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date: 20 November 2019

Newman, Isaiah DeQuincey

Abstract and Keywords

Isaiah DeQuincey Newman (1910–2008), a tireless advocate for human and civil rights, was a life-long humanitarian and one of the state’s most important civil rights leaders; he worked to bring peace and justice to all South Carolinians.

Keywords: church, civil rights, demonstrations, peace, segregation, social justice

Isaiah DeQuincey Newman was born April 17, 1911, in Clyde Township, Darlington County, South Carolina. He attended public school in Williamsburg County and graduated from Claflin College in Orangeburg, South Carolina. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1934 from Clark College and a divinity degree in 1937 from Gammon Theological Seminary, both in Atlanta, Georgia.

Newman became an ordained minister of the Methodist Church in 1931. He served pastoral appointments in Georgia and South Carolina and also served as superintendent of the Sumter District of the United Methodist Church. He founded two churches in Columbia: the Francis Burns United Methodist Church in 1962 and the Middleton-Rosemont United Methodist Church in 1983. He was also appointed to a number of positions of trust for the South Carolina Conference of the church. He was a key member of the Merger Committee for the South Carolina United Methodist Conference, which brought together the previously segregated conferences into a single organization.

In addition to his duties as a minister, the Reverend Newman served with distinction in many other endeavors, which brought him recognition and honor. He was well known throughout the state and nation as a champion of the civil rights movement in South Carolina. An advocate of nonviolent protest for access to public accommodation and equal voting rights, he was sought for his advice and counsel in easing racial tensions throughout the state. He was instrumental in the organization of the Progressive Democratic Party, which initiated full participation by Blacks in the South Carolina Democratic Party. He played a major role in helping South Carolina achieve a more peaceful transition from a racially segregated to an integrated society. In 1943, he founded the Orangeburg branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, served in a number of offices in the South Carolina Conference of the NAACP, and from 1960 to 1969 served as Field Director for that organization. Willing to stand up against segregationists, Newman led many demonstrations across South Carolina, including the infamous Myrtle Beach State Park “wade-in,” and challenged the entire political structure of the state. For his outstanding achievements in the progress of civil rights, he was recognized by numerous civic and national organizations.

Newman was a strong advocate of human services, particularly with regard to the needs of citizens in rural areas and the elderly. He served as executive assistant to the Commissioner of the South Carolina Department Social Services from 1972 to 1974. He was named Director of the Rural Regional Coordination Demonstration Project in the Office of the Governor. This project became the Division of Rural Development with Newman serving as its director until 1981. He helped to organize State-Wide Homes Foundation to promote better housing and education for low-income families and the Senior Citizens Service Center to serve citizens of the Camden area. His humanitarian service brought recognition from the South Carolina Congress of Parents and Teachers and the South Carolina Nursing Home Association. In 1982, he was named Rural Citizen of the year by the National Institute on Social Work in Rural Areas.

In 1979 Newman received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Claflin College and the Order of the Palmetto, considered the highest civilian honor in the State of South Carolina. In October 1983, he achieved great political acclaim when he was elected in a special election to the South Carolina Senate and became the first Black to serve in that body since Reconstruction. Senator Newman was cited for outstanding public service by Richland County for his civic leadership by Concurrent Resolution of the South Carolina Legislature. In May 1984, upon recommendation of the University of South Carolina College of Social Work, he was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

Within two years of becoming South Carolina first African-American state senator since 1887, this revered activist died, leaving a legacy of personal sacrifice and service to South Carolinians.