Beaufort News

New Hilton Head American Legion post named for Arthur Wiley

A new American Legion post on Hilton Head Island will hold a dedication ceremony Jan. 24 to recognize its new charter and honor its namesake, one of the island's native sons.

American Legion Post 49 will honor Arthur Wiley, a lifelong Hilton Head resident and a World War I veteran who was instrumental in getting the Cherry Hill School built, American Legion member Perry White said.

The ceremony will be at 11 a.m. at St. James Baptist Church on Beach City Road, across the street from the historic, former native-island school. Wiley also served as a deacon at the church, White said.

Wiley took up the challenge by the Beaufort County School District to raise money to buy one acre for the one-room schoolhouse in 1937. He went to churches and door-to-door raising money to purchase the land. When the school opened, his children went there, White said.

The first school for native island Gullah children is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Wiley, who was born on Hilton Head in 1896 and died in 1961, joined the Army in 1918, training at then-Camp Jackson outside Columbia. Few other details of his service are known because his records were destroyed in a fire, White said.

White, a neighbor of the Wiley family in his youth, has spent the past four months researching Wiley's history.

White said four of Wiley's children live locally and are expected to attend the ceremony. They will receive a plaque recognizing Wiley and the new post, said Post 49 member Ken James.

Planning for the new chapter began in November 2013, after it set up meetings with about 30 other veterans, White said. By the third meeting, the members had chosen to form an American Legion post. In April 2014, they received their charter.

James said the post is one of only a handful to be named for an African American.

White said there were several nominations for naming the post, but Wiley was chosen for his local legacy and his family's military pedigree. Four sons, eight grandchildren, and one great-grandchild all served in the military, White said.

"None of our other nominations could match the trail Mr. Wiley had as it relates to the military," White said.

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