Philip Simmons was born on Daniel Island in 1912 and was raised by his grandparents before he was sent to Charleston in 1920 to live with his mother. He went to school at Buist Elementary – now known as Buist Academy. He attended school during a time of segregation, with a fight for equality in the educational system.
He took an interest in the craftspeople in his neighborhood — particularly the work of Peter Simmons (no relation), who ran a smithy in downtown Charleston. After a five-year apprenticeship, Philip Simmons became a full blacksmith and started doing ornamental ironwork. His work is still highly recognized in Charleston. Throughout his career he created more than 500 separate pieces, including iron balconies, window grilles, fences and gates.
Simmons retired at the age of 75 but continued to teach the craft to younger artisans. His work is featured around the world, and he received a number of awards and recognitions, including an honorary doctorate from South Carolina State University in 2006 for his contributions to the field of metalworking.
Simmons passed away in 2009 at the age of 97. Berkeley County School District has three schools named after him: Philip Simmons Elementary, Philip Simmons Middle and Philip Simmons High. These are now the homes of the Philip Simmons Iron Horses.
The middle and elementary schools opened in 2016 and the high school opened in 2017. The school community continues the legacy of Simmons through the students' education. Symbols of the famed blacksmith's work can be found throughout all three of the buildings — from elements in the architecture to student artwork displayed in the hallways.