Will Moredock hated motorcycles, pissed off Charleston’s entire F&B industry, and caused a whole raft of problems for the business side of the City Paper when said F&B industry boycotted the newspaper and stopped buying ads for a while. He was even allegedly banned from the Rec Room.
I loved him for it.
He passed away last week, and I’ve been thinking about how lucky we were to have him as part of the City Paper for so long. Looking back at his hundreds of articles, I’m amazed at the important issues he railed against then and how they continue to be important to this day.
He was woke long before it became a hashtag for newly enlightened white Americans.
He advocated for removing statues of racist men back in 2014 when he wrote about the long, shameful history of “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman, a fire-breathing racist that terrorized South Carolina’s black citizens, and called for his bronze likeness outside the state capitol to be toppled. In that same story, he talked about his backwards education in S.C. where the Civil War was called the Confederate War and how he didn’t learn about black history until college, where he read the likes of Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston.
“Learning that black people actually had a history and a culture was like discovering a secret, invisible nation hiding right here in our midst, shoulder-to-shoulder with the white nation I had inhabited so blithely. It was a nation with its own history and heroes, its leaders and martyrs, its writers and artists, most of whom I had never heard of. I had never known that African Americans served in every American war, built the transcontinental railroad, journeyed to the Pacific Ocean with Lewis and Clark and to the North Pole with Robert Peary. I had not heard these stories because my teachers and school administrators, the white men who ran my state and who ran my church, even my own parents, did not want me to know about them.”
Education woke him up and he never lost that youthful outrage and idealism that propelled him into journalism. When he showed up in Charleston in 2002, he quickly found the City Paper as an outlet for his restrained outrage and wrote a weekly dispatch that gave our young paper editorial cred. And he did it consistently for 10 years and 500 columns for a fee that I’m embarrassed to even mention here it was so degradingly low for the type of work he put into his writing.
But he did it for more than money. I think he had a blast taking people to task and fighting the Good Fight, as his column was called.
He constantly tweaked the Post and Courier, he saw the self-serving and usually racist underpinnings of every political act in S.C. government and called the bamboozlers out, and he even poked at other CP columnists for their white privilege.
We missed his writing deeply when he left the column behind in 2012, but he contributed occasionally after that when he had something to say.
He was the ultimate newspaper columnist. He wrote to the word count, hit his deadlines, and always, always had something prescient to say.
He taught me a lot about the world of South Carolina politics and education. When my daughter had to take S.C. History not once but twice during her public education, I loudly complained and engaged her in conversations about what she’d learned about slavery. When she told me it was a short chapter on what slaves daily lives were like on the plantation, we engaged in a longer discussion where we talked about the economic exploitation, dehumanization, and brutality. In other words, I channeled Moredock in an attempt to educate my daughter about the black history that our state’s official history books fail to provide.
I am grateful for Moredock and others like him who are not afraid to speak truth to power and fight that good fight. While there are still more fights to be had, Will leaves this world a better place for being in it.
Stephanie Barna co-founded the Charleston City Paper in 1997 and served as its editor until 2014. Love Best of Charleston? Help the Charleston City Paper keep Best of Charleston going every year with a donation. Or sign up to become a member of the Charleston City Paper club.
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