By Emma Castleberry
A new mural in Old Fort honors the legacy of two of the town’s civil rights heroes: attorney George Sandlin and Albert Joyner, who tried to save a local Black school in 1950. The Catawba View Grammar School was ultimately leveled and the Black children of Old Fort were forced to take a thirty-mile bus ride to another Black school in Marion. Five years later, Joyner tried to register a group of Black children at the all-white Old Fort Elementary, but was denied.
In 2018, Kim Effler purchased the building that now displays the mural, which was once a theater owned by Sandlin. “My research led me to George’s connection with Albert Joyner and the book Greater Than Equal, which emphasized the impact that both George and Albert had on desegregation attempts,” says Effler. “I knew our building was special and that this story needed to be told.”
Effler presented her research and photos to the Old Fort Community Forum, a community-building group that meets monthly, with the suggestion of the mural. “The mural scene is comprised of three different historical images,” says Effler. “Our team wanted the mural to inspire and draw emotion upon those who see it, but also maintain historical accuracy. We shared historical facts and photos with the artist and then worked with him to create the final image.”
A subgroup of the Old Fort Community Forum is People on the Move for Old Fort, a group intended to to engage and advocate for the town’s Black residents. People on the Move for Old Fort set up a GoFundMe and raised more than $20,000 for the mural, which was painted by Florida-based artist Don Rimx. “This mural is important because it shows the bravery of Mr. Joyner and it shows that you can stand up for what is right,” says project coordinator Lavita Logan. “We have a strong African American presence here in Old Fort that a lot of people don’t know about. The mural is important because it lets people know that there are Black people that live here now, and we had a Civil Rights hero that lived here then.”
For more information, visit WestMarion.org/old-fort-community-forum.