MYRTLE BEACH — The Rev. H.H. Singleton II, former longtime president of the Conway branch of the NAACP and civil rights activist, died Monday.
Singleton, 80, believed in the liberation of humanity, said his son Hank Singleton III, a professor of religion at Benedict College in Columbia.
“He gave a voice to the voiceless,” he said. “His life was his calling and his calling was his life.”
During his lifetime H.H. Singleton argued with officials, sued them, demonstrated against them and challenged public policies throughout Horry County. He faced off against the Horry County School Board and addressed problems with the Atlantic Beach Bikefest.
Hank Singleton said he knew his father took some unpopular stands during his 80 years, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. “Part of his calling would be that some people would absolutely love him and some people would absolutely loathe him. But that was his ministerial calling.”
For more than 32 years, H.H. Singleton was pastor at Cherry Hill Missionary Baptist Church before retiring in 1997.
Singleton was a voice for the underprivileged and disenfranchised, said Mickey James, president of the Myrtle Beach branch of the NAACP.
“He is a man beyond measure who is irreplaceable,” James said. “He was a champion for human and civil rights for more than 40 years in Horry County.”
Singleton may be most known for serving as a spokesman for black football players at Conway High School when they decided to boycott the team in 1989 for what they said was racial intolerance.
As a result, Singleton lost his teaching job at Conway Middle School. He sued the school district over his firing and protesters took to the streets to support both him and the players’ boycott. Singleton won his case and got his job back.
Intellect is something James Dunn said he remembers most about Singleton. Dunn was on the Horry County School Board when Singleton was removed from Conway Middle.
“He was probably the most intelligent man I met in Horry County, South Carolina, and I’ve been here almost 30 years,” he said.
In 2003, Singleton again received national attention when he initiated two NAACP lawsuits alleging those who attended the mostly black Atlantic Beach Bikefest were treated differently by governments and businesses than those who attend the mostly white Harley-Davidson rallies. By 2006, the NAACP had reached settlements with the businesses and the city of Myrtle Beach.
Hank Singleton said his father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in summer 2004, shortly after he resigned from the Conway branch of the NAACP.
Singleton came to Horry County in 1964 from Marion County to become pastor of Cherry Hill. Two years later he was elected the second president of the Conway branch of the NAACP.
Singleton was born Jan. 29, 1932, in Edgefield County. His parents and seven siblings lived about a mile from the home of Strom Thurmond, whom his father knew.
Singleton was raised in a time when there were separate bathrooms and separate drinking fountains for whites and blacks.
In a 2003 interview with The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News, he said he began very early in life to formulate the philosophy that guided him: Mankind cannot move forward until all people deal with each other without the film of race.
He told The Sun News then that most people would be surprised to learn that he thinks all human beings, regardless of their views on race, deserve God’s grace.
“I love everybody irrespectively, even the racist,” he said.