Isaac Woodard just wanted to get home and see his wife.
He’d been in the Army more than three years, a longshoreman for the Pacific fleet in the waning days of World War II.
Finally, on Feb. 12, 1946, he was on a Greyhound bus bound for Winnsboro. But he wouldn’t make it — or ever see his wife again.
Because he was black, Woodard wasn’t allowed to fight during the war, but the decorated soldier would become one of the most infamous casualties of an ugly chapter in American history.
That night, Woodard asked the bus driver for a bathroom break just outside of Aiken. The driver was rude to him, later claiming the soldier was drunk and disturbing other passengers. Woodard took umbrage, but didn’t make a scene. When the bus stopped in Batesburg, however, the driver called the police. Woodard — still wearing his Army dress uniform — protested he’d done nothing wrong. But he was beaten and arrested.
And just outside the jail, the police chief took his blackjack and gouged out Woodard’s eyes.