James Edwin McTeer (1903-1979) was Beaufort County Sheriff for 37 years. When he was appointed sheriff to fulfill the unexpired term of his father in 1926, he was 22 years old and the youngest sheriff in the United States. His law enforcement career included interactions with murderers, nudists, bootleggers, and root doctors from 1926 through 1963 when he lost the election to former South Carolina Highway Patrolman L.W. Wallace.
Being Sheriff was a part-time position at the time so he also pursued selling real estate through the Beaufort Realty Company and later founded the McTeer Realty Company in 1947. His other business interests included raising cattle at Coffin Point Plantation. For a time he was president of the Beaufort Museum, was active in the Beaufort County Historical Society, the Chamber of Commerce, and Rotary Club and was a Freemason.
He married Lucile Lupo of Dillon County in 1928. Together they had five children. He was granted a leave of office during World War II while he served in the United States Coast Guard from 1943 to 1945. He was assigned the position of Commanding Officer of the 6th Naval District in charge of the Beach Patrol.
Herbert Ravenel Sass described Sheriff McTeer in The Story of the South Carolina Lowcountry (1956) as “a man of imposing stature, he is well liked for his warm personality and courteous manners. It is by men such as he, that progress is promoted, communities built, and the best interests of the public are preserved.” (p. 403). The plaque on the McTeer Bridge crossing from Port Royal Island to Lady’s Island describes him this way: “legendary lawman, author, spellbinder and raconteur.”
Compiled by Grace Morris Cordial, MLS, SL, CA, Senior Librarian in charge of the Beaufort District Collection, Beaufort County Library (SC).
Latest update 3 April 2019; All links verified as of 3 April 2019. Original Post: 18 August 2011.
Please note: The Island Packet and the Beaufort Gazette newspapers limit the number of times one can access their articles without subscribing. We provide access to the Island Packet, 1970 – 2015 back files on microfilm and to the back files of the Beaufort Gazette, 1907 – 2015 on microfilm in our Research Room.
“Broken Spell: Voodoo’s Heyday is has long passed, but the Gullah tradition continues to bewitch” by David Lauderdale, column in the Island Packet (Hilton Head Island, SC) on January 22, 2016.
“Late hoodoo-practicing Beaufort County sheriff inspires grandson’s novel” by Erin Shaw Island Packet (Hilton Head Island, SC), April 26, 2015.
“‘Coffin Point’ TV series planned about hoodoo-practicing sheriff J.E. McTeer” by Rebecca Lurye, Island Packet (Hilton Head Island, SC), April 3, 2015.
Read the “Quintessentially Lowcountry” July 24, 2009 column on Sheriff McTeer by Patrick Donohue in the Beaufort Gazette (Beaufort, SC).
Listen to author Baynard Woods talk about his book Coffin Point on Radio Free Daufuskie on December 7, 2010. (approximately 6 minutes)
“That Old Black Magic,” by Tom Poland in Like The Dew: A Journal of Southern Culture and Politics, December 5, 2010.
Security consultant, Sylvia Longmire, used Sheriff McTeer’s practice of ‘white magic’ in 2010 to illustrate that “Historically criminal organizations throughout the world have taken advantage of local folklore and religious faith in order to get a magical “edge” against their enemies.” Read her analysis of “Mexican Border violence“.
One of Sheriff McTeer’s more noteworthy cases involved the Nudist Colony on Cat Island. Read “Baring Witness: America’s First Nudist Colony had a South Carolina address” by Lee Baxandall from Nude & Natural Magazine. Please note: the article contains 3 images depicting the nudist lifestyle. “Last modified 9/12/95.”
“200 Years of History: Beaufort County Sheriff’s Department,” by Neil Baxley.
“Sheriffs of Beaufort County (SC),” by Neil Baxley.
Check Out These Materials from one of the SCLENDS Consortium Libraries:
Adventure in the Woods and Waters of the Low Country by James Edwin McTeer, Jr. (Beaufort Book Co., 1972).
Beaufort, Now and Then by James Edwin McTeer, Jr. (Beaufort Book Co., 1971).
Coffin Point by Baynard Woods (River City Publishing, 2010).
Fifty years as a Low Country witch doctor by James Edwin McTeer, Jr. (JEM Company/Beaufort Book Co., )
High Sheriff, Lowcountry Witch Doctor [VHS format] by Fran Hensler, [between 1990 and 1999?], 1981.
High Sheriff of the Low Country by James Edwin McTeer, Jr. (Beaufort Book Co., 1970-1994).
Come to the Beaufort District Collection to see these items:
SC B MCTEER Coffin Point: The Strange Cases of Ed McTeer, Witchdoctor Sheriff by Baynard Woods (River City Publishing, 2010) chronicles the cases, life and times of Beaufort County’s youngest and longest serving sheriff.
SC B MCTEER Fifty years as a Low Country witch doctor by James Edwin McTeer, Jr. (JEM Company/Beaufort Book Co., )
SC B MCTEER High Sheriff, Lowcountry Witch Doctor [DVD] by Fran Hensler; transferred to DVD disc by R. Scott Johnson, Operations Manager at ETV Lowcountry. (South Carolina ETV, 2005, 1981).
SC B MCTEER High Sheriff, Lowcountry Witch Doctor [VHS format] by Fran Hensler, [between 1990 and 1999?], 1981.
SC B MCTEER High Sheriff of the Low Country by James Edwin McTeer, Jr. (Beaufort Book Co., 1970-1994).
SC 799 MCT Adventure in the Woods and Waters of the Low Country by James Edwin McTeer, Jr. (Beaufort Book Co., 1972).
SC 975.799 MCT Beaufort, Now and Then by James Edwin McTeer, Jr. (Beaufort Book Co., 1971).
v.f. McTeer, James Edwin, Jr. (1903-1979)
v.f. McTeer Family
v.f. Beaufort County Sheriff’s Department
v.f. Distilling, Illicit [used for Moonshining]
v.f. Murders includes clippings about two or more homicides at the same crime scene or a specific murder for which we have insufficient pages to justify a separate file about the case. We also have created some folders about individual murders as listed below. Please note: We make no attempt to compile vertical files on each and every homicide that has occurred within Beaufort District or its later configurations as Beaufort County, Hampton County, Jasper County or Allendale County. We do not have any court transcripts.
v.f. Murders — Erdos (1963)
v.f. Murders — Schweitzer (1956)
v.f. Murders — Shaw (1956)
v.f. Root doctors also see the WordPress list of materials about Dr. Buzzard and Rootwork
We have his obituary from the Beaufort Gazette, December 28, 1979 issue on file in the BDC Research Room.
Hoof Prints Mounted Beach Patrol Magazine,
J. E. McTeer Scrapbooks, 3 volumes, containing newspaper clippings related to his career and to cases of witchcraft, voodoo, exorcisms, etc. locally and throughout the world. Because the original scrapbooks are in poor condition and are packed with clippings that are falling out of the book, customers use surrogate photocopies of the original scrapbooks. Each scrapbook has been indexed. The McTeer Family donated the volumes to the Beaufort County Library in 2005.
The Sheriff sometimes testified at County Coroner inquisitions. We have some of the County Coroner inquisition books : [Beaufort County], 1888-1898, 1932-1951 on microfilm. Volumes contain internal indexes by surname of the decedent.
Contact the Beaufort District Collection at 843-255-6468 or e-mail email@example.com for additional information about local history and archives relating to the people, places, and themes of the history, culture, and natural environment of Beaufort County, Jasper County and Hampton County, South Carolina. Current hours of operation are listed on the Beaufort County Library website.