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History of the Mays Historic Site

The site had its earliest beginnings with the acquisition of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays' birth home in 2004 when it was moved from its original location on US-178 in the Epworth Community.

The family who owned the home refused to release it. They were using it as a barn for hay storage and it was beginning to deteriorate badly. In 2002 a meeting was held in Greenwood to discuss acquisition of the home. It included Dr. Larry Jackson, president of Lander University; Dr. Joseph Patton, CEO of GLEAMNS; Mr. Frank Wideman, president of the Self Family Founda- tion; County Councilman, Mr. Gonza Bryant; Mr. Steve Brown, City Manager; and Mr. Kenneth Driggers and Ms. Jennifer Satterthwaite of the S.C. Palmetto Conservation Foundation. After the meeting, Mrs. Griffith was approached and she agreed to sell the home for $4,000 and required that it be moved.

For context, this culminated a more than twenty-year effort to secure the home which began in November 1981 at the Mays Crossroads Dedication in Epworth. During the dedication, Dr. Mays visited his home a few feet away with Congressman William Jennings Bryan Dorn and Dr. Larry Jackson of Lander University and assured them that the home was indeed his birth place. (Seven years prior to this event in the summer of 1974 during the filming of Born to Rebel, Dr. Mays is seen standing in front of the home declaring that “this is where I first saw the light of the day, just before the turn of the century.")

It was at the Mays Crossroads Dedication that Dr. Mays' confided to his secretary, Mrs. Sally Warner, that "he wished that his birth home could be saved."
In late 2004, Dr. Mays' birth home was moved to vacant land on the GLEAMNS campus at the insistence of Dr. Patton because of the historical nature and meaning of the campus to African Americans in Greenwood. The campus encompasses the old Brewer School which was founded in 1872 as the Brewer Industrial Normal School for Colored. It served as a black high school as far back as the 1920's up until integration around 1971 at which time the school was converted to a Greenwood District 50 middle school.
The campus also encompasses the old Brewer Hospital for blacks during segregation as well as the building which housed the black nurses. The Brewer Lab trained about seventy-five percent of the black nurses in South Carolina. Around 2005, the Burns Spring School was donated to the Benjamin E. Mays Historic Site and the Mays Museum (the barn) was built around 2006. Around this time the sidewalks were poured and a wrought iron fence and electronic access gate were placed around the site property. However, the school, museum, and birth home sat empty until 2010. In the fall of 2009 Mr. Loy Sartin, who had retired from a 29-year Air Force career and a 11-year career with Greenwood School District 50, met with Dr. Joe Patton and volunteered to set up the historic site.
During the 13-month period from March 2010 - April 2011, Mr. Sartin worked relentlessly and tirelessly to completely set up the site which included furnishing the birth home, schoolhouse, and the Mays Museum.

In addition, he planted the first garden and cotton field as well as planted three oak trees, shrubs around the house and school, and set up the yard with a wash pot and tubs for clean ing clothes. He also built a well from very old lumber and a cedar post clothesline. On April 26, 2011, the Benjamin E. Mays Historic Site was dedicated. A stage and tent were set up in the parking lot and the dedication ceremony drew over 1000 people from across the nation. Television and radio stations descended on the site to record the magnificent event. The Morehouse Glee Club Quartet provided music while the speakers, among others, included Dr. Mays' last niece, Mrs. Bernice Mays Perkins of Cleveland, OH; Dr. Samuel Dubois Cook who eulogized Dr. Mays on Mar 31, 1984; and Keynote Speaker, Ambassador Andrew Young of Atlanta, GA. 

After the dedication, Dr. Joseph Patton continued to provide outstanding direction for the Mays Historic Site until his retirement in 2016. Mr. Sartin continued to serve the Site as a volunteer and eventually as a paid director. Up until his retirement in 2017, he conducted hundreds of tours annually and gave an untold number of Mays Site presentations at schools, universities and churches in South Carolina and Georgia. He continues to serve voluntarily giving tours when needed, maintaining the flower beds, and planting/maintaining the annual garden and educational cotton field.