Some of Walterboro's best gems are hidden in the depths of history. With some direction and proper knowledge, visitors can appreciate what the locals have been admiring for hundreds of years.
No trip to Walterboro is complete without a visit to the World War II memorial dedicated to the young, enlisted men who served as our country’s first black military airmen. The Tuskegee Airmen Monument honors those brave soldiers who received their final months of combat instruction in Walterboro. Although these heroes trained on the Walterboro Army Airfield, the memorial stands on the grounds of Colleton County’s Lowcountry Regional Airport.
The vigorous training the airmen underwent consumed their days from dawn to dusk for three months. During their service, they flew hundreds of patrol and attack missions in three different types of planes: the Air Cobra, Thunderbolt and Kittyhawk. Unfortunately, several men died flying “The Jug,” the nickname given to the nose-heavy Thunderbolt. More than 1,000 heroic Tuskegee Airmen, known as the Red Tails, flew 1,578 missions, resulting in 15,000 attacks while recording among the fewest losses of all escort fighter groups.
Although segregation was still practiced in those days, many white bomber crews requested to have the black pilots serve as their escorts, prompting President Harry Truman to sign an Executive Order calling for the equal treatment and opportunity of all races in the United States Armed Forces. This monument is a small token of appreciation to everyone who fought for the American people.
The Slave Relic Museum is the first African-American historical museum dedicated to recording documents and interpreting, preserving and embracing the cultures of people of African descent. Danny Drain, owner and creator of the museum, also established a center for research and preservation of the African-American culture within the museum. Visitors will find heirlooms, artifacts, written letters and photographs chronicling the African slave trade, along with the history of enslaved Africans in South Carolina. Exhibits feature plantation relics, unique documents, furniture, Underground Railroad memorabilia and slave blankets.
Canoe enthusiasts will appreciate the craftsmanship displayed by Carolina Custom Canoe Paddles. The little-known company is owned and operated by Walterboro native James Herndon, a collision-repair technician. James creates his beautiful paddles using soft and exotic woods sourced from Lowcountry vendors. While he's not seen much on social media, you can find him at the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition held annually in Charleston If you're interested in purchasing one of his distinctive paddles, place your order ahead of your next trip to Walterboro. Although most people purchase his showpieces as artwork, these paddles are fully functional and can be used recreationally.