GREENWOOD, SC - The South Carolina childhood home of Benjamin Mays, considered by many as the father of the civil rights movement, is to become a museum, authorities say.
Former U.N. Ambassador and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young will attend the ceremony at Greenwood where the rundown home will be dedicated as a museum, The State of Columbia, S.C., reported.
"This is an extraordinarily significant event about a great man whom all too few people know about," said Vernon Burton, a Clemson history professor with expertise on the Civil War and civil rights eras.
"When I was coming up, we only had a monument to Preston Brooks, the pro-slavery congressman in the 1850s known for assaulting a U.S. senator on the Senate floor after he made an anti-slavery speech," Burton said. "So as little boys, in particular, we all knew that the way to be famous and appreciated was to beat people up."
Mays, the son of freed slaves in Greenwood County, left South Carolina, eventually earning a reputation as an educator, minister, counselor to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, and an advocate for peace who inspired the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., The State said. Mays died in 1984 at age 89.
Many of King's words came "right out of Mays' mouth," because Mays spoke many times when King was a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta.
"I heard him speak at the Benjamin Mays High School in Pacolet when I was 12. He said something I have never forgot: 'Anybody can be nobody, but everybody can be somebody,'" said Joseph Patton, chief executive officer of the non-profit agency that directs early childhood education and literacy programs in central and western South Carolina.