Lugenia Key Hammond

Lugenia Key, the oldest of 13 children of Ella and Ed Key, was born in 1897 on the Henry Mckie plantation in Edgefield. At the age of seven, she was “hired out” for $1 a month to work as a maid to the wife of the plantation owner. She later stated, “I did some of everything to be done in the house: toting stove wood, drawing water, cleaning up the house, tending to the babies, waiting on her and helping the cook.” She, her parents and her brothers and sisters, worked as sharecroppers on the plantation. Whatever one had was shared with others. “I remembered once when we got a pea pod and roasted it and divided the peas between us. We were close-knit.” At a young age, Lugenia helped her parents with her siblings. She soon learned leadership, responsibility, hard work, high morals and strong family values. In 1914, Lugenia Key married Sam Hammond. They worked in Congaree, Trenton and Edgefield before purchasing a home in the Camp Fornance section of Columbia. The year was 1953. Camp Fornance, known as “Black Bottom” to some, was one of the most dismal residential areas in Richland County. Poverty, despair, unemployment, dilapidated buildings, inadequate health and recreational facilities blighted the area. Lugenia Key Hammond soon put her leadership skills to work. Her mission was to revitalize the community and make it a wholesome place in which to live. After understanding the needs of the people, she opened a nursery so that children could learn while their mothers worked. She taught Sunday School and instilled not only spiritual values, but also financial planning, self-respect and family cohesiveness. The community responded and Mrs. Hammond, known as “Big Mama” because of her diminutive stature and soft but stern voice, directed the efforts of a revitalized community. Clean streets, recreational facilities, meal planning, nurseries, health and dental clinic were the results of her efforts. Mrs. Hammond admonished her community that if they helped themselves and had a good track record, assistance would come. She was right! She informed political leaders such as senators Ernest Hollings and Strom Thurmond of the housing needs of Camp Fornance. Funds were then found to demolish the slum housing and build new public housing. By 1974, Camp Fornance was no longer “Black Bottom” but instead an oasis of hope with affordable public housing, a community center, spacious yards and health and dental facilities. In 1978 the Columbia Housing Authority dedicated the area of urban renewal as the Lugenia Key Hammond Village. Through her leadership and tenacity an area that was once viewed as a national slum became a residential area to which all could look with pride. Lugenia Key Hammond, servant of the people, died on March 20, 1991, in Columbia.