Gravestone for Thomas C. Cox, Charleston, South Carolina.

The FIRST African-American sheriff in Darlington County was Thomas C. Cox. Cox, a freeborn native of Charleston, SC, was elected as sheriff of Darlington County in July 1868 and served 2 consecutive terms, ending in 1876.  Cox came to Darlington to teach, and served as the first teacher of African-American students at Wilson School on the corner of Dargan and Palmetto Streets.  He was succeeded by Rev. Joshua E. Wilson.

I feel that I may need to dispel the myth that Cox, being a Reconstruction sheriff, was inherently corrupt.  W. A. Brunson of Darlington, the former president of the Pee Dee Historical Society, said in his work Reminiscences of Reconstruction in Darlington, that “Cox was not a corrupt man.”  On the occasion of the death of Thomas C. Cox, the Darlington News reported that “although an office-holder in the days of fraud and corruption, Cox bore a good reputation, both as to his personal conduct and to his management of the Shrievalty.”

Darlington News, October 19, 1893.

Thomas Cox understood turbulent politics, the polarizing effects of racial divide, and the harsh reality of our local, post-Civil War poverty.  Yet, through all of this, the historical record shows that he navigated the perils, temptations and pitfalls of power, and stood as a man of honor and integrity.

Darlington County Election Results as printed in the Daily Phoenix, Columbia, SC, July 4, 1868.

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