Why I didn't know Roger Milliken was as a civil rights hero in my own hometown

He was a Republican, that’s why.

Born in Spartanburg, South Carolina to parents that played significant roles in the integration of little league sports and Cub Scouts there in the 1960s and 70s; I earned a B.A. from and taught at its Wofford College; was an activist and official in the county Democratic Party throughout the 1980s and 90s; and hired some of the first black paralegals.

So why did I only discover a major fact related to the above in a recent Pat Buchanan column on the occasion of the death of Spartanburg’s most significant citizen of the 20th Century?:

“Conservative Tycoon … Dies at 95,” said the New York Times headline on New Year’s Eve about the death of Roger Milliken.

Clearly, the headline writer did not know the man….

In the 1950s, he relocated from New York to Spartanburg, S.C.

Few men did more to build the two-party system in South Carolina than Roger, who supported Barry Goldwater in 1964 and helped to persuade Strom Thurmond to leave the Democratic Party. In the 1960s, Roger had urged Wofford College to integrate its student body and promised to make up for any financial losses if it took the step.

Again, I was and have been active in civil rights since I was eight years old. Clearly neither Wofford nor Milliken himself were self promoters, given my ongoing ignorance despite my matriculation and employment there. Admittedly, I wasn’t much of an extracurricular participant, but for gosh sakes shouldn’t some of my Democratic Party associates mentioned that Roger Milliken had ensured the integration of Wofford? After all, everyone there knows that Jerry Richardson, former Little-All American receiver from Wofford, NFL star of the Baltimore Colts and owner of the Carolina Panthers started the first S.C. Hardee’s franchise there on Kennedy Street. We know that the Marshall Tucker Band hails from the county.

Shouldn’t Roger Milliken have been celebrated at least as much as nearby Greenville-native Jesse Jackson?

Of course, and I take it as a matter of betrayal by the press and the civil rights industry that this native son, for whom racial integration has been such an important part of my life, that all I was regularly fed about this fine man and his largest private textile company on Earth was that he closed plants when unions tried to organize and not to pick Milliken Inc. employees for a jury if you represented a criminal defendant or a slip and fall plaintiff.

It seems that the local newspaper had this info on file, given their own obituary:

Of course, Milliken’s impact on local education stretched beyond donations.

In the 1960s, he helped usher in integration at Wofford, agreeing to support the college financially should accepting a black student drive away others.

Beginning at age 7, I have read the newspaper over coffee each and every day. I am famous for reciting sports, Spartanburg, Gamecocks and Wofford trivia. Yet, I have to find out this seminal fact about this great man only after he dies?

Maybe many Republicans in Spartanburg knew this, but in preparing this column I called several lifelong members of the Spartanburg County GOP, none of whom knew of this matter.

Shame on the civil rights community for not lionizing Roger Milliken. Shame on the media for their incompetence and leftist agenda, for you see, as a Republican, Roger Milliken was not one of there own.

Fellow conservatives, if we are ever to save this nation from its slouching towards Gomorrah, more of us are going to have to write columns and cover the news for major media; teach in academia and get over our fear of the PC police.

I can think of other such civil rights heroes that get this same treatment. I think of former Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) and Governor Haley Barbour (R-MS). But Mike, Trent Lott said encouraging words to former segregationist Strom Thurmond and even President George W. Bush didn’t defend him. And didn’t Governor Barbour recently say that he had a great untouched-by-racial-violence childhood in Yazoo City?

Yes, and?

Lott and Barbour and thousands, heck millions, of white conservatives and Republicans in the South defended blacks in court (even Strom); hired them to work for them; and helped build a New South to where blacks have returned in droves since at least the 1980s.

Maybe the greatest such conservative Republican civil rights hero yet not celebrated is one Ronald Reagan, born 100 years ago who had black sports teammates sleep in his house or with whom he slept in black folks’ homes when on the road, when  prejudice reared its head in local northern towns. The man that insisted on treating Blacks as equals his whole life and refused to treat them like disabled dependent victims that could only survive with the aid of white government bureaucrats. The man that hired General Colin Powell to be part of his inner circle that helped defeat the Evil Empire. The man that killed inflation so that the dollars of blacks weren’t rendered useless and who revived an economy for 25 years that led to record black prosperity.

The GOP owns the Lincoln mantle and ought to own the Martin judge-by-the-content-of-character Luther King. We are the party of Allen West (R-FL) and Tim Scott (R-SC). The latter beat Strom’s son in a 85% white district to make it to the House of Representatives last year.

Case Closed.

Mike DeVine

“One man with courage makes a majority.” – Andrew Jackson

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