County's first African-American mail carrier retires
Elzena Edwards, Hampton County’s first full-time female African-American U.S. Postal Service mail carrier, has retired after 30-plus years of delivering Hampton’s mail.
The first female African-American bank teller and postal carrier in Hampton County, Elzena Edwards, was not afraid of being the first to begin a career in a position traditionally considered out of reach to many African-Americans.
In January of 1987, Edwards officially became the first full-time African-American female United States Postal Service mail carrier in Hampton County. Being the first to take on a role traditionally held by whites did not intimidate Edwards in the least. She had been the first black female bank teller in the county at the Bank of Hampton in the mid-1970s.
After taking an extended leave from employment due to illness, Edwards was hired by former Hampton County Post Master Jonathan Murray, who happens to also be the first African-American U.S. Post Master in Hampton County history. According to Edwards, prior to Murray’s arrival in the county, it was common for Post Masters to hire friends and family as postal carriers. It was the charming personality of Edwards and her willingness to work until the job was complete which undoubtedly garnished the attention of Murray and lead to a three-decade long career.
Edwards shared fond memories from her tenure as a mail carrier, as well as how deeply saddened she will be departing her longtime delivery route and the many customers along the way she now considers dear friends. She stated the community does not fully understand the impact an experienced and personable mail carrier may have in the lives of their customers, specifically elderly or handicapped individuals who may live alone.
“I became so attached to them, it was like family. When you started to see them, they were just babies. Then they grow-up and go off to college, then they start working. And I was just like ‘where did the time go,’” Edwards said of her beloved families along her route. “There was an elderly lady. She didn’t have children [and lived alone] but we got so attached that I had to let her know when I was going to be off and if something came up I called her because she would want to know ‘what happened to ya? She looked forward to me coming because I made her day, because in the midst of delivering mail you still talk...it made their day.”
Having an upbeat personality and a desire to be outdoors performing strenuous activity are a few of the job requirements of a postal carrier, said Edwards. An energetic and friendly attitude is one of the most important traits to possess, in her opinion, if an individual seeks employment as a career mail carrier. As well as an upbeat personality, the willingness to work long hours is also vital.
When asked about interactions with animals, Edwards stated she only received one dog bite during her entire career as a postal carrier. She even befriended the toothy tenant after the incident and the two became longtime pals.
Edwards said she will greatly miss her mail route, which she was given the opportunity to choose when she first took the job in ’87. She stated it only took her a short period of time to discover the route she would take in the delivery truck, and in life. It was during one of her first deliveries on her newly chosen, and lengthy, mail route which she realized she loved her job, community and the opportunity the postal service provided her to make a living exercising and enjoying nature.
“It was like a family, I will really truly miss them,” said Edwards of her co-workers. She made many dear friends over the years at the post office.
The hardworking outdoor enthusiast has no intentions of slowing down anytime soon, however. Even after years of strenuous work in the brutal South Carolina summer heat, Edwards looks forward to remaining active within her church and community. A faithful member of her church, she looks forward with enthusiasm to the opportunity to spend increased time volunteering at church functions and events. As well as being afforded the opportunity to work more with her church, she is also excited about the prospect of spending more time with friends and family, including her beloved husband, sons and grandchildren.
“It has been such a blessing,” she said.