Deaths - The State Newspapers, July 11, 2002 - Hugo Ackerman
Mr. Ackerman, widower of Helen Till Ackerman, died July 9, 2002. Born in Cottageville, he was a son of the late James and Cora Sheridan Ackerman. He was a World War II U.S. Army veteran, a member of St. Paul's United Methodist Church and had retired as a teacher from Orangeburg High School. Surviving are brother, David Ackerman of Walnut Creek Calif.; two nieces and two nephews.
Memorials may be made to Orangeburg Historical Society, PO Box 1881, Orangeburg SC 29116
A tribute from the OGS Newsletter, Winter 1988, Volume 2, NO. 9
At Oktoberfest VII, October 3, 1987, the program included a tribute to Huge Sheridan Ackerman in recognition of and appreciation for his generous assistance to The Orangeburgh German-Swiss Genealogical Society during the formative years of the society and to individual members of OGS doing research on their family histories at the A.S. Salley Archives. The tribute was expressed on a plaque presented to the honoree along with a new electronic typewriter. However, these tokens were not all. The officers of OGS unanimously acted to present a framed portrait of Mr. Ackerman to the Orangeburg County Historical Society to hang in the Salley Archives Building in recognition of the years of dedicated service that he has devoted to the protection and preservation of local historical records. One year later, the portrait was completed and ready to present at the Fall Meeting of the Historical Society. On Sunday afternoon, November 13, 1988, the portrait was unveiled and presented by Richard Rhame on behalf of the Orangeburgh German-Swiss Genealogical Society to J. West Summers, who received it for the Orangeburg County Historical Society.
The decision to honor Orangeburg's first official archivist was a part of the OGS celebration of the 250th anniversary of the established settlement at Orangeburgh by the Palatines during 1735-1737, the period which began the recorded history of the town and outlying countryside. Thus the members of OGS recognized the value of an unsung hero's dedicated service to posterity and they took steps to assure that Orangeburg's historian and archivist would never be "the prophet who is not without honor save in his own country."
Hugo Sheridan Ackerman was born at Red Oak near Cottageville in Colleton County. Ten years later, his family moved to Orangeburg, here his father became associated with The Times and Democrat and thus began what was to become a life-long interest in newspapers, journalism and the history of Orangeburg. After his graduation from Orangeburg High School, he attended Wofford College where he was elected to the Blue Key national leadership fraternity, the International Relations Club, initiated into Lambda Chi Alpha social fraternity, and named editor of The Old Gold and Black, the college newspaper. After graduation from Wofford, he earned a Master's Degree at Duke University. Then for three summers he did graduate study at the University of South Carolina working toward a Ph.D. in history. It was at Duke, however, that he learned newspaper research, a technique that years later would become the major source for his writing and his principal means of delving into the historical past. At USC, he discovered that the most complete file of newspapers from any South Carolina community was the collection of Orangeburg newspapers. "Newspapers of an era give a complete chronological account of the local happenings and are invaluable in giving an accurate picture of its history," he said.
His formal education having been completed, he was ready to begin his career, but instead he became a victim of the Great Depression and had to take whatever odd jobs that he could find. "I 'jerked soda' at Dr. Adam Cherry's drug store. I took up tickets at the old Blue Bird theater and even spent a few months in a Civilian Conservation Corps camp. I worked at Belk's Department Store for four years before being sent to Walterboro as assistant manager of the Belk-Hudson store there." Fortunately, for the future fulfillment of his intended career, he was advised by his physician to seek an "easier" profession.
At this point, the country was recovering from the economic hardships of the Depression years, and better-paying positions were opening up in the public schools. "That's when I decided to teach," he said. He had the offer of a teaching or an administrative position in the Orangeburg City School system if he would get two years of experience somewhere else. "I was hired as principal of the grammar school in Cameron. I was also assistant football coach and basketball coach -- probably the only coach in the state who had never played a game in his life!" If the sports had included tennis, he would have been an ideal coach, having played on the Wofford tennis team.
In 1940, with a decade of sundry experiences behind him, Hugo S. Ackerman began his long and successful career teaching history, journalism, and social studies at Orangeburg High School, from which he retired thirty-three years later in 1973. The years at OHS were interrupted only by three years and seven months of military service in the U.S. Army from April 1942 to November 1945. At one point, he was sent to the University of Cincinnati to learn French in order to become an interpreter in France; however, after completing the course, he was sent to New Guinea instead and, later serving in the Philippines, he took part in the capture of Manila before returning to the States, to civilian life, and to teaching. During the next twenty-eight years, thousands of local students learned the required history in his classes, and many acquired an appreciation for a sense of history in their lives. Among his students of those years are two past presidents of OGS - Harold W. Syfrett and Josephine Freeland Shuler; the current president, Alfred S. Gramling, and vice-president, James H. Gressette, each of whom also holds membership in the Orangeburg County Historical Society. Reflecting on their high school days, these four readily agree that "Mr. Ackerman really made a difference in our views about history. His knowledge of his subject and his special ability to teach it to others excited us and instilled in us a curiosity to know more about our past." The Times and Democrat for which he writes his weekly column, "Orangeburg Out of the Past," says about him: "Hugo Ackerman has probably forgotten more about Orangeburg and its history than any other individual will know. But what he remembers would fill volumes." And to fill volumes with his own history of Orangeburg has been his long-range goal and the motive for his accumulation of data through his own meticulous research, largely drawn from old newspapers, diaries, and personal papers in the Archives collection.
"My history is planned to be a source material for the writing of other histories. It will not only be of local interest, but of interest to the rest of the state in its relationship to state history," he said.
One particular period that concerns him is the half-century between 1800 and 1850. "There's a great lack of authentic material on that fifty years in Orangeburg: there were no newspapers to refer to and practically all of the official records were destroyed when Sherman's army burned Columbia in the 1860's." Over the years, his weekly column has reflected excerpts from his volumes of research notes and his readers continue to enjoy weekly history lessons every Sunday. Thus his strong academic background, his long teaching experience, his expertise in research, together with his affinity for the world of newspapers combine in his post-retirement career as writer, historian, and curator of the Orangeburg archives.
During his years of teaching history and later during his retirement years as archivist, he has not been alone. Early in his career, he married the former Miss Helen Till of Hammond, Louisiana, and he and Mrs. Ackerman enjoy the quiet life of a small Southern town in their lovely home on Edisto Avenue. While he is an avid tennis enthusiast, both he and Mrs. Ackerman enjoy their hobby of home gardening. To add to the beauty of their garden, he mastered the art of bricklaying and built a series of low walls around the flower beds. "There's something satisfying about laying bricks. It's permanent," he said. Perhaps that quality of permanence is what he is striving to add to the vast collection of miscellaneous data at the Salley Archives so that future generations of Orangeburgians will have a permanently preserved chronicle of Orangeburg's historical past.
Josephine Freeland Shuler, Assistant Editor and Past PResident, OGSGS