The legacy of some of Sumter’s finest sons lives on thanks to a retired history teacher.
Sammy Way isn’t really retired in the traditional sense, make no mistake about it. His passion for the military and love of history joined forces to create a gift for the public in the form of the Sumter Military Display.
An archivist and columnist for The Sumter Item, Dr. Way also stays plenty busy tending to his military museum, which occupies Suite 2 at the Clyburn Intermodal Transportation Center on South Harvin Street.
What started out as a project with his students while teaching at Sumter High School is now an impressive array of artifacts from World War I all the way through present conflicts in the Middle East.
Way estimates he’s collected about 7,000 photographs of Veterans and close to 8,000 pieces of memorabilia.
“It’s a continual process. As a curator, my responsibility is not to lay claim to it,” he said. “I’m charged with taking care of it, and that’s what I do.”
Visitors can see through the eyes of soldiers what it was like to fight in the trenches in Europe, the jungles of Vietnam, in the desert in Iraq and in the mountains of Afghanistan.
“This is my way of highlighting the sacrifice and time and achievements of these Veterans,” he said. “I’m trying to live the motto ‘Uncommon Patriotism,’ and I want it to be a reality.”
While most exhibits are to be observed and not handled, there are some items with which one can interact in a tactile manner, albeit with an underlying sense of caution and reverence. And there are some artifacts that Way calls “treasure books” that are collected letters from a bygone era.
An extremely rare piece is now encased in glass – a sextant from 1797 that was used aboard the U.S.S. Wasp and was donated by Phil Booth.
“His father’s grandfather actually used it,” Way said. “And it’s still operational.”
Way knows these stories; knows these Veterans and the lives they led.
Other than spending time with his family, this “is the most fun thing I do in my life,” he said.
“It’s a story nobody tells. It’s an aspect of our life that doesn’t need to be brushed away.”
SUMTER MILITARY DISPLAY is located at 129 South Harvin Street, Suite 2
It is normally open on Friday morning to noon but hours have been curtailed due to Covid-19. Dr. Way said it will soon open once again on Fridays.
For now, it is open from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday and admission is free. It will be open on Veterans Day from 1 to 4 p.m.
For questions call Way at 803-884-1294 or 803-983-8946