As we celebrate Black History Month, The Manning Times will be featuring historic African Americans who truly left a legacy in Clarendon County. To begin our series, we take a look at the life and work of Reverend Joseph Armstrong DeLaine.
Born on Jul. 2, 1898 in Clarendon County near Manning, DeLaine had twelve siblings. DeLaine was raised mainly in Manning, but he spent some time in Summerton because his father was the pastor at Liberty Hill AME Church. DeLaine attended high school in Manning and upon graduating, he furthered his education at Allen University in Columbia.
DeLaine obtained his associates degree in business in 1931 and began working on his bachelor degree in divinity. DeLaine then met the love of his life, Mattie Belton. Together they had three children.
Eventually, DeLaine ended up back in Clarendon County pastoring at Spring Hill Church and taking a teaching position at Bob Johnson School. At the time, the school was located near Davis Station. DeLaine's wife Mattie accepted a teaching position at Spring Hill Community School.
During his time at the Bob Johnson facility, DeLaine took note of the dilapidated building and lack of basic tools for the students, such as buses. This led to the first documented case filing against the lack of buses for African American students. This case was thrown out on a technicality. DeLaine was not discouraged. With help from Thurgood Marshall, the chief legal counsel for National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, DeLaine convinced twenty parents in Clarendon County of African American students to sign a new lawsuit requesting equal school facilities.
Thus, Briggs v. Elliott happened. The lawsuit was first decided against the defendants but was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court as one of five lawsuits, along with Brown v Board of Education. May of 1954 marked the start of legal segregation across America.
Unfortunately, for his role in the lawsuit, DeLaine and his family became the target of many hate crime threats and his home in Summerton was burned to the ground in early 1951. After relocating to Lake City, DeLaine defended his home and family one night by returning gunfire after a series of attacks on his home and family. He fled South Carolina and wrote to the FBI ,letting them know that he fled "not to escape justice, but to escape injustice."
Sadly, DeLaine was never able to return to SC and died in North Carolina on Aug. 3, 1974. The warrant for his arrest was dropped in October of 2020.