The Richburg family was honored to celebrate the 100th birthday of patriarch Stonewall McKinney Richburg recently at Spring Valley High School. Festivities began with a birthday drive-by and concluded with a proclamation from Richland County Council, a presentation of the Centenarian Award from the Office of Governor Henry McMaster, and remarks from Steve Benjamin, Mayor of the City of Columbia.
Stonewall McKinney Richburg was born in Tuskegee, Alabama on August 14, 1921. Richburg began serving his country upon induction into the United States Army in 1943. His first assignment was to the Columbia (SC) Army Air Base. In 1945, he completed the Army Engineer Officer Candidate School, where he was among the top ten of 91 graduates (and the only African-American) from a class of 334 candidates. He served in the Philippines during World War II from 1945-1946 and in the Korean conflict from 1951-1952. Richburg retired from the military in 1961 as Captain in the Army Reserve Corps of Engineers.
While serving in the Army, Richburg made Columbia his home and began his career as an educator in 1946. While attending church service with his future wife and her family, Richburg was introduced to Mr. C. A. Johnson, then Supervisor of Negro Schools. Shortly thereafter, Johnson offered Richburg a position at Booker T. Washington High School (“BTWHS”), a segregated school in Columbia, as its first teacher of mechanical drawing and blueprint reading. Richburg became principal of BTWHS in 1965. His seven years as principal included the beginning of desegregation and the start of the integration of Richland County schools. Public school desegregation in the state and the expansion of the University of South Carolina led to the closing of BTWHS in 1974. At that time, Richburg began working at the school district office.
Richburg retired from education in 1983, after 37 years of service in Columbia and Richland County School District One. Following his retirement, he continued to work for the district as a substitute for administrators and maintained his membership in the National Education Association, the South Carolina Education Association, the Richland County Education Association, and other professional education organizations including Phi Delta Kappa. In 2011, Richburg was one of six inductees into the district’s Hall of Fame, the highest honor bestowed upon individuals by the district’s Board of School Commissioners.
Richburg maintains membership in several organizations, to include the Booker T. Washington High School Foundation and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated. He is featured in the University of South Carolina Museum of Education’s “So Their Voices Will Never Be Forgotten” exhibition. Richburg visited the university to discuss the struggle for civil rights and the desegregation of schools in Columbia with students pursuing careers in education. Richburg is an alumnus of Columbia’s Alpha Iota Boulé of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity— the oldest African-American Greekletter fraternity.
Richburg, who is affectionately called “Stoney,” was blessed with 71 years of marriage to the late Geneva Smith, a Columbia native. Together, they share four children, eight grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren —many of whom participated in the birthday drive-by in Columbia to commemorate this milestone birthday and legacy.