This was one of Phillip Simmons’ favorite sayings. Simmons, a Charleston hero, artist and National Folk Treasure, passed away recently yet his rich legacy continues.
At the age of eight Simmons took an interest in the blacksmiths he saw working in his neighborhood in East Charleston. When he was 13 he was hired by Peter Simmons, no relation, and trained in the art of ironwork. In 1952 Peter left the shop to Phillip who went on to build and design gates and rod iron works that grace the homes and churches of Charleston and locations around the world, including the Smithsonian. All of his work was done in the shop at the back of his home on Blake Street. The only modernizing he ever did was to put in a concrete slab floor. After the age of 94 he stopped working at the forge, but trained his nephew and several others in the craft and continued to design until his death at the age of 97.
The workshop and home have become a foundation to honor this man, not just for his artistry, but also for his resourcefulness and importance in the community. In this photo of his bedroom, the red and gold crown says it all. It was given to him by children who considered him the King of the neighborhood.
Simmons not only put his three children and all of his grandchildren through college, but 15 other neighborhood kids as well. He supported the boy scouts, church groups, trained and helped people too numerous to count.