BLACK HISTORY 365 DAYS OF THE YEAR
Rev. Joseph DeLaine
Dr. Martin Luther King
Dr. Charles H. Thomas
In 1959 I was a freshman at Winston-Salem State University in Winston-Salem, N. C. In nearby Greensboro, A&T University students were about to under take a movement that would highlight the modern day Civil Rights Movement. The students would stage sit-ins at downtown restaurants that refuse to serve black customers and the rest is Civil Rights history. The movement would spread to Winston-Salem where legendary coach Clarence “Bighouse” Gaines found it necessary to call a meeting with all the athletes. He warned us not to go anywhere near downtown or get involved in any kind of way with the sit-ins. The warning was directed at the DC and New York contingents on campus. He said, “the consequences of getting involved and getting caught—a bus ticket back to the ghetto.” My homeboy and roommate Big Al Mayor, Chicago basketball sharpshooter Barney Hood and his Lynchburg, Virginia teammate Lutheran Wiley met me at the neighborhood deli and we hitched hiked downtown to join the boycott. The four of us made it back to campus without incident. Coach Gaines would not let it go, he kept saying, ‘I know you went downtown yesterday. There are some pictures and I am waiting to see them.’ I was on pins and needles for a couple of days but the photos never surfaced. I think he was bluffing, he never mentioned it again.
I find it difficult to believe that this is 2015 and we are observing Rev. Martin Luther King’s birthday and the theme song is still “We Shall Overcome.”
Our history and future are still little known black history facts as it relates to the bravery of some black South Carolinians. They created America’s first civil rights movement. The pictorial history can be found of the movement in the book “Out of the Box in Dixie”
Photographed and chronicled by civil rights famed photographer Cecil J. Williams (www.freedomjusticesimages.com).The book clearly shows the modern day movement started in Clarendon, South Carolina long before Brown vs. Board of Education, Montgomery Bus Boycott, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King’s March on Washington, and the lunch counter sit-ins in Greensboro. Author Cecil Williams is a cousin of Dr. Charles H. Thomas Jr. Dr. Thomas was one of the leaders of the movement when it moved from Clarendon to Orangeburg, South Carolina in the 50’s. Cecil was still in high school but was armed with a camera and he would travel.
The Godfather of the civil rights movement was a spiritual man of God by the name of Rev. Joseph DeLaine. In 1949 Rev. DeLaine and his friend Harry Briggs organized a group of parents in Clarendon and formed a picket line and challenged school segregation in the county. The Briggs vs Elliott petition bearing Harry Briggs’ name was the forerunner of Brown vs. Board of Education. Their challenge was the first to move to the Supreme Court. Several years later four other cases would evolve into Brown vs Board of Education. Famed civil rights attorney Thurgood Marshall would represent the plaintiffs. In 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled segregation in public schools unconstitutional. My Spingarn high school basketball teammate the late Spotswood Bolling would be the lead plaintiff in integrating the Washington, DC Public School system (Bolling vs Board of Education).
HBell Spotswood Bolling
We thank Harry Briggs and Rev. DeLaine for their sacrifices and courage against all odds. The Clarendon County police took out a warrant for Rev. DeLaine’s arrest after he returned gun fire defending his family and home from members of the Klu Klux Klan. The white folks of Clarendon County also thanked Rev. DeLaine by burning his church to the ground. He would later have to flee for his life to New York City. It was there in 1956 the First Lady of the United States Eleanor Roosevelt the wife of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt attended a rally on behalf of Rev. DeLaine. The rally was held at Madison Square Garden with actress Tulalah Bankhead in attendance.
The DeLaine family inspect the ruins of their church
With Rev. DeLaine exiled to New York City the Clarendon County Klan thought they had ended the fight for freedom in South Carolina but his neighbors in Orangeburg County had his back.
Attorney Thurgood Marshall would become an advisor to the Orangeburg freedom fighters led by a “Dream Team” of civil rights leaders that included members of the NAACP, clergy, and the late Dr. Charles H. Thomas Jr. a Professor of Psychology at South Carolina State University. Thurgood Marshall would go on to become the first black judge to be seated on the Supreme Court.
During one student uprising the Orangeburg County police swooped down on protesters and locked up over 350 students. They were held in an outdoor jail like stockade, it reminded many of Nazi Germany. The New York Times published a front page picture of students in the stockade.
Dr. Thomas picks up his children from jail (Hattie in shades)
Dr. Thomas and the entire Thomas clan were on the front lines of the civil rights movement. The Thomas Family without a doubt is the “First Family of Civil Rights” in Orangeburg County.
On several occasions Dr. Thomas had to put up his house for collateral to get his children and other students out of jail. It was the norm for Atty. Mathew Perry to be summoned to get Hattie, Charlease, Loretta, and Reggie all out of the Orangeburg County jail. Cops and judges knew the Thomas’ family, they were called “The Thomas Clan.”
It was definitely a family affair. The family participation included Dr. Thomas’ wife Elease, sister Nancy and brother Milbren. They could be seen protecting his back on the picket line during marches in downtown Orangeburg. Future sons-in-law Weldon Hammond was a student and Robert Stevenson was teaching at South Carolina State. They also prove to be a pain in the ass to law-enforcement.
Dr. Thomas, sister-in-law Nancy and brother Milbren bring up the rear
Ann Thomas Riley the youngest daughter would be one of the first blacks to integrate the Orangeburg all white high school and Harold Riley her husband was one the students shot during the “Orangeburg Massacre” School teacher Gloria Rackley was another important member of the Thomas clan she was known to the family as Aunt Gloria. She was a true warrior where ever you saw the Thomas clan she was just a step behind. Her ties were so strong to the family and the NAACP the Orangeburg County school system threatened her with dismissal if she did not cut her ties. She walked away and continued to fight. When Charlease was arrested the cops tried to separate her from the rest of the protesters because she was Dr. Thomas’ daughter. It was Gloria Rackley who got between her and the cops and said “no way.” Gloria’s daughter Lurma would later become the Press Secretary for “DC Mayor for Life” Marion Barry.
The fight for civil rights got so intense in Orangeburg the Rev. Martin Luther King came to a rally organized by Dr. Thomas. He was a spectator in January 1963. This was just months before his now famous March on Washington.
Dr. King a face in the crowd
Dr. Thomas would later take over the reins as President of the local chapter of the NAACP. His advisor and right hand was Attorney Mathew Perry. Attorney Perry would show up in a courtroom and the white judges would immediately take a bathroom break and sometimes would not come back. Attorney Perry would go on to become the first black judge to be seated on the South Carolina Court of Appears.
Dr. Thomas started and founded voter registration for the entire state of South Carolina. He was also known as a “Bad Ass” to the white folks and the Uncle Toms in Orangeburg county. There were the “House Negroes” who would sit in on the strategy meetings and report the upcoming plans to their white bosses. It got so bad Dr. Thomas and the other coordinators of the marches and boycotts had to have two meetings. The first meeting they would give out misleading information and plans for the ‘House Negroes’ to carry back to their bosses. The second meeting would be held to discuss the true plan. Sixty years later that type of plantation mentality is still holding us back.
Dr. Thomas helping a student register to vote
The Orangeburg Massacre was the worst murder of students on an educational institution in the history of this country (including Kent State). White law-enforcement would lead Claflin and South Carolina State students on peaceful daylight marches to downtown Orangeburg but under the cover of darkness they became deadly assassins. In 1968 highway patrolmen and local cops shot and killed three students and wounded 27 more. My brother-in-law Harold Riley a native of Orangeburg took two bullets that night and watched his friend Samuel Hammond die. One bullet is still lodged in his leg. These hideous acts were carried out without provocation on the campus of South Carolina State University.
Police escort during daylight hours
On that fateful night students were at first participating in a peaceful march and demonstration at a local segregated bowling alley just off campus. There might have been some name calling among the students directed toward law-enforcement. The cops evidently took it personal and without warning started shooting in the direction of the students who retreated to their campus. When the smoke had cleared three students were dead. The cops claimed they were fired on first and forty plus years later they have yet to come up with a smoking gun. In 2009 there was a black man headed for the White House but still in 2015 there is Justice and Just-Us in America!
The Orangeburg Massacre was the worst murder of students on an educational institution in the history of this country (including Kent State). White law-enforcement would lead Claflin and South Carolina State students on peaceful daylight marches to downtown Orangeburg but under the cover of darkness they became deadly assassins. In 1968 highway patrolmen and local cops shot and killed three students and wounded 27 more. My brother-in-law Harold Riley a native of Orangeburg took two bullets that night and watched his best friend Samuel Hammond die. One bullet is still lodged in his leg. These hideous acts were carried out without provocation on the campus of South Carolina State University.
On that fateful night students were first participating in a peaceful march and demonstration at a local segregated bowling alley just off campus. There might have been some name calling among the student directed toward law-enforcement. The cops evidently took it personal and without warning started shooting in the direction of the students who retreated to their campus. When the smoke had cleared three students were dead. The cops claimed they were fired on first and forty years later they have yet to come up with a smoking gun. In 2009 despite a black man headed for the White House there is still Justice and Just-Us in America!
I read a story titled “The Morning After” in the Washington Post written by black columnist Eugene Robinson. The story related to the election of America’s first Black President I almost brought up my breakfast of grits, eggs and sausage. Robinson was interviewing Georgia Democrat and civil rights icon John Lewis and said something like “I think John Lewis is one of the most courageous men of the civil rights crusade. I thought of the beating he took on the Pettis Edmond Bridge and the scars his body still bears.” What makes Robinson’s observation so ridiculous is the fact that this brother has roots in Orangeburg, South Carolina. His father taught at Claflin University during the height of the civil rights crusade and he does not have a clue. The struggles of the pioneers in Clarendon and Orangeburg counties were never mentioned in his column.
The real heroes of the civil rights crusade were young black men like the three brothers who made the ultimate sacrifice, they gave their lives. John Lewis’ contributions are commendable but they are pale in comparison.
Delano Middleton, Samuel Hammond and Henry Smith died like animals with white cops standing over them with guns pointed and yelling “Die nigger die” and they did. No man or woman in America should ever have to die like that and for Eugene Robinson not to be aware of the sacrifices of those young men is another crime in the black community. But there he is in the Washington Post and on National television every week claiming to be an expert on Black America. For this Eugene Robinson was awarded a Pulitzer Prize? Something is wrong with this picture! The bottom-line, we must keep our own history.
S. C. State troopers stand over the dead bodies of South Carolina State students
In the State Capitol of Columbia South Carolina there stands a tall imposing stature of a man who stood and still stands for white supremacy—the late Senator Strom Thurmond. During daylight hours he was seen preaching hate niggers and at night he was sleeping with one. He fathered a black child out of wedlock and unlike some deadbeat dads he made sure she was properly cared for and received a good education. She was enrolled at South Carolina State where he would often visit her to make sure the hired hands were doing their job properly.
Dr. Thomas and Senator Thurmond had several eyeball to eyeball confrontations during the movement. They would later become great friends out of respect for each other. He later became a family friend. Dr. Thomas was finally inducted into the Black South Carolina Hall of Fame in 2006.
Senator Strom Thurmond and the Bells
When Dr. Thomas decided that he had enough of the “Player Haters” and envy and jealous Negroes in Orangeburg he moved to DC. It was Strom Thurmond who recommended him for a Presidential appointment to the Richard Nixon White House. Dr. Thomas would accept an appointment to become the Director of Equal Opportunity Employment for the United States Post Office.
Thanks to Dr. Thomas, Senator Thurmond and I became fast friends and he became a big supporter of Kids In Trouble, Inc. One Christmas he assigned his office staff to help me coordinate my toy party for at-risk children.
Later Barack Obama will take his rightful place as the 44th President of the United States of America. There are a lot of people who are claiming they helped lay the ground work for this historical moment in American history and maybe they did. But I know for a fact that Charles H. Thomas help lay the ground work for his historical election.
Congratulations to the trailblazing Tuskegee Airmen and the Little Rock 9 who all received invitations to the swearing in of President Barrack Obama. Someone dropped the ball when they failed to invite The Thomas H. Thomas Jr. family.
Singing legend Sam Cooke had a concert in Columbia South Carolina during the height of the Civil Rights movement. He performed in front of a segregated audience. It is rumored that experience inspired him to write his classic “A Change Is Going to come.”
Sam Cooke was a prophet:
A CHANGE DID COME–
A CHANGE IN SENATOR STROM THURMOND
A CHANGE IN AMERICA
THE CHANGE——-BARRACK OBAMA BUT MORE CHANGE IS NEEDED!