Rock Hill Nine

On the morning of January 31, 1961, a group of 18 African American civil rights demonstrators (13 men and five women), most of whom were students at Friendship College, converged on the McCrory’s Variety Store in downtown Rock Hill. Authorities had been notified ahead of time that there would be protests and they were on duty by 8:30 AM in case of trouble. Initially the protesters marched up and down the street carrying protest signs. Then, male demonstrators went inside the store and ten of the young men sat down at the counter and refused to leave.

The 10 protesters who sat down at the McCrory’s counter that morning were Willie Edward McCleod, James Frank Wells, Clarence Henner Graham, Thomas Walter Gaither, David “Scoop” Williamson, Robert Lewis McCullough, Mack Cartier Workman, Willie Thomas “Dub” Massey, John Alexander Gaines, and Charles Edward Taylor. All of the young men were students at Friendship College, except for Thomas Gaither, who was a graduate of Claflin College and a field secretary for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).

All 10 of the young men sitting at the McCrory’s lunch counter were arrested, taken to the city jail, and the following day tried for trespassing. Nine of the 10 refused to pay bail and served out their 30-day sentences on the county prison farm. By doing so, they started an across-the-country adoption by students of a “Jail No Bail” policy. Photo courtesy of