Capturing the History of Edisto Island: Oral History Interview with Rev. McKinley Washington, Jr.

· Rev. McKinley Washington



McKINLEY WASHINGTON, JR. (1936-2022):  a Presbyterian minister, a civil rights activist, an elected member of the South Carolina House of Representatives (1975-1990) and a member of the South Carolina Senate (1991-1999).  The bridge onto Edisto Island from the mainland was named after Senator Washington in 1993.

Reverend McKinley Washington, Jr. was born in a small community outside of Sumter, South Carolina called Stackhouse Place. In this interview he talks about life on Edisto Island during the height of the civil rights movement including the changes he has witnessed. McKinley’s dad was a sharecropper and his mom a teacher. He graduated from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina with both a degree in political science and religion and a Master of Divinity. During college in the early 60’s he was part of a lunch counter demonstration and listened to Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X when they visited campus. McKinley shares many of his own civil rights experiences. He came to Edisto Island in the mid-60’s to pastor the Edisto Presbyterian Church which was African-American. At this time the African-American community was very poor. Rev. Washington helped organize and was part of the South Carolina Commission for Farm Workers, Community Action Program, Head Start Program, Political Action Committee, and the NAACP. He describes how he worked to get African-American’s registered to vote, to integrate the local schools, the state park, and swim on Edisto beach. He was persuaded to run for public office and elected to the State House of Representatives. There his goal was to get things done in rural areas such as Edisto Island. He fought for roads to be paved, ditches to be cleaned, and was instrumental in getting money for a new bridge to replace the often broken down drawbridge. The new 1993 bridge is named in his honor. He went to Washington to plead for the Sea Island Healthcare Center. After the old Edisto Island School closed rather than be integrated, he helped the African-American community buy it for recreation, summer, adult education, and daycare programs, and community center. McKinley describes his work with Fritz Hollings and the changes in the Republican and Democratic parties. He says that while things have improved tremendously for African-Americans, there is a lot still left undone.

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