South Carolina Town Pays Tribute to Isaac Woodard, Black WWII Veteran Blinded by Police 73 Years Ago

Isaac Woodard was beaten and blinded in Batesburg, S.C. more than 73 years ago. Saturday, the town acknowledged its history with a marker honoring Woodard.

On Feb. 12, 1946, Sgt. Isaac Woodard had just received an honorable discharge from Camp Gordon and boarded a bus heading home to North Carolina.

Before the black World War II veteran could arrive, however, he was beaten and blinded in a racist attack by police in Batesburg, S.C., that historians say played a significant role in undoing segregation in America.

Woodard’s attack brought attention to racism in the U.S. and might have influenced President Harry Truman’s decision to desegregate the military. The same year Woodard was beaten, Truman created a Commission on Civil Rights, and in 1948 he issued an executive order to end segregation in the military.

On Saturday, almost 73 years to the day after the incident, the town of Batesburg-Leesville honored Woodard and unveiled a marker paying homage to him and soldiers who have been blinded. To recognize those veterans, the back of the marker is in Braille.

Don North, the president of the Sgt. Isaac Woodard Historical Marker Association, began raising funds for the marker more than a year ago. After assistance from Disabled American Veterans and the town of Batesburg-Leesville, the $2,000 was raised and the marker was installed at the site of the bus depot where Woodard was attacked.

North, who refers to himself as a layman historian, said the ceremony is just one phase of an ongoing project to honor Woodard. He said he is working on a documentary about Woodard and will begin petitioning for a postal stamp with Woodard’s likeness.

“We’re one army now,” North said. “It all goes back to Woodard.”