Daily Updates

March 31, 2013

S.C. man who apologized for racist past dies

Elwin Wilson, the former Ku Klux Klan supporter who publicly apologized for years of violent racism, including the beating of a black Freedom Rider who went on to become a Georgia congressman, has died. He was 76.

His wife, Judy Wilson, said he died Thursday at a hospital in South Carolina after a bout with the flu and suffering for years with heart and lung problems.

She told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Sunday that he was relieved he lived long enough to try to make amends for years of racial hatred. He detailed his deeds at length when he called The Herald of Rock Hill to apologize shortly after President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

“He said he had it on his heart for a long time,” Judy Wilson said. “He said he wished he could find the ones he mistreated and apologize to them all.”

Among his actions were cross burnings; hanging a black doll in a noose at the end of his drive; flinging cantaloupes at black men walking down Main Street; hurling a jack handle at a black boy jiggling the soda machine in his father’s service station; and the brutal beating of U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., at a Rock Hill bus station in 1961.

“His story is a powerful story; his story must not be forgotten,” Lewis told The Herald (http://bit.ly/14w1uWp) in a telephone interview Saturday. “His story and the way he arrived at his position must be understood, must be told.”

After his apology to the newspaper, Wilson apologized in several other public venues, including during a meeting with Lewis at the congressman’s Capitol Hill office.

In an April 2009 interview with the AP, Wilson tried to explain why he had decided to apologize.

“All I can say is that it has bothered me for years, all the bad stuff I’ve done,” he said. “And I found out there is no way I could be saved and get to heaven and still not like blacks.”

This month, Lewis received apologies from the current police chief of Montgomery, Ala., and the governor. But Wilson’s apology remains special.

“He was the first private citizen,” Lewis said. “He was the very, very first to come and apologize to me ... for a private citizen to come along and say, ‘I’m the one that attacked you; I’m the one who beat you.’ It was very meaningful.”

In 2009, Lewis and Wilson accepted the Common Ground Award for Reconciliation at the Canadian embassy in Washington, D.C. Also that year, both were honored in California with awards on Worldwide Forgiveness Day. In Maryland, Wilson presented Lewis with an award. They also told their story to Oprah Winfrey and millions of viewers.

 

1
Text Only
Daily Updates
  • 10 Things to Know for Thursday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday.

    April 23, 2014

  • In Other News, April 23

    April 23, 2014

  • US weighs clemency for inmates jailed for 10 years

    The Justice Department is encouraging nonviolent federal inmates who have behaved in prison, have no significant criminal history and have already served more than 10 years behind bars to apply for clemency, officials announced Wednesday.

    April 23, 2014

  • High court tosses $3.4M award to child porn victim

    The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a plea to make it easier for victims of child pornography to collect money from people who view their images online, throwing out a nearly $3.4 million judgment in favor of a woman whose childhood rape has been widely seen on the Internet. Two dissenting justices said Congress should change the law to benefit victims.

    April 23, 2014

  • Airport security vulnerabilities not uncommon

    For all the tens of billions of dollars that the nation has spent on screening passengers and their bags, few airports made a comparable investment to secure the airplanes themselves.

    April 23, 2014

  • Deal signs bill expanding gun rights in Georgia

    Gov. Nathan Deal has signed legislation expanding where people with licenses to carry can bring their guns in Georgia.

    April 23, 2014

  • Indian film awards arrive in Tampa, Fla., but why?

    The so-called Bollywood Oscars have been held in Macau, Singapore, London — and now, Tampa?

    April 23, 2014

  • Indictment: Prosecutor targeted in kidnapping plot

    A North Carolina prosecutor was the intended target of an elaborate kidnapping plot, but the kidnappers looked up the wrong address on the Internet and abducted the prosecutor’s father instead, according to an indictment released Tuesday.

    April 23, 2014

  • Republican activists push party on gay marriage

    As bans against gay marriage crumble and public opinion on the issue shifts rapidly, some Republicans are pushing the party to drop its opposition to same-sex unions, part of a broader campaign to get the GOP to appeal to younger voters by de-emphasizing social issues.

    April 23, 2014

  • Missouri executes inmate for 1993 farm slaying

    Missouri executed an inmate early Wednesday only a few miles from the farm where prosecutors say he orchestrated the 1993 killing of a couple whose cows he wanted to steal.

    April 23, 2014