Historic St. Andrews Beach
On October 23, 1958, a coal mining disaster in Springhill, Nova Scotia trapped 174 men underground. The coverage of this disaster was the first international event to be broadcast live on television.
In the hope of harnessing the media spotlight and promoting tourism to Georgia, state administrators invited the last 19 mine survivors and their families to Jekyll Island to recuperate and enjoy some southern hospitality. The gesture backfired, however, when Governor Marvin Griffin, a staunch segregationist, realized one of the miners was black.
The black miner, Maurice Ruddick, was the last man rescued from the collapsed coal mine. Called "The Singing Miner," Ruddick kept spirits up by singing, joking, and praying with the men during the nine days they were trapped underground together.
Governor Griffin said Ruddick must be segregated from the others during their stay in Georgia. The other miners wanted to refuse the trip, but Ruddick agreed to avoid ruining their vacation.
The highly publicized trip highlighted differences in the island's segregated facilities. The contrast between Ruddick's experience and that of the other miners was clear as the media spotlight remained focused on the "Miracle Miners" of Springhill.
Ruddick's fellow survivors and their families enjoyed
the north end of the island, including a new hotel, swimming pool, and fine dining. Meanwhile several trailers were set up on the South End of the island for Ruddick, his wife, and their youngest children.
In response, the local black community rallied to offer their heartfelt hospitality to Maurice Ruddick and his family and make them feel welcome. This generosity of spirit salvaged a difficult situation.
When asked how it felt to be segregated, Ruddick diplomatically answered, "I seem to be enjoying myself just as much as the others."
Sandra Martin Mungin
Sandra Martin Mungin was just a teenager at the time, but she vividly remembers how the local African American Community came together to welcome Maurice Ruddick and his family.
Her father, Genoa Martin, helped organize activities in Ruddick's honor, including a fishing trip, dinner party, and a community gathering. Mungin contributed to festivities by babysitting the Ruddick children and dancing in the talent show.
Mungin said that the community wanted to help the Ruddick family enjoy their visit - in spite of segregation.
The Ruddick family appreciated the overwhelming community support. When Mungin called Mrs. Ruddick later in life to reflect on their time on Jekyll Island, she said "I'll never forget it
as long as I live! We had the most wonderful time!"