CHARLESTON On May 7, a Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated for Oliver Joseph Manigault, the first African-American parishioner to integrate St. Patrick Church in the 1950s. He served the parish for over six decades.
The Mass was celebrated by Father Basil Congro, pastor of St. Patrick’s, with burial following at St. Peter’s Catholic Cemetery in North Charleston. Concelebrants at the funeral liturgy were Msgr. John Simonin, retired pastor of St. Mary’s in Charleston; Msgr. James Carter, pastor of Christ Our King Church in Mount Pleasant; Father Jeffrey Kendall, pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Charleston; Trappist Father Leonard Cunningham of Mepkin Abbey; and Father Richard Harris, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Greenwood and former pastor of St. Patrick’s.
Manigault was born in Whitehall on Feb. 8, 1918, to Richard and Mary Manigault. His grandmother, Clara Manigault, brought him to Charleston as a boy and raised him. He was educated at Simonton and Burke Industrial School. Upon leaving Burke, he worked at the Charleston Naval Shipyard as a painter and brickmason.
As a teen-ager, Manigault met Father Joseph L. O’Brien, pastor of St. Patrick Church. Father O’Brien hired him as a groundskeeper and assistant to the custodian. After the custodian became ill, Manigault took the job. He then cared for St. Patrick Church and its school for more than 60 years. As sacristan, Manigault was responsible for maintaining the sacristy and altar, locking and unlocking the church doors, and upkeeping the landscaping at the parish.
Father O’Brien also introduced Manigault to Catholicism, and the principal of St. Patrick’s School taught him the catechism at night in the church office. At other times, Father Joseph Williams served as his teacher. He attended his first Mass during Holy Week.
Father Williams invited Manigault to join St. Patrick’s or any other Catholic parish. Since there were no African-American members at St. Patrick’s, he was apprehensive about joining, but he knew the priests and parishioners of St. Patrick’s better than any other church. On Dec. 20, 1956, Father Williams baptized Manigault, who became the first African-American member of St. Patrick’s in modern times.
While at St. Patrick’s he served as sexton under a long line of pastors, including Msgr. J. Fleming McManus and Father Theodore Cilwick.
Manigault was initiated into the Knights of Peter Claver St. Peter Council 110 in 1978, and he held the offices of warden, inner guard, and outer guard. He was also honored with the council’s Service Award last year.
Manigault died on May 1. Pallbearers for the final commendation and farewell were Walter Great, Bernard Martin, Wade McDaniel, Harry Noisette, Gordon Simpson, Julius Stent, Wilford Steplight, and Julius Wright.
Honorary pallbearers were members of the Knights of Peter Claver, and floral bearers were Ladies of Guadalupe Auxiliary Court 110.
Manigault is survived by a sister, Eva Baxter, and a brother, Horace Simmons.