs' ticket to success and fame.
He is a master of batik, a painting technique that uses wax, cloth and dye to make shapes and patterns. He focuses on the role of relics, images, and icons of southern culture, past and present.
Now that the state of South Carolina has recognized him as one of the most accomplished individuals of the state, it’s time for the hometown crowd to pay homage to the young boy, who would make his small community proud.
“I’m blessed because I know I didn’t get to this place by myself. That there were people like you praying for me, caring about me and thinking about me and supporting me," Twiggs said.
The town of St. Stephen will host Dr. Leo Twiggs day on Saturday. There will be a ceremony starting at 1 p.m. at Timberland High School. It is free to the public and refreshments will be served.
The South Carolina Department of Transportation will be placing signs in the town noting that it is the childhood home of renowned artist Dr. Leo F. Twiggs.