e were relaxing in our tiny rented apartment when we heard a screech outside. Headlights were shining out in front; a couple of rednecks had stopped their car, and they began pumping a cascade of bullets through our kitchen window. We ducked down behind the sofa as the bullets continued to shower, blowing out the glass.
The shooting stopped, and we heard the car accelerate. But we didn’t get up so fast. We stayed down there a few more minutes until our heart rates had slowed enough for us to stand up. The bullets had broken dishes, poked holes in the thin sheetrock, and decorated the linoleum. None had hit us, but we had gotten the message.
It was a humid South Carolina summer night in 1965, the kind of humidity that plays with your brain and senses. Peter and I were drunk from the heat and looking to break out of the doldrums. We were two young college students who were game for a little adventure. Perhaps we were a bit foolish. No, we were really foolish. And that’s why we decided that instead of sitting in that little apartment in the heat, we’d go to the Ku Klux Klan meeting at a farm nearby in Orangeburg.
In those days, Orangeburg was a hotbed of the Confederacy and white supremacist hatred. We thought it would be cool to eavesdrop on what “the Klan” was doing. Meetings were open to the public, after all, and we were young white boys, so what could be dangerous?
We tried to blend in and cheer when the other people at the meeting cheered, and boo when they booed. Then the KKK leaders, wearing white robes with hoods that covered their faces, urged the participants to raise funds to help the cause. We decided to contribute as well and checked our pockets for loose change. What we hadn’t realized, though, was that there were a few buttons from SCOPE in our pockets, and those made their way into the collection box.