Interview with Pastor James Wendell Rhodes

April 20, 2010

April 13, 2010

 Wendell Rhodes was born Dec 19, 1943 in Anderson SC.   He moved twice,  but within a 10 mile radius.   Wendell attended North Greenville Junior   College,   where he received an AA degree.  He received his BA degree from Furman University and a Master of Divinity from Erskine Seminary.  Pastor Rhodes has worked in ministry for over 45 years.  Currently he preaches at Friendship Worship Center in Abbeville SC.   Pastor Rhodes was happy to answer questions on Civil Rights.

When I asked Pastor Rhodes about his memories of the area schools being integrated,    he had this to say,  “Yes,  I remember integration,  I was fourteen years old.”  When asked about opposition  his remarks were to the point,  “There was a lot of opposition. The main one I remember was with Governor Wallace in Alabama.  He refused integration until the Federal court said they had to.”  Pastor Rhodes also commented about his local school, “ In the classroom though, I don’t remember much opposition.”

 Pastor Rhodes remembers hearing about all the key figures of the Civil Rights movement, when asked, “Yes,   I do remember stories of Martin Luther King,  Rosa Parks,  and Malcolm X.  They were  all very well known at that time.”

When I asked him of any local Civil Rights figures he stated,   “ I don’t remember any Civil Rights  figures from our area,  none that made a big enough impression for me to recall.”

 Pastor Rhodes remembers about fear of racial violence, “Blacks had there own side of town.  I remember my friends  and  I fearing to go near their residence.”   When asked about how they responded to these fears,  “ I felt like whites were more fearful of blacks, and were insecure in their surroundings, we would avoid them.”

I asked about the amount of time that it took for changes to take place, he simply replied, “I felt like the changes were slow, they seemed to take a lot of time.”

I asked had there been any time he may have been exposed to other races as a child, his response,  “ Yes, I played with them as a child.  I would pick cotton with them,  and  I even lived right up the road from a few families.”

I asked Pastor Rhodes of any specific memories of segregation in SC when he was growing up that he could share with us,  “ I really don’t have any specific memories of segregation in Anderson S.C.”

When I asked about the sports figures of the day such Muhammed  Ali , “At the time,  It didn’t affect me at all.  I admired their accomplishments,   but ashamedly I would have to admit that whenever a white guy was up against them,   I pulled for the white guy.”

I asked Pastor Rhodes if he remembers hearing of the death of Martin Luther King Jr.,  he said, “I was sad about MLKs death because he was murdered but I did not grieve over him. Now it breaks my heart!”   I asked if Martin Luther King Jr.’s  death had any influence on advocacy for Civil Rights, he responded, “At that time I wasn’t advocating civil rights, but as I grew older I was moved by his speaking ability.  Now on his birthday at my church we have a ceremonial service every year that remembers his dream and honors his accomplishments.”

 What treatment to other races did you notice while growing up during segregation did you notice was a question I  asked.   Pastor Rhodes answered, “ No one wanted to drink after the blacks.  I was brought up to think they were beneath me.  My family liked them but we didn’t want to interact with them.”

Thomas Martin

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