Photo by Will Warasila

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Thomas Curtis Barnwell, Jr.

Thomas Curtis Barnwell, Jr., was born in 1935 on Hilton Head Island, SC, and is a fourth-generation islander who is considered one of the Gullah elders of the island. Barnwell grew up on Hilton Head Island when the only transportation on and off the island was by boat. Like his fellow islanders, he attended the small community schools on Hilton Head through sixth grade, then had to leave the island to attend middle school, high school, and college.

Barnwell’s work and professional career was primarily in Beaufort County, SC, and included community organizing, community development in healthcare as founding director of Beaufort-Jasper Comprehensive Health Services, affordable housing and cooperatives, and development of family land.

Barnwell testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Hunger and Malnutrition and Human Needs in February 1969 and before the House Committee on Banking, Currency, and Housing relating to the National Consumer Cooperative Bank Act in June 1976.

Thomas Curtis Barnwell's contributions: