Andrew Dys

Rock Hill crash damages sign honoring S.C.’s first black female lawmaker

At the S.C. Department of Transportation sign shop, workdays are spent replacing and fixing road signs that are clipped, run over and smashed by drivers.

But the most recently smashed York County sign was not just any sign – it bears the name of a political trailblazer in the neighborhood she called home.

A hit-and-run driver in Rock Hill damaged a sign honoring the first-ever black woman to serve in the General Assembly, the late Juanita Goggins.

To make matters worse, the driver damaged an expensive sign at the entrance to the Boyd Hill community that elderly neighbors do not have the money to replace.

The signs are on Rock Hill’s West Main Street at the corner of Bynum Avenue, just west of Cherry Road. Police are investigating, but it remains unclear who ran over the green “Juanita Goggins Highway” sign and cracked in half the wooden “Boyd Hill” neighborhood sign.

Goggins, a teacher, was first elected in 1974, re-elected in 1976 and 1978 before illness ended her political career in 1980. She died in 2010.

The stretch of West Main Street between Cherry Road and Heckle Boulevard was named in her honor a year before she died.

Her ex-husband, retired Rock Hill dentist Dr. Horace Goggins, still lives at the western limit of the neighborhood. An identical sign for eastbound motorists stands in front of the Goggins home as a proud reminder of Juanita Goggins’ service.

“It is a real shame that someone would hit the other sign,” Goggins said. “And to make it worse, whomever did it did not stop and tell anyone. That is what hurts the most.”

The sign was damaged just a couple of weeks before the Democratic National Convention arrives 25 miles north in Charlotte. Juanita Goggins was the first black woman from South Carolina to serve on the Democratic National Committee, which runs the convention.

A sign that honored Boyd Hill as Rock Hill’s neighborhood of the year in 1996 was also damaged, but a wooden neighborhood sign is a loss that has neighbors upset.

The custom-made “Boyd Hill Community, families working together” neighborhood sign – up since the mid 1990s – is identical to a sign on Constitution Boulevard on the other side of the neighborhood. The sign would cost more than $1,500 to replace.

“We don’t have that kind of money,” said Joe McMoore, president of the neighborhood association. “We had two fundraisers all those years ago to buy those signs. The signs are there so that everyone would feel welcome coming into Boyd Hill. Boyd Hill belongs to the people.”

Boyd Hill, bordered by Cherry Road to the east and Heckle Boulevard to the west, is home to many elderly residents who have lived in the predominantly black neighborhood for decades. A floodlight that shines on the sign so it can be seen at night also was destroyed.

“We love our signs and love our neighborhood,” said Floree Hooper, another neighborhood association member. “The sign welcomes people who live here home, but it also welcomes everyone to Boyd Hill.”

State Department of Transportation workers, alerted to the damage Monday by The Herald, immediately re-posted the state-owned Goggins sign on two new metal poles.

The poles that were sheared off in the wreck are made to break away if hit by a vehicle, said David Kelly, foreman of the sign shop for DOT’s York County operation.

The Goggins sign was warped and bent by the impact, but workers Ron Winters and Lee Wade, along with a state prison inmate from a work-release program, were able to save the sign.

A new sign would have cost several hundred dollars, Kelly said.

After his work was done, Lee said: “This sign matters to people. Nobody should knock it down.”

Want to help?

To donate to the Boyd Hill Neighborhood Association for a replacement sign, write to Joe McMoore, president, Boyd Hill neighborhood association, 324 Berry St., Rock Hill, S.C. 29732.