James T. McCain

At the focal point of the Congress of Racial Equality’s (CORE) move into national prominence in the late 1950’s was the hiring of Field Secretary James T. McCain, a native of Sumter, South Carolina. McCain, an outstanding South Carolina educator, had been barred in 1955 from teaching because of his affiliation with the NAACP. CORE’s recruitment of him as a field secretary helped the organization to gain national stature. Mr. McCain moved CORE into the South, where its members worked to “eliminate discrimination on all levels.” He was a leader in the sit-ins and freedom rides of the 1960’s. Mr. McCain was widely known for promoting the goals of CORE. He worked in numerous communities throughout the South overseeing the group’s fields operations. Among the hundreds of students under his jurisdiction were civil rights volunteer James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, who were later killed by hatemongers in Philadelphia, Mississippi. CORE changed its bi-racial, non-violent, direct action thrust in 1965 and McCain left the organization in 1966. He then became, Director of the Scholarship, Education, Defense Fund for Racial Equality (SEDFRE). SEDFRE’s primary goals were to elevate the economic and political status of African-Americans. In 1975 Mr. McCain was inducted into the South Caroliniana Society. He has contributed hundreds of manuscripts on the civil rights movement, 1957-1971 to the South Caroliniana Library. As an educator, he served as a teacher, principal, college professor, registrar and college dean. A graduate of Morris College in Sumter, McCain earned his Master of Education Degree from Temple University in 1940. He has been active in many organizations, such as the South Carolina Council for Human Relations, the Palmetto Education Association, the SC Council on Aging, and the Governor’s Council on Human Affairs for South Carolina. McCain admonishes young people to “aspire for excellence and to stop wasting so much time on unessential things.”