Sandra Cheryl Blackmon, an 18 year old freshman at North Greenville College, was excited to have three days off from school for fall break in 1985. She had planned to have her wisdom teeth removed while she was home in Florence, South Carolina. Her mother and stepfather, Thad and Johnnie White, own White’s Auto Truck Plaza on Interstate 20 in Florence.
One night her mom covered third shift so she could be available to take Sandy to the dentist the next day. Thad, Sandra’s stepfather, left her in the bed asleep to relieve Johnnie at work. Before Johnnie left the business, she called home. “No one answered. I felt a little anxious to get home to see about Sandra.” When she drove up in the yard, Sandra’s car was parked, “I still didn’t think anything, I felt like she could have possibly gone to the neighbor’s house for breakfast.” When Johnnie walked into the house, she noticed the television was gone. She walked into her daughter’s bedroom and found her, brutally murdered. The intruder knew that no one would be home during the shift change at their business, or so he thought. He waited until Thad left the house before he made his attempt to rob them. Not knowing Sandy was in the house, she startled him and he panicked.
The intruder was careful not to leave fingerprints at the scene; however, he made on critical error. In trying to escape the scene in Sandra’s car, he checked the ignition for the keys, as he knew the Whites sometimes left keys in their truck at the truck stop in case someone needed to use it. He found that the keys were not in the car and came back inside to look fro them in Sandra’s pocketbook. When he did, he left his palm print on her pocketbook. With the print, he was identified, and two weeks later he was captured.
The next week, the news about Sandra was conveyed to the North Greenville campus. Students, faculty, and staff were shocked and astounded with the news and the brutality of this murder. Bill Reese (’87), president of the 1985-86 freshman class, knew Sandra and decided to use his office as president to spearhead a fundraising campaign to raise money in her memory. “I went around campus talking to students, faculty, and staff,” states Mr. Reese. “As an expression of love, classmates erected a plaque in the student center in her memory.” Bill recollects, “The week before Sandy was killed, we had Christian Emphasis Week on our campus. The little green Gideon Bibles were given to everyone. Sandy’s mother later found her green Bible in her things, and in it Sandy had indicated that she had accepted Christ as her Savior during that week. It made me feel real good to know that.”
A scholarship fund, The Sandra Cheryl Blackmon Scholarship Fund, was then initiated by her mother and stepfather and other family and friends. “Bill Reese was the reason this scholarship fund was started. He was really the one to get the ball rolling,” exclaims Johnnie. “I never send flowers when there is a death. I send the money that I would spend on flowers to the scholarship fund at North Greenville. I encourage my family to do the same.” The fund is restricted for scholarships to Christian vocation students.
Today, this tragedy is still very fresh and painful for the family to talk about. It is comforting to them to know, however, that many students who attend North Greenville College will benefit from the love this family has for Sandra. Each student given this scholarship money receives a biographical sketch of this incident, explaining how the money that they are receiving developed. Sandra lives on, not only in the hearts of her family and friends, but also to the thousands of others who have been and will be educated at North Greenville College.
Article printed in the September 1999 issue of the North Greenville College Alumni Newsletter.