In my quest to learn and share as much of the history of the people who have lived in Orangeburg County as possible, I recently located the first woman to be elected to the Orangeburg City Council and the first woman to run for public office and winning an election.
Nell Blackmon put his hat in the political race in 1957 for a position on the Orangeburg City Council. It was some 18 years before women and blacks were elected to our government. Indeed, Blackmon was way ahead of his time.
In 1936 Blackmon was employed by the First National Bank of Orangeburg as a clerk. In 1945, she enrolled in the largest class of nurse’s aides ever established in Orangeburg, which had 33 students. And in 1955, she was appointed treasurer of the 1955 Heart Fund Drive.
On February 19, 1957, The T&D wrote: “Miss Blackmon enters the race for a seat on the town council. Miss Nell Blackmon, a longtime resident of Orangeburg, announced her candidacy for City Council yesterday.
“Miss Blackmon said, ‘I feel I can make a contribution to Orangeburg and particularly in the area of the economy within the city government.’
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“Miss Blackmon has been associated with First National Bank for nearly 20 years. She has been active in all phases of civic life. She has participated in various fundraising campaigns including: The Cancer Drive, March of Dimes and Heart Fund.During World War II, she was a Red Cross nurse, a member of the Red Cross Motor Corps and also participated in the Bond Drives.She is a member of St. Paul’s Methodist Church.
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“Miss Blackmon’s friends said she was ‘willing to run for this office just because of her experience, her interest in Orangeburg, and because so many people urged her to do so.’ She not only understands the needs of the city from a business point of view, but also from a woman’s point of view.
“Many of his friends think Orangeburg would benefit from having a woman’s firm hand in city affairs.
“Ms. Blackmon has expressed a keen interest in civic and industrial growth as well as parks, playgrounds and recreational facilities for the citizens of Orangeburg.
“Nell, as she is affectionately known to almost everyone in Orangeburg, is the first woman to run for this position in Orangeburg history. And this is the first time she has run for a position. .”
Then, on Wednesday, September 11, 1957, election results resulted in the election of the first woman to the Orangeburg City Council, Nell Blackmon. Blackmon garnered the second highest number of votes in the entire election. She received a total of 1,404 votes.
In no time, she started her business by getting involved in the decision-making process in the municipal government.
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The T&D wrote on March 19, 1958: “Motion to Ensure City Oversight of Utilities Rejected – An extremely lengthy session of City Council on Tuesday evening saw a motion to effect changes in the service of utilities, by the Councilor Nell Blackmon and seconded by the City Councillor. Jack Wannamaker, rejected by the other two councilors and Mayor Clyde Fair.
“Councillor Blackmon has sought to have the administration of the Department of Utilities included in the city government and to have all utility funds transferred to the city. Ms. Blackmon said that under the current setup, “the city has two treasurers”.
“Councillor Blackmon said, ‘I move the following as a motion: That the Office of the City Treasurer be the fiscal agent for the City of Orangeburg and that all monies due to the City of Orangeburg and that all monies due from the Town of Orangeburg be received and disbursed at the Treasurer’s Office.
“In the motion brought by Councilor Blackmon, she proposed that the Utilities Department should be brought under closer scrutiny by council. Even when it came to a dog control order, Miss Blackmon weighed in fairly and rendered his opinion.
At that time, in 1957, there were only two female politicians in Orangeburg County: Miss Ellen Chaplin, the county’s first female superintendent of education, and Miss Nell Blackmon, the city’s first female councilwoman. .
At election time in April 1961, Blackmon submitted his name for re-election to the city council. She said, “During the past three years, she had the opportunity to study all departments of city government and visited each department at regular intervals.”
Voter turnout was relatively low, with less than 2,000 of the city’s roughly 4,500 registered voters taking the time and trouble to go to the polls. Blackmon approached but only received 825 votes for her position.
After serving our city government for four years, Miss Nell returned full-time to First National Bank. She joined the bank in November 1937 and retired in January 1976 after serving 38 years. During her time in banking, she worked in accounting, and as a cashier and branch manager.
The T&D reported on September 18, 1980, “Many locals enjoy the mountains – Miss Nell Blackmon reported relaxing in the mountains of North Carolina where she recently spent two weeks with her sister, Miss Annie Lee Blackmon at her at Blowing Roche.”
A pioneer woman in Orangeburg, A. Nell Blackmon died on November 19, 1990 at the age of 78 at the Regional Medical Center. She was born in 1912 to Samuel Anderson Blackmon and Carrie Ruple Blackmon. Blackmon also had two brothers, Andrew and Harry Blackmon.
Blackmon was a special part of Orangeburg and its growth and development. Certainly, she made her mark as the “first woman elected to our city council.”
Happy Women’s History Month!