Oscar Frazier, poet laureate of Bluffton, author of two poetry books and a children’s book illustrated by local school children is a respected community leader
Oscar Frazier is a Bluffton Town Councilman and Mayor Pro Tempore. He served on the Board of Directors for the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club. He co-founded and served as Deacon at Bible Missionary Baptist Church, as well as serving on numerous governmental and community committees. In addition, he founded The Bluffton Poets Society and worked closely with Beaufort County’s Parks and Leisure Services department to design Shults Park, a multi-sport community park and event center, which is now named Oscar Frazier Park in his honor.
Oscar married Marcia Renea and had four children: Jacqueline, Oscar James Frazier, Jr., Bridgette and Joshua.
Ten days after being diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer, Oscar passed away in 2005 at the age of 49.
We spend most of our lives
Trying to find our identity
I often wonder why
How in the world can you not know
Who or what you are
Or what purpose for which you exist
I’m appalled when I hear people say
One day I will find myself
How do you go about doing that
You’re with yourself each and every day
One would have to lose oneself
In order to look for oneself
If one does what God wants them to
Then one would never be lost
When reading Oscar’s poetry, you see the man.
You see his questions, the strength of his faith, an insight into his fears, the importance of family and optimism for the future.
Imagine growing up in rural Bluffton in a poor family of 12. The seven boys shared one bed with a mattress stuffed with pine straw or Spanish moss. One brother shared, “You most always have some feet in your face.”
The heritage of his parents—Oscar B., a shrimper, and Daisy Pinkney—was rooted deeply in Gullah tradition and culture where respect for each other, strict discipline and love of family was so important. The older sister raised the younger children; the older brothers picked up spare jobs for a little extra money. Everyone had chores to do—cooking, tending the vegetable patch, washing clothes or dishes—and, for Oscar, it was taking care of the chickens.
Everyone also had nicknames. Oscar’s endearing name, a cause for good-natured ribbing, was “Buckus.” We cannot divulge the reason here, but if you ask one of his close friends or family to tell you why, it will bring a grin to your face.
Buckus loved music.
He was constantly teased by his brothers because he liked Elvis over Marvin Gaye. Buckus had to pay hush money to keep it quiet.
Family dinner was always special, even when there was nothing to eat. The May River gave the boys a diversion for play and seafood for that large pot of Gullah Gumbo and rice. Their clothes were always hand-me-downs. Their mother taught them morals and always told each one, “No one is better than you!”
The brothers had to look after each other at school and in town. Until they reached high school at M.C. Riley, the schools were segregated. Often it was necessary to stand up against local bullies. However, Oscar was rumored to have been good in a ruckus and it didn’t take many incidents before the Frazier family gained the respect of the local boys.
It is said his children’s book, “What Color is Friendship?” was inspired by his experience in the ninth grade at the newly integrated high school. There he made his first white friend, Bailey Bolen, a fellow member of the track team and, later, godfather to Oscar’s first child.
Faith was at the forefront of everything the Frazier family did.
Do unto others, help those who are in need of help, give more than you will receive…this is the light that burned within Oscar throughout this life. His parents taught their children that you don’t find religion in church, you find it within yourself and then go to church.
All seven brothers served in the military after graduating from high school. They knew that the GI Bill was the only way they could afford to go to college. Oscar served for three years ending up in the infantry at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He returned home to Bluffton to continue his life and become the local legend that we now know.
He worked in the construction, roofing and landscaping businesses and is fondly remembered for his great food at Oscar’s BBQ, cooked and served out of the Little Red Caboose in Old Town (now moved to Burnt Church Road and used by Choo Choo BBQ Express).
During his term on Bluffton Town Council, Oscar pushed for annexation of the poorer areas.
This gave the areas the benefits of the Town’s growth and expansion. It is said Oscar was the bridge that helped close the gap of the old segregated ways and the new integrated way.
In governing, Emmett McCracken who served with him on Town Council, recounts that Oscar was a mild-mannered man; thoughtful, respectful and straightforward. Oscar stood his ground for what he believed in and gave more than he received. He loved reading his poetry to children, and was beloved by many.
On July 12, the former Mayor Pro Tempore was posthumously inducted in the Town of Bluffton’s Wall of Honor.
“His legacy is still alive with his numerous projects to improve the life of Bluffton residents,” stated a post on the Town’s Facebook page.
Oscar began writing in high school and some days would write a dozen poems. His favorite, that he learned by heart and would act out on the school bus coming home from games, was Edgar Allen Poe’s “Annabel Lee.” I asked Art Cornell, a regionally known and respected artist, poet and photographer, what emotions he felt when reading Oscar’s poetry.
“Oscar’s work is genuine and heartfelt. He had a way of interpreting real life, a unique way of looking at the world,” said Cornell. “He had no pretenses and, simply put, wrote about his life with the depth of emotions that we all have, from happiness to anger, from sorrow to love.”
Here are some more of Oscar’s words—let them speak to you!
Anyone and Everyone
Anyone can tear down
But not everyone can build up
Anyone can start a war
But everyone can’t make peace
Anyone can tell a lie
But everyone won’t tell the truth
Anyone can say they love you
But not everyone actually means it
Anyone can see others’ faults
But everyone can’t see theirs’
Anyone can start something
But not everyone can finish
Anyone can make one sad
But everyone can’t make others laugh
Anyone can be a winner
But everyone can’t be a loser
Anyone can learn to hate
But everyone must learn to love
Anyone can pretend to be someone else
But everyone has to give an account for themselves
The River Runs
Can someone tell me why
The river runs to the sea
I guess it is the same reason
That blood runs through our veins
The same river that runs to the sea
Are tears some say that God has cried
Over these many, many years
I have heard many different versions
Man thinks that he knows everything
That’s why we can only estimate
As to why the rivers have undertows
They never owned more than
Twenty-two acres between the both of them
My two grandfathers of whom I’m speaking
Worked most of their natural lives
Two finer men you’ll never meet again
On this side of heaven
All they ever wanted was to be treated
With dignity and respect given to others
And to be able to provide for their families
There were both pillars of their communities
Promises were made to both of them
Which were never kept
I often wondered why
Society was so unfair then
And, by the way, they never got their
Forty acres and that blame mule.