James Island (South Carolina)

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Drawbridge over Wappoo Creek leading to James Island

James Island is one of South Carolina's most urban Sea Islands. The island is separated from peninsular downtown Charleston by the Ashley River, from the mainland by Wappoo Creek and the Wappoo Cut, and from Johns Island by the Stono River. It lies inshore of Morris Island and Folly Beach.

Fort Sumter is located on an island just off the eastern tip of James Island and is the site of the first battle of the Civil War. Bombardment of Fort Sumter was started from Fort Johnson which is located on the eastern portion of James Island. Several significant military engagements took place on island including the battles of Secessionville (1862), Grimball's Landing (1863) and Grimball's Causeway (1865). All of these battles were alternately known as the "Battle of James Island".

For much of the period before and after the formation of the United States, James Island land was largely agricultural with Sea Island cotton plantations covering much of the island. Growth accelerated after World War II and James Island became a suburban bedroom community to Charleston.

Dock with surrounding marshes on James Island

As of the 2000 census, the United States Census Bureau reported that 33,781 people lived on the island. Approximately one-half of the island lies within the city limits of Charleston, and the remainder of the island is made up of the Town of James Island and some unincorporated areas.[1]

There has been political discord concerning the incorporation of portions of the island into the City of Charleston. The town of James Island has been founded on three separate occasions. Three incorporations were overturned as a result of legal suits filed by Charleston. The third incorporation attempt was in contention in another legal suit by the city, and on November 7, 2008, the town's incorporation was upheld by a Circuit Court judge. The city of Charleston filed an appeal of the decision to the South Carolina Supreme Court.[2] Ultimately, this ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court.

A fourth attempt at incorporation was successful, upheld by the courts and uncontested by the city of Charleston. There is now a legally formed Town of James Island.

As defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of James Island is included within the Charleston-North Charleston Urbanized Area and the larger Charleston-North Charleston Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Samuel Smalls, the man upon whom the novel Porgy and subsequent opera Porgy and Bess are based, is buried in the cemetery beside James Island Presbyterian Church.

Comedian and political satirist Stephen Colbert, along with his 10 brothers and sisters, lived on James Island for part of his boyhood.

Mary Clark, Author, farmer, politician. Football players Langston Moore of the Detroit Lions, Pro Bowler Roddy White of the Atlanta Falcons, and Bo Patterson of Dartmouth College all attended James Island High School and played football while at school there. Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliot also attended and starred in football at James Island. MLB player Gorman Thomas grew up on James Island and played baseball for the original James Island High School (mascot Rams). University of Hawai'i assistant Track and Field Coach, Joshua Aydlette, played football, threw for the track team, and wrestled at James Island High School. Fort Johnson High (mascot Trojans) was the other high school on the island. The two schools merged in 1983 on the Fort Johnson campus. The first school year for the combined school was the 1983-1984 (class of 84).

The public schools on James Island are part of the Charleston County School District and include Harborview, Stiles Point, James Island and Murray-LaSaine, and Apple Charter Elementary Schools; James Island and Fort Johnson Middle Schools, and James Island Charter High School. The high school interscholastic teams are the Trojans and wear blue and orange uniforms.


  1. ^ "thesunnews.com". 
  2. ^ "Judge sides with the town of James Island". 

Coordinates: 32°43′40″N 79°57′20″W / 32.72778°N 79.95556°W / 32.72778; -79.95556