Fort Mill 11 No. 2: Rufus Sanders

January 1, 2013 

— Although he’s proud of the place as a whole, there’s one particular room in the brand new Fort Mill History Museum that causes Rufus Sanders to light up like a Christmas tree. It’s the “John and Mary Sanders Research Library” named for his parents.

The cost of the room was underwritten by the couple’s grandchildren.

Rufus Sanders, known as “Rudy” to his friends, did not single-handily get this long-awaited museum, built. Far from it. This achievement can be shared among several dedicated citizens, including Director Ann Evans and former Board of Directors Chair Elizabeth Ford.

He did, however, passionately deliver a rock solid case to the Fort Mill Town Council while requesting money from the town. The financial assistance was needed to keep momentum for the museum project. Council agreed and before long, a grand opening and ribbon cutting was held Dec. 6 at the museum’s building at 310 N. White St., next to Springs Insurance Co.

The museum includes 500 years of history, beginning with Spanish exploration. It also has documents and other information visitors can use for research from genealogy to academic papers. In the Sanders library, Rufus Sanders points to a collection of encyclopedias. Useful even in the digital age, Sanders shared why the reference books are also symbolic.

His late parents, including John, a member of the Fort Mill Hall of Fame Class of 2011, valued education and made sure their home in Fort Mill’s Paradise neighborhood, which was and still is predominately African American, had a set of encyclopedias. But it wasn’t just the Sanders children who used them back in the day, when segregation kept African Americans from attending public school with whites.

“The neighborhood kids used to go to the Sanders home to use the encyclopedias,” Rufus Sanders said.

“So, it’s very fitting for them to have this honor.”

To learn more about the museum, go to fortmillhistorymuseum.org.

Michael Harrison

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