Tonya Browder Receives Special State Award

An award, presented to a person working in the field of history and has done outstanding work to promote and preserve history of South Carolina, came to Tonya Browder recently, the Director of the Tompkins Library here in Edgefield.  Tonya brings acclaim to our area through this award.

Among those who have received this distinguished award in the past are: Dr. Allen Stokes, Director of the South Caroliniana Library and Ben Hornsby, retired from the S.C. Department of Archives and History.

This award was presented by the Confederation of S.C. Local Historical Societies.

Tonya Browder has a work history with the S.C. Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology and has co-authored and co-edited books prior to her present job as the Executive Director of the Tompkins Memorial Library, a position she has held since 1998.  She is the only paid employee at the library, with a small number of dedicated volunteers to work with her.  Since becoming Director, she has played an important role in the organization of the library’s vast collection of books and other materials, and has authored or co-authored six books on Edgefield County genealogy and history.

In 2007, Tonya was extensively involved in the search for Rev. Al Sharpton’s Edgefield County genealogy, conducted by, that received national attention.  That same year, she participated in the ETV Roadshow that featured Edgefield County, even portraying Edgefield’s famous Becky Cotton, who is otherwise known as the “Devil in Petticoats.”  In 2009, Tonya was again intensely involved in a genealogy project that concerned a famous celebrity—Curtis “50 Cents” Jackson.  Tonya was featured in a documentary, “Origin of Me,” that was produced from this research and broadcast on VH1.  In 2011, Tonya was interviewed on the “Blog Talk Radio Show,” which is sponsored by the National Archives.

In 2005, due to the large numbers of African American researchers visiting and contacting the Tompkins Library, Tonya, along with other like-minded individuals, decided to organize the Old Edgefield District African American Genealogical Society (OEDAAGS).  Tonya served as editor of the society’s award winning newsletter, Homeplace, from 2006-2010. This society currently has over 80 members across 22 states, and Tonya serves as its Secretary and Treasurer.

Tonya is also the 2nd Vice-President, Assistant Treasurer, and Webmistress of the Old Edgefield District Genealogical Society, which is the largest genealogical society in South Carolina, with over 550 members across 40 states.  Currently, Tonya is working on historical walking tours of the town of Edgefield, a book concerning Old Edgefield District Confederate soldiers, and continues to organize and assist in inventorying cemeteries in Edgefield County.


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