Who's your caddy': One of Fort Jackson's first black caddies recalls days on post
November 10, 2010
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Oscar Shaw has witnessed many changes at Fort Jackson since he first set foot on the installation in the late 1940s. The changes that have particularly caught the eye of the former Soldier are those made to the installation's golf courses.
As one of the post's first black golf caddies, and later a Soldier, the Columbia man helped lead the way for other African-Americans in the clubhouse and on the greens.
"Blacks could not play on the course in the early 1950s; just caddy," said Shaw, who is now 84. "I got the job as the first black caddy master and started hiring other coloreds to work as cooks and servers to the golfers."
Starting off in a shack selling hot dogs and cold drinks to golfers, the African-Americans eventually moved into the clubhouse, thanks in part to the friendship developed between Shaw and Maj. Gen. George Decker, Fort Jackson's commanding general.
Shaw's relationship with Fort Jackson began after World War II when Decker decided to build a new golf course in 1949 near Twin Lakes. The new 18-hole course, which had sandy fairways, replaced a nine-hole course located near today's Gate 2.
"We had such a grand time working and playing out there. I remember one time I caddied for boxer Joe Louis and he hit the ball so hard," Shaw said. "There are a lot of memories on that course."
Drafted during the Korean War, Shaw completed his basic training and was assigned to the 4th Division Special Services Unit at Fort Jackson. His job was to run the post's driving range.
"I have really learned in my life that it isn't what you know, it is about who you know," Shaw said of his assignment to run the driving range during the Korean War.
After a two-year stint as a private first class in the Army, Shaw decided to take a job with Gulf Oil Corp.
Shaw still gets the opportunity to return to Fort Jackson for a few rounds every now and then.
"It is a nice golf course. I have played at a lot of places and I don't know any that look better," he said. "I am also impressed with the driving range, putting areas and the course conditions."
Most recently he played with his son, retired Command Sgt. Maj. Oscar Shaw III. In 1991, course designer Arthur Davis added 20 holes to 16 of the original holes to make up the current 36-hole complex.
"Dad was shocked to see the new 36-hole layout," the retired command sergeant major said. "The next nine holes we played were filled with history lessons about the course and the people who helped make it what it is today. I think in a way, reliving the past made him feel new and alive again."
Despite a few health problems and busy schedule, Shaw said he plans to try and make it out to Fort Jackson for golf more often.