Marguerite Jackson was born in 1937, "behind God's back" as her grandmother used to say, in a tiny black community called Muffet (today spelled Moffit) that sat off S.C. Highway 174 in what would become the ACE Basin.

Her great-great-aunt Sarah was the midwife who brought her into the world. She was baptized in Toogoodoo Creek. She attended Second Zion Baptist Church, founded the year the Civil War ended. The church burned down a couple of times, was rebuilt and remains a centerpiece of the community today.

Today, the Lowcountry native is a visiting professor at the College of Charleston after having served in the California state government and leader of Talladega College. She uses her time in the Lowcountry now to help with The Links Inc., a national organization of volunteer black women.

Growing up, Jackson knew everyone in Muffet, a rural hamlet between Adams Run and Edisto, where a few dozen families once lived, inheriting the land from their ancestors, farming it to provide sustenance and keeping it for their children and grandchildren.

Today, perhaps a dozen families remain. The Jackson family, which eventually would include five children, moved to Mendham,

N.J., when Marguerite was 3. Her mother, Sadie Polite, was a housekeeper employed by a New Jersey family; her stepfather, Theodore "Dee" Polite, was the handyman.

As a teenager, she came back to South Carolina, first to Sugar Hill, then to Charleston, where she lived with an aunt and attended the Avery Normal School. It proved to be her launching pad.

Many years and two marriages later, Marguerite Jackson has become Marguerite Archie-Hudson, a visiting professor of political science at the College of Charleston, a former California Assemblywoman and college president and a local leader of The Links Inc., a national organization of volunteer black women.

Archie-Hudson teaches American government and health policy courses, drawing on decades of direct experience as a school counselor, psychometrist, civic leader and education advocate.

Most recently, as vice president for programs of the Charleston chapter of The Links, she has helped strengthen a connection between the Lowcountry and the drumming village of Okurase in Ghana, West Africa.

Okurase, devastated by AIDS/HIV, populated mostly by women, and lacking clean drinking water, electricity and other basics, has become a "teaching village" thanks to a collaboration involving the Medical University of South Carolina, The Links, a North Charleston community center and Clemson architecture students. Archie-Hudson and her Links colleagues have set up a pharmacy in the village and helped start a sewing center.

The Links, founded in 1946, concentrates on national and international trends, health and human services, the arts and youth initiatives, according to Deadra L. Jefferson, current president of the Charleston chapter and resident circuit judge for the 9th Judicial Circuit.

Jefferson said her friend, a humble and innovative consensus-builder, "is the kind of person who, when you need things done, you can count on her."

Public service

She may have reached age 74, but Archie-Hudson is not slowing down. After a life of accomplishment, she is focused on teaching and service projects. But the path that returned her to Charleston included numerous milestones.

After graduating from Avery Normal, Archie-Hudson attended Talladega College in Alabama, where she earned a B.A. in psychology, then briefly fell into the world of education, taking a temporary position as a school counselor at Burke High School. She moved to Chicago in 1960 and worked first for the Illinois Institute of Technology, administering tests to measure mental health, then for the city as a civil service examiner, testing firefighters, police officers and other Chicago employees in high-stress positions.

After receiving her master's in counseling at Harvard, the University of Chicago's Laboratory School lured her back to the Windy City. The headmaster told her, "You've interviewed extremely well, and you are clearly the best candidate, but if we hire you, it will be a departure from racial policy." She was the first African-American hired by the school.

Advocating on behalf of students, she visited various admissions offices around the country and was in California when she met a Marine officer, Arrington Wesley Archie. They married in 1966, and Archie-Hudson moved to the West Coast.

Her upward trajectory led her to politics. She ran U.S. Rep. Yvonne B. Burke's district office from 1972 to 1978. She was appointed in 1979, and later elected and re-elected, to the L.A. Community College District Board of Trustees. She reinforced her connections to other elected officials and soon became the Southern California chief of staff to Willy Brown, then speaker of the Legislature, all the while pursuing a doctorate in education at UCLA.

When Maxine Waters vacated her 48th State Assembly District seat in 1990 to continue her legislative career in Washington, D.C., Archie-Hudson ran and won with 79 percent of the vote. She was re-elected twice before term limits forced her to move on.

During her tenure as a state assemblywoman, she fought to set aside the statute of limitations preventing victims of the defective Dalkon Shield to sue for damages. The contraceptive intrauterine device caused injuries and led to hundreds of thousands of lawsuits and millions of dollars in settled claims.

She sponsored a bill requiring bucketmakers to display a prominent warning in an effort to protect small children from toppling in and drowning or asphyxiating.

She helped secure funding for the California Science Center, which opened in 1997 to serve science fans, students and teachers. Recently, the center won a bid to house the Space Shuttle Endeavour, which NASA retired last year.

The decade was Archie-Hudson's busiest. In 1997, she was appointed to the board of Talladega College. The following year she became interim president, the first woman to do so and the first black female president of any four-year college in Alabama. Soon, "interim" was removed from her title. She worked on increasing enrollment, decreasing the school's debt, shoring up the deteriorating physical plant and instilling in students a sense of history and identity.

In 2001, the Board of Trustees voted not to renew her contract, saying it was time for a change. The announcement came as a surprise and distressed some students and faculty, according to a report published in The Tuscaloosa News.

Passion

In 2003, she returned to the Lowcountry to take care of her aging mother and begin yet another chapter. She would turn her attention to students in the classroom and find new ways to serve. She found The Links, and joined.

Archie-Hudson heard about Project Okurase from Cynthia Swenson, associate director of the Medical University's Family Services Research Center, and soon persuaded her Links colleagues to join the effort.

Dorothy Harrison, chief administrative officer for Charleston Water System, was president of the local Links chapter when Archie-Hudson became a member. She had started the Lowcountry Aid to Africa program and devised a new initiative, the Teachers' Supply Closet, that her colleagues would help get off the ground.

"Whenever she commits to something, she has a way of rallying the committee and getting it enthusiastic about it," Harrison said of her friend.

Member-volunteers are required to do a minimum of 48 hours of community service annually in the name of Links, working on a project endorsed by the organization. "I can assure you, Marguerite gives 400-plus," Harrison said.

The Links' other efforts include a program to combat childhood obesity called Weight No Longer and an achievers' mentoring program geared toward young men.

Archie-Hudson is "very passionate" about her work, Harrison said. "When she becomes involved in something, she likes structure. She's a builder and she's committed. ... She not only wants to start something, she wants to make sure we have the wherewithal, the resources, the access to people who can help us bring it to fruition."

These various programs all are important to Archie-Hudson, but perhaps none are as meaningful to her as Project Okurase.

Jefferson said her organization is working to provide the village with water-purification systems in an effort to combat health problems. Links has sponsored an entrepreneurial basketmaking program and helped to import the products to the U.S., where they were sold.

Suitcases full of medicine and supplies have made their way to Okurase; sewing machines and all the material necessary to make clothing have shipped to the village.

"We like the idea of empowering women, and in turn their husbands and children," Jefferson said. "It's exciting to see them ... support themselves. It's not a handout, they're making something that's marketable."

Too often, charity is imposed on the poor by Western problem-solvers, Archie-Hudson noted. As a result, altruistic people unintentionally cultivate dependence, not empowerment. But not in Okurase.

"Here were people who really knew what they wanted and were smart enough to do it," she said.

Reach Adam Parker at 937-5902.