Summerville residents celebrated Friday as local officials opened the Rollins Edwards Community Center at the Armory, the first town building named for an African American resident.
The center, at North Hickory and West 3rd North streets, was dedicated to Rollins Edwards, a veteran of World War II who survived unethical chemical testing. In 1976, the Summerville native became the first African American elected to Dorchester County Council, serving from 1976 to 1980. He was later elected to Summerville Town Council, where he served from 1989 to 1997.
Juanita Edwards thanked Councilman Aaron Brown for proposing that the community center be named after her late husband.
“My hope is that the people in this community and all over Summerville and Dorchester County will enjoy this building and will take full advantage of it,” Edwards said. “There are so many things that can be done here. We have needed this for a long time in this community and I’m so proud that it is named in honor of my husband.”
Formerly the National Guard Armory, the building was vacant for about a decade until Doyle Best, parks and recreation director for the town, suggested the possibility of transforming it into an indoor recreation facility.
“This has been a long time in the making,” Best said. “An indoor recreation facility is something this town desperately needed. From indoor athletics to meeting space; opportunities for fitness, art, music classes and more- the opportunities within these walls are virtually endless.”
Best thanked family and friends of Edwards for attending the dedication ceremony.
“It is clear to me that (Edwards) had a lasting impact on this community, on this town and on our nation,” Best said. “I’m thrilled to have his legacy live on through the programs and activities that will take place inside the walls.”
Following the dedication ceremony, guests were invited to tour the facility. A variety of programs were on display including a sweetgrass making clinic, fitness classes, pickleball game, children’s soccer and more.
The 14,000 square-foot building has a full-size gymnasium, three multipurpose rooms, a fitness room, a wellness center and catering kitchen.