A Man Named Pearl | 2008
Self-taught topiary artist Pearl Fryar's journey to national prominence began with a bigoted remark. In 1976, Pearl took a job in a can factory in Bishopville, South Carolina. New to this rural southern town, he and his wife Metra looked at a house for sale in an all-white neighborhood. The Fryars' real estate agent was notified by neighbors that a black family was not welcome. A homeowner voiced the collective concern: "Black people don't keep up their yards." Pearl was stung by the racial stereotype, but it motivated him to prove that misguided man wrong. Pearl bought a house in a "black" neighborhood and began fashioning a garden that would attract positive attention. His goal was to become the first African-American to win Bishopville's "Yard of the Month" award. Realizing he would have to do something spectacular, Pearl began cutting every bush and tree in his yard into unusual, abstract shapes. He didn't know it then, but he was creating a magical wonderland that would, in time, not only garner local recognition, but also draw thousands of visitors from across the United States and around the world. Now 68, Pearl has been featured in dozens of magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, as well as several television programs such as CBS Sunday Morning. The media interest that Pearl and his topiary garden generates helps steer much-needed tourist dollars into the declining town of Bishopville and Lee County, the poorest county in the state of South Carolina. He's also had a profound spiritual influence. Visitors who wander Pearl's three-and-a-half-acre property quickly recognize that love is the garden's central theme. Meticulously etched into the ground in huge, flower-filled letters are three words: Love, Peace & Goodwill. These are the guiding principles by which Pearl lives his life and how he's been "keeping up his yard" for nearly thirty years.