Earvin Smith was a patrolman with the South Carolina State College police on Feb. 8, 1968, the date known today for the Orangeburg Massacre. Three students were killed and 28 others were injured when South Carolina highway patrolmen fired shotguns into a crowd of students protesting segregation at a Russell Street bowling alley. In his own words, this is Smith’s account.

I remember it like it just happened last night. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think about it.

I started working with the South Carolina State College Campus Police Department on March 1, 1967, and retired in June 1995.

All seven policemen were working that night, Feb. 8, 1968. We were called patrolmen then. The department was led by Capt. Brantley Evans.

We had three patrol cars that night. Capt. Evans and Patrolman Ernest Jones were riding together. First Lt. Jacob Irick and Sgt. William Green were riding together. Patrolman Charles Hooks, Patrolman William Robinson and I, Patrolman Earvin Smith, were riding together.

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Students were protesting the “white only” policy of the All-Star Bowling Lanes. The National Guard was stationed at all outer-perimeter entrances to the campus: Buckley and Russell streets, Buckley and Goff Avenue, Lovell Street and the front of the campus, with the highway patrolmen.

On Feb. 8, 1968, approximately between 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., a crowd of students was protesting at the front of the campus of South Carolina State College. Patrolmen Charles Hooks, Willie Robinson and I were on Lovell Street at that time, between Lowman Hall and Wilkinson Street facing then-State Street on the Wilkinson side of the street at the stop sign, when we heard shots fired. At first it sounded like fireworks going off; to me the shots lasted about three or four seconds.

The students were running from the front of the campus. When they got by us, one of the students, nicknamed “Red, I did not know his right name, yelled out, “I was shot.” He was bleeding, which is when we realized it was not fireworks. I did not hear any shots before the shooting or after the shooting from where we were at that time.

From Lovell Street to the front of the campus is approximately 400 feet. We were just that close when the shots were fired. I am the last surviving member of the campus police department which experienced that historic event.

When entering the campus from the front on the left there was a park with some trees. The park extended from the front to Lovell Street. The students were running from the front in that area toward Lovell Street.

If those trees had not been in the park, the tragedy could have been a great deal worse. I think the trees blocked some of the shots (pellets) that were fired into the crowd of students.

After the shooting, an investigation was done. It was discovered that nine South Carolina highway patrolmen fired their weapons into the crowd of students that was protesting on the front of the campus.

Three students were killed, two State College students and a Wilkinson High School student, and 28-plus were injured. I have a relative who was a student then that was one of the 28-plus shot and injured. The reason I said 28-plus is because I think there were more than 28 injured.

I forgive those nine highway patrolmen for killing those three students and injuring 28-plus.

As to the families of the three who were killed and the 28-plus injured, I thought about a verse in the Bible. John 11:35 —  “Jesus wept,” the shortest verse in the Bible. In that verse, there is sadness mixed with compassion, comfort and love. There is more in that verse, but I chose to use those four.

This is my story about the Orangeburg Massacre. By telling my story, this is closure for me. Amen.

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