As Editor/Publisher of the Cheraw (SC) Chronicle in the 1950s an 1960s, Andrew McDowd Secrest was an outspoken opponent of segregation and courageous advocate of integration.
"While everyone seemed to be all for a free press," Secrest writes," when their particular ox was gored, they then, of course, wanted to shoot the messenger. I was, literally and figuratively, shot at."
"I operated the Chronicle as a throw-back to the 19th century penny press: personal, partisan, combative, sometimes subjective..." In his book, he lays out a number of "journalistic commandments" and principles he was guided by.
He wanted to be independent, but he also wanted to avoid the fate of a publisher in Mississippi who "struck an early and courageous note against racial injustice, but in such a careless and misguided manner that he alienated everybody," went broke, exerted no influence and did not help to bring about social change.
For 15 years, the Chronicle under Secrest's leadership stood for both racial justice and law and order, firmly against demagogic leaders trying to whip up racial tension and animosity. While Strom Thurmond and his supporters were attempting to outlaw the NAACP, infringe upon academic freedom, shut down schools, parks, and public accommodations and facilities in an effort to avoid integration, Secrest editorially spoke out strongly against such regressive and reactionary actions.
As a result, he received unsigned hate mail and anonymous phone calls. Critics called him a "nigger-lover." "For Sale" and "Moving Out" signs were posted in front of his home. "Occasional pellets peppered our living room picture window." When he contributed to a publication of essays entitled South Carolinians Speak: A Moderate Approach to Race Relations, public reaction was mixed. "One contributor's house was fire-bombed. Another was intimidated into recantation. Some withdrew into silence. Others, including me, just hung in here."
Secrest goes on to tell remarkable tales of blatant government corruption, political intrigue and murder, brushes with the Ku Klux Klan, and the local rifle association, which turned out to be a front for the Klan. To learn more about this book, and BUY IT, click here.
His chief journalistic adversary during those years was Tom Waring, a die-hard segregationist who editorialized for the Charleston News and Courier against "the apostles of race mongrelization and socialism.'' To justify legal discrimination against blacks, he asserted that they were genetically as well as as socially inferior. Secrest frequently took Waring to task editorially.
For his courageous journalistic independence, Secrest was awarded a prestigious Nieman Fellowship to study at Harvard University, 1960-61.
In this Neiman class photo above (1961), Mac is in the center, back, in bowtie.
- Learn more about the Nieman Fellowship.
- Mac was honored by the Sidney Hillman Foundation for his editorials on civil rights.
- A number of newspapers have recently apologized for their poor, cowardly, or absent, coverage of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, according to Editor & Publisher.
- Mac's masters thesis, “In Black and White: Press Opinion and Race Relations in South Carolina, 1954-1964,” at Duke University in 1971 is quoted in this literature review of the civil rights movement.
- His masters thesis is mentioned in a paper presented at a Citadel Conference on the Civil Rights Movement.
- Mac was featured in "Newspapers and the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1957," a chapter of a PhD Dissertation by David Davies, Director, School of Mass Communication & Journalism, University of Southern Mississippi.
- "Dawn Arises in Aristocratic Charleston: The Gordon Langley Hall Affair," chapter 6 of Lonely Hunters, a book by James T. Sears, PhD, a Southern educator, author, scholar, and lecturer, says "in the News and Courier, by 1962, peaceful segregation had occurred in many public accommodations, although few blacks availed themselves of their new freedoms to shop, eat, and play in previously segregated areas. "
- Reflections on Charleston and Journalism by Charles W. Waring III, great-nephew of Tom Waring, who died in 1993.
- South Carolina newspapers' history, by Ron Allman
- South Carolina's Response to the African American Struggle for Equality and Access, by Scott Baker, Wake Forest University.
- "Down on Dixie: the Confederate Cause and the South's Scalawag Press," by Robert Stacy McCain, apparently a neo-Confederate. (Click.).
- "How the South Covered Desegregation," by Doug Cumming, American Society of Newspaper Editors
- "Practical Moral Philosophy for Lawyers: A Story About Community," and a profile of Waties Waring, progressive integrationist judge in South Carolina during the civil rights era.
- "Mr. NAACP," Levi Byrd and the Remaking of the NAACP in South Carolina and the Nation," a civil rights paper presented at the Citadel.
- "How far we have come: how far we still have to go," presentation by Charles Joyner of Myrtle Beach at the Citadel Conference on Civil Rights, 2003. "The editors Mac Secrest of the Cheraw Chronicle, Jack O'Dowd and James Rogers of the Florence Morning News educated their readers as to the inevitability and moral necessity of ending segregation."