ST. HELENA ISLAND, S.C. — Billionaire Ted Turner agreed Thursday to drop his lawsuit against a group of Gullah descendants and donate 68 disputed sea island acres to the heirs.
Turner had drawn criticism for suing the Gullah, slave descendants who maintain vestiges of African speech and customs but who have been squeezed off many of the islands they once dominated.
"He understands that this bond of community cannot be preserved unless people stay together, and they cannot stay together unless they have land where they can gather," read a statement issued by attorneys for both sides.
Turner had sued Lands End Woodland Inc., a club formed by the Gullah heirs to protect their 328-acre inheritance on St. Helena Island off Beaufort. Turner spokeswoman Maura Donlan said that he initially didn't know Lands End was connected to the Gullah and that he directed his attorneys to settle the matter once he found out.
The woodland club was formed in 1994 by descendants of 47 blacks who pooled their money in 1920 to buy an old plantation on the island. The land had always been treated as a community asset, where people could hunt, fish or hold family gatherings.
Turner purchased neighboring St. Phillips Island and a 298-acre landing area on St. Helena in 1979. His attorneys said Turner was unaware of any boundary dispute until recently.
As part of the settlement, the heirs agreed to acknowledge that Turner had a legitimate legal claim to the disputed acres, and that Turner's giving up of that claim is a charitable donation.