Gov. Mark Sanford formally apologized Saturday for state troopers gunning down three civil rights protesters during what has become known as the Orangeburg Massacre.
"We don't just regret what happened in Orangeburg 35 years ago, we apologize for it," Sanford said in a statement.
At a memorial two years ago, then-Gov. Jim Hodges said the people of the state "deeply regret" the incident, but a spokesman said at the time it shouldn't be characterized as a formal apology.Sanford's apology caught civil rights leaders by surprise.
"Well, I'm glad that we have someone that recognizes that this was a massacre, and it's long overdue," said James Gallman, president of the state's chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
"We seem to have a governor who is ready to step up to the plate and make amends for some of the atrocities of our previous leadership."
Sanford wasn't at a ceremony Saturday marking the shooting. However, in a statement, he said his prayers and thoughts went out to the friends and family of the men killed.
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