It was mid-July in 1955, and 12-year-old Earl Magwood left his family's home on Little Bull's Island, a 3-acre parcel on the western shore of Price's Inlet, to check on a shark line.
The setline had been attached to an anchored bateau down the inlet. But when Magwood reached the bateau in late afternoon, it had sunk. The boy, who lacked the strength required to hoist the bateau's anchor, returned home to get his mother to help.
When the two reached the sunken bateau, a series of events ensued that prompted the July 23 News and Courier headline: “Heroic Boy Saves Mother's Life as They Are Swept into the Sea.”
Magwood was born in August 1942 and died March 4, a resident of a North Charleston assisted-living facility. He grew up to become a shrimper and a veteran of the Army during Vietnam.
His parents were Ethel Legare and Clarence Augustus Magwood.
As he and his mother tried to hoist the anchor that day in 1955, the vessel they traveled in sank, and a strong current swept them out of the inlet and into the sea, newspaper accounts say.
Ethel Legare Magwood, who would say, “I can't swim anything at all,” clung to an oar with one hand as her son grabbed the other and held on to her.
They reached a shoal.
Then her son swam, towing her about a mile across a deep inlet to Capers Island.
“Several times I thought I was going down, and I told Earl to leave me and save himself, but he shook his head every time,” she told the newspapers.
At Capers Island, Magwood told her son she just couldn't make it across Schooner's Creek, which stood between them and home.
Earl swam across the creek and bogged marshes and to reach home and a boat for his mother to ride back in.
Only his 8-year-old sister, Mary, was at home on Little Bull's Island.
Other family members had gone to Mount Pleasant for supplies.
Magwood's heroism prompted many Charlestonians to recommend him for a spot on the Junior Thank You section of a nationally televised CBS show, “On Your Account.” The show, on which his mother appeared with him, gave Magwood the opportunity to be quizzed and win prizes.
The youth walked away with $2,000 in bonds, cash and a television.
Dennis James, the show's host, read part of a telegram to Magwood on the air: “Charleston congratulates you as one of the bravest boys ever to come out of our beloved Lowcountry.”
Mayors William McG. Morrison of Charleston and Francis F. Coleman of Mount Pleasant were among those who sent it.
Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.
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