Mr. JuJu didn’t need “JuJu” to make a name for himself.
Harry S. “JuJu” Hutson Jr. of Sun City Hilton Head earned his good name one day at a time for 90 years, most every minute of it in the Lowcountry.
Hutson got his nickname when a child somehow interpreted “Uncle Harry” as “JuJu.”
He earned his name as a ball player, mail carrier, post office clerk, teacher, lay preacher, motivational speaker and bicycle rider — but mostly as a coach of basketball and baseball who touched thousands of young lives in Jasper County.
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“JuJu was one of the most significant men to come out of the Lowcountry in my lifetime,” said John D. Rogers of Lady’s Island after Hutson’s death two days after Christmas.
Hutson was a coach at Thomas Heyward Academy in Ridgeland during part of the 37 years Rogers was headmaster. Hutson also gave commencement addresses and inspirational talks to the student body.
“He is what I would call the perfect role model,” Rogers said. “He never said a bad word about anybody, and he was always encouraging. Boy, do we need more of that now.”
Hutson grew up a son of a merchant in downtown Hardeeville, near today’s stoplight. He and lifelong friends Richard “Bubba” Crosby of Pritchardville and the late Dick McTeer of Rose Hill Plantation used to play baseball on U.S. 17.
Hutson graduated from Hardeeville High School in 1942 and soon found himself earning a Purple Heart and bronze service stars fighting for freedom in the Battle of the Bulge.
Years later, Dick McTeer would call Hutson from the motel he operated in Hardeeville, which he helped turn into the “Inn Village” on America’s main artery to Florida.
“JuJu, I’ve got a guest down here who said he served in the Army with you,” McTeer said.
“Oh, really? Who is it?”
Hutson taught shop and coached at Hardeeville High when you could do that without a four-year college degree.
His mother had been a postmaster, so he took a star route that meandered through the lonely pines from Hardeeville to Pritchardville to Bluffton. His friend John “J.W.” Harper Jr. of Hardeeville, who also carried mail, said that in those days you fit all the daily mail to Hilton Head Island in one hand.
Hutson spend nearly 30 years with the postal service, mostly as a familiar, smiling face behind the counter in Hardeeville.
On the side, he coached and at one time built a community baseball field on his own land.
Simon Hutson told me coaching was just a tool for his deeply religious father to witness to kids, “not so much verbally but as an example.”
Probably Hutson’s best teams were the girls at Hardeeville High, but his most cherished trophy was a letter from a referee who said Hutson’s team was the best behaved he’d ever seen.
“He coached me in baseball and life,” David Cope writes in the scores of comments about Hutson that have been posted on Facebook. “Giant of a man!”
Simon Hutson said, “He put all his effort into the Christian life. It was all about Jesus Christ. He wanted to be as Christ-like as he could be.”
Hutson had no formal training in theology, but was in demand for 50 years as an interim preacher at the Gillisonville, Euhaw or Coosawhatchie Baptist churches. He could get worked up and loud in the pulpit. His deep voice never needed a microphone.
Hutson was always the one called on to lead a prayer at community events, Friday night football games, or church.
He often conducted funerals. His wife, Mildred, said the most touching ones came when he buried a former player. But even at his brother’s funeral, Hutson’s voice never quivered.
In 1998, he was grand marshal of the Hardeeville Christmas Parade. It was bitterly cold, and it rained on his parade. He said he knew the Lowcountry needed the rain.
In 2002, the state legislature passed a resolution thanking Hutson “for all he has done to make Hardeeville and Jasper County a better place to live, work, play and worship.”
A heart attack in the 1970s got Hutson off the softball diamond, but on the road as a walker. When a friend was prescribed bicycle riding after a heart attack in 1990, Hutson jumped on board.
Until he went into the hospital with colon cancer in September, Hutson was riding 100 to 300 miles a week. He had a van specifically to haul his bike around, and he rode thousands of miles to raise money for charity.
Hutson spent 51 days in the hospital, where it became apparent cancer was not the only problem. He died of severe heart disease, his son said.
Mildred and the children, Simon, Gayle and Lorna, will greet the public from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday at Sauls Funeral Home in Ridgeland. The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Ridgeland Baptist Church, with burial in the Purrysburg Cemetery in Hardeeville.
JuJu Hutson saw a lot of change along his route in the Lowcountry over 90 years. But he taught us to cling to the constants: faith and a positive attitude.