Mayor Lester Bates (Image courtesy of Modern Political Collections, University of South Carolina)
The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Integration and Racial Dialogue in Columbia, S.C.
Seeking to protect Columbia’s growing national reputation as an “All-American City” amidst a growing number of protests, Columbia Mayor Lester Bates held informal meetings with black leaders and white businessmen. In August 1962, eight downtown chain stores, including Eckerd’s and Woolworth’s, served black customers for the first time. The following year, Columbia Mayor Lester Bates convened the “Committee of 50,” a biracial advisory group designed to promote interracial understanding and ease the transition towards an integrated society.