50 Years Later, Congressman Clyburn Reflects on King’s Visits to South Carolina

Apr 4, 2018

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking in Kingstree, SC, May 8, 1966.
Credit Moving Image Research Collections, University of South Carolina

On July 30, 1967 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was in South Carolina. He had tea at Septima Clark’s house in Charleston and later that day spoke at a meeting at the old county hall building on King Street. It would be his last visit to the Palmetto state. Nine months later, King was gunned down at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. 

South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn also attended that 1967 Charleston meeting. He shares how this event seemed to have been the start of King’s “message expansion” into healthcare.  

King would visit South Carolina multiple times. Congressman Clyburn also recalls him coming to the state after the voting rights act passed.

"He came to Kingstree the following Spring and he gave- the first time I heard him give- what he called the 'march to the ballot box' speech."

Right here from this county and all over the state of South Carolina; once more we will be able to ascend to the statehouse. Once more we have the opportunity to send to the congress of the United States competent, qualified, dedicated black men and women.

Let us on that glad day in June, march on ballot boxes. For this is the way we are gonna straighten up the South and the nation.     

LISTEN: King addresses the residents of Kingstree, SC on May 9, 1966

King also visited Charleston in 1963. He stayed at the Brooks Motel, which was located on the corner of Morris and Felix streets in Charleston. The motel and restaurant served as the local headquarters for the civil rights movement in Charleston.

During King’s 1967 trip to the state, death threats prompted a change in plans that would allow a young Frances Fielding (son of the late Herbert Fielding, one of the first African-Americans elected to the South Carolina General Assembly since the Reconstruction Era) to have an early-morning encounter with the civil rights leader.

Resources and Links

USC Moving Image Research Collections

Congressman James E. Clyburn

Dr. Martin Luther King is Assassinated

Civil Rights in Charleston