Thursday, December 20, 2012



By Cash Michaels

            After seven months of advocacy, supporters for pardons of innocence for the Wilmington Ten are now making their closing arguments for justice, in hopes that the forty-year ordeal of being falsely convicted of crimes the Ten did not commit, will now come to an end.
           Meanwhile, in an historic gesture, The StarNews of Wilmington has joined The Wilmington JournalThe New York TimesThe Raleigh News and Observer, and African-American newspapers across the nation, in calling on Gov. Beverly Perdue to grant pardons of innocence to the Wilmington Ten.
            "Before Gov. Bev Perdue leaves office," Thursday's StarNews editorial states, "she has the opportunity to close the book on one of the ugliest chapters in recent Wilmington history: the convictions of nine black men and a white woman whose trial trampled justice and their constitutional rights."
            Led by Dr. Benjamin Chavis, leader of the Wilmington Ten, members of the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project, along with partners from the NC NAACP,, and a delegation of supporters from Wilmington, returned to the state Capital Thursday to urge Gov. Beverly Perdue to look at the entire case, the lack of evidence against the Ten, and the overwhelming evidence that the man who prosecuted them forty years ago, Jay Stroud, racially gerrymandered the jury seeking “KKK and Uncle Tom-types.”
When Stroud didn’t get the jury he wanted, the stunning evidence uncovered by the Pardon Project shows, he forced a mistrial.
            "After more than  40 years, it becomes harder to sort through some of the details to find the truth," the StarNews editorial today states. "But what is crystal clear is that justice was not done."
            The Winston-Salem Chronicle, one of many black newspaper members of the National Newspaper Publishers Association that have religiously carried the Wilmington Ten stories - wrote, “…[the] racially-charged convictions more than four decades ago remain a black-eye for the state.”
Major mainstream newspapers, that finally picked up on the pardon effort months after NNPA papers, agree.
            “The Wilmington Ten said they were nonviolent activists. It has never been legitimately proven otherwise,” stated the News & Observer last week in a powerful editorial titled, “Pardon the Wilmington Ten.”
             “They remain innocent until proven guilty, but for most of their lives they’ve been assumed guilty until they could prove themselves innocent, an impossibility in this case.”
            The N&O ended its editorial by stating, “..,the governor can do more than pardon. She can heal. We hope she will.”
             In its editorial last Sunday, the venerable New York Times also called on Gov. Perdue to grant pardons of innocence to the Ten, saying that, "by providing it, she can finally bring a close to one of the more shameful episodes in North Carolina history."
             Since the pardons of innocence campaign – started by the National Newspaper Publishers Association and the Wilmington Journal in 2011 – went national last May, the response has been overwhelming.
 , the social media advocacy group that amassed over 2 million petition signatures in the Trayvon Martin case earlier this year, launched a national campaign for the Wilmington Ten pardons, generating at press time over 130,000 petition signatures. That’s in addition to the previous 14,200 petition signatures collected by the NAACP and The Wilmington Journal from across North Carolina and the nation, along with an untold number of letters from public officials and citizens, all asking Gov. Perdue to pardon the Ten.
         Several United States Congressmen, celebrities like music mogul Russell Simmons, university law professors and the NAACP – whose Board of Directors last May unanimously passed a resolution in support of the Wilmington Ten pardons effort – have come onboard.
         Hundreds of followers of the petition, and on the Pardon Project’s Facebook page, have voiced their support as well, urging Gov. Perdue to grant pardons to the Wilmington Ten now.
         “It is about time that this wrong is righted,” posted Linda F. Chapman of Wilmington.
         “I am appalled that an official pardon has never been given,” agreed Madeline Chang of New York. “Even 40 years late, I am hopeful that the governor will do what is right.”
         But not everyone agrees that the Ten deserve to be cleared.
         Two weeks ago, a group which calls itself, “Citizens for Justice,” took out a quarter-page ad in the local Wilmington StarNews, asking “Gov. Purdue” not to grant pardons to the Wilmington Ten, essentially because, they say, it has never been proven that the nine black males and one white female civil rights activists, led by Rev. Chavis, didn’t conspire to firebomb a white-owned grocery store in February 1971, and then fire weapons on fire and police personnel from a church steeple.
         Retired white Wilmington police officers, and even former prosecutor Jay Stroud, have told the local Wilmington media that the Ten are guilty, and deserved the 282-year prison sentences they received in 1972.
         And there are reports of former state Justice Dept. officials who are lobbying Gov. Perdue not to give in to the growing national pressure to grant pardons, despite powerful evidence of prosecutorial misconduct, some of which was known over three decades ago.
In 1977, three prosecution witnesses, who testified against the Ten, recanted their testimonies in court. The CBS News program, “60 Minutes” then exposed much of the evidence against the Wilmington Ten as “fabricated” by prosecutors.
In 1980, the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the convictions based upon that prosecutor and the trial judge allowed the introduction of perjured testimony and withheld critical evidence which defense attorneys were entitled to receive.
            The Winston Salem Chronicle wrote, “The frame-up was exposed, but the State of North Carolina has never declared the Ten innocent, retried them, nor have the fabricated charges been dismissed against them. Though freed and cleared, they’ve had to live out their lives under an unjust cloud.”
            Gov. Perdue is expected to make a decision on pardons of innocence for the Wilmington Ten between now, and when she leaves office officially on January 5th.

By Cash Michaels

            An “appropriate pardon” is being sought for James A. Johnson, a young Wilson County African-American man who, in 2004, told police about the kidnapping, rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl by a friend of his, but was then arrested, charged and jailed over three years for the crime.
            In Feb. 2009, the NCNAACP called the James Johnson case, “an enduring example of prosecutorial misconduct.”
            In his Dec. 14, 2012 petition requesting a pardon from Gov. Beverly Perdue, attorney and NCCU law Professor Irving Joyner wrote, “This petition is supported by facts and circumstance surrounding Johnson’s case which shows that he voluntarily provided crucial information to the Wilson Police Department that directly resulted in the arrest and conviction of Kenneth Meeks, a Wilson teenager, who was solely responsible for the kidnapping and murder of sixteen  year old Brittany Willis.”
Atty. Joyner’s petition states, “The undisputed evidence shows that James Johnson was unknowingly involved in this case when Kenneth Meeks, a friend from the Wilson community, came to Johnson’s home, told him about the killing of Willis and took him to the murder site. When he observed Willis’ body, Johnson demanded that Meeks take him back home. After he returned to his home, Johnson confided in another friend, Julian Deans, about what Meeks had told him and what he had witnessed at the murder site. On the next day, Johnson discussed the matter with his father, Arthur Johnson, and Deans’ mother who then accompanied the two to the Wilson Police Department in order to report Meeks’ involvement in Willis’ death.”
“Up until this point in their investigation, Wilson Police officers had no leads or other information regarding the identity or circumstances surrounding the killing of Brittany Willis,” Joyner continued.
“At the time, Johnson was not under suspicion nor had he been contacted by anyone regarding the information which he possessed, but decided on his own that he was going to do the right thing and report to the police that his friend was responsible for the death of this young woman. But for the information that Johnson provided, it is highly probable that Meeks’ involvement would not have been discovered and this killing would have been unsolved. It is also important to note that even though a reward had been posted for information leading to the apprehension of Willis’ killer, Johnson never sought to obtain that benefit,” Joyner writes.
“Johnson’s actions in this matter ordinarily would have been applauded throughout the community, but became a personal tragedy when Meeks, in an attempt to get even with Johnson for exposing his involvement, falsely told officers that Johnson had also been involved in this killing. Despite the fact that Meeks subsequently confessed that he was solely responsible for Willis’ death and that Johnson was not involved, Johnson was charged with kidnapping and murder and incarcerated in jail for over thirty-nine months.”
Since these judicial events occurred,” attorney Joyner continued, “Johnson has suffered many set-backs in his efforts to resume and pursue a normal life. The original murder and kidnapping charges resulted in the loss of a soccer scholarship to a local college and his incarceration in jail for thirty-nine months before those charges were dismissed against him. These unsupported charges were needlessly pursued in the absence of any forensic evidence which connected him to the crimes and a recantation by Kenneth Meeks who admitted in open court that he was the lone participant in those crimes.”
“As a result of these charges, Johnson has been unable to maintain employment when potential employers learn that he had previously been prosecuted for these offenses. Even though, Johnson has now moved from North Carolina in an attempt to avoid the negativity resulting from the notoriety surrounding these offenses, he has not been able to escape its negative impacts and the many collateral consequences of having being wrongfully prosecuted for kidnapping and murder.”
Joyner concluded, “The failure of the State of North Carolina to acknowledge, remedy and remove the effects and consequences of these wrongful prosecutions continues to stain an image of fairness that North Carolina has sought to create and maintain. Only the granting of an appropriate pardon can remove this deeply engrained tarnish which continues to hang over this State.”
Gov. Perdue is expected to decide on pardons before she leaves office on Jan . 5th.

By Cash Michaels

            One would think that the last role anyone would want is to lead a public school board that is notorious for its infighting and dramatic political shifts.
            But Keith Sutton, now the new chairman of the Wake County Board of Education, succeeding Kevin Hill, says he’s up-to-the-task.
“I think I have the ability, I think I have the experience, I think I have temperament to not only help lead this board and try to bring us together, but to also move us past some of the challenging issues we have in front of us,” Sutton told The Carolinian newspaper shortly after being chosen by his fellow Democratic board members two weeks ago.
            “With my political experience, working on various campaigns, working at the General Assembly doing lobbying work, I think I have the ability to negotiate with county leaders, city leaders and others, especially when it comes to the school bond and reassignment pieces.”           
            Sutton has one year to prove that all of his previous experience measures up to being able to positively moving Wake County Public Schools forward, especially now that the school has just adopted a new addressed-based student assignment plan, and is in the market for a new superintendent after the dramatic firing of Wake Supt. Tony Tata several months ago.
            His top agenda items are, hiring a new system leader; filling the board’s District 1 seat now that Chris Malone has resigned to join the state House; negotiating with the new Wake County Commission Board Chair Joe Bryan on putting a school construction bond on the ballot this fall; navigating a tough budget year amid continued growth in student population, and managing the new address-based student assignment plan.
            Supt. Tata’s previous school choice plan, which was adopted in Oct. 2011 by the previous Republican-dominated Wake School Board, proved to put too much “stress” on the school system, Sutton maintains, in terms of planning and operational costs.
            “Because of our size, it really hinders our ability to plan for the system when you don’t have control of where students are assigned going to school,” Sutton said.
            Plus, growth projections showed that ultimately, choice was going to create more expensive high poverty schools, something Sutton and the Democratic majority were dead set against.
            With addressed-based student assignment, Sutton says parents now know where their children are supposed to attend classes. He says more layers have to be added to bring about more flexibility and diversity, but he has confidence that the plan will better suit the needs of the 153,000-pupil school system, which is growing.
            On student diversity, Chairman Sutton assures that the board will not be going back to addressing it purely through student assignment, but it will devise, perhaps an academic mechanism to better bring it about.
            On hiring a new schools superintendent, Sutton says he’s seeking someone who certainly has a stronger educational background than Supt. Tata – a retired US Army general who had less than five years experience when he was hired in 2010.
            And, again unlike Tata, Sutton wants the new system leader to be as apolitical as possible so that he or she can comfortably work with both Democrats and Republicans on the school board, and come to a consensus in carrying out school policy.
            Sutton believes the next superintendent has to have a great degree of management experience in order to “run a large enterprise like Wake County schools.”
Tata, reportedly, was used to barking orders at staff and principals, something he was comfortable doing from his old Army days.
            But running a large school system calls for great collaboration in order to have teachers, principals and students all working together for the common goal of academic achievement, experts say. Sutton says he wants Wake County schools to return to that.
            “With a $1.2 billion budget; 18,000 employees, 169 schools and 153,000 students, we’re quite a large system, so [the new superintendent] will need to have some experience in running organizations and institutions of that size,” Sutton says.
            And, of course, there is no question that the most significant area that needs the most work is healing the deep political and personal divisions that remain among the Wake school board members.
            It has been so ever since the Republicans took over the majority in 2009, dumping the system successful student diversity plan, and attempting to replace it with a racially-identifiable neighborhood schools plan that never got off the ground.
            When the Democrats dramatically took back a 5-4 majority in 2011 by winning in a five-seat sweep, and defeating GOP Chair Ron Margiotta, the board Republicans vowed to be as disruptive, and as bitter as possible.
            Amid screaming matches and accusations of assault, Chairman Sutton knows that the waters will have to be calmed if WCPSS is to move forward and be successful again.
            “We have to get back to basics,” Sutton told The Carolinian. “Basic courtesy, basic respect for each other as board members. We’ve not seen that here lately, and I think we’ve got to get back to that.”
            As leader of the board, Sutton says he has to demonstrate and model the behavior that he wants his fellow board members to exhibit.
            “I set the tone at every meeting, and at every work session,” he says.
Chairman Sutton has been serving on the Wake School Board, representing District 4 and Southeast Raleigh, since 2009, succeeding Rosa Gill. His chairman ship ends a year from now, and he says he hopes he has accomplished enough to be reelected to a second term.

            As it has threatened to do, the US Justice Dept last week filed a civil rights lawsuit against Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson, alleging that he has intentionally discriminated against Latinos. The suit alleges that Sheriff Johnson’s department “routinely” targeted Hispanic drivers for traffic stops, solely based on their ethnicity. The suit is being pursued, the Justice Dept. says, because Johnson refused to address the issues.

            Grassroots NC, a pro-gun conservative group, says it will push for a law in the NC General Assembly next session that arms teachers in the classroom. The proposal is the group’s answer to the shooting massacre two weeks ago in Newtown, Conn., where 28 people were killed in an elementary school. 20 of them were children. Grassroots NC says gun violence is highest where guns are not allowed. But several experts dispute that finding.

            Authorities last week stopped a female caregiver who allegedly kidnapped an 83-year-old male patient with dementia from a rehab center in Pinehurst, and was taking him to the Register of Deeds Office in Scotland County so that the two could be married. Pinehurst police arrested Carol Ann O’Cause, 68, was charged with one count of false imprisonment. The elderly patient is in the custody of the Moore County Dept. of Social Services.


            [RALEIGH] The new Republican Governor-elect may be considered a moderate by some, but some of the people he’s appointing to serve in his new incoming administration are anything but. Conservative businessman Art Pope, who funded the 2010 GOP takeover of the NC House, is now McCrory’s deputy budget director. And attorney Kieran Shanahan, a former federal prosecutor and Raleigh city councilor who supports right-wing causes, was appointed as the Gov.-elect’s new secretary of public safety. Thomas Stith, a Durham attorney, will serve as McCrory’s chief of staff.

            [CHARLOTTE] Despite a tough economy, at least 100,000 people moved to North Carolina in the year ending last July, helping to the Tar Heel state to retain being the tenth largest in the nation, according to the US Census. An estimated 9,752,073 residents called North Carolina home as of July 1. Georgia is ninth, and New Jersey is 11th. North Dakota has the highest rate of population growth, thanks to the oil boom there.

            [CHAPEL HILL] There was no apparent connection to the UNC athletics program, but an internal probe by former Gov. Jim Martin into unauthorized grade changes for athletes in the UNC African and Afro-American Studies revealed that it had been going on since 1997. According to Martin, Dept. Chair Julius Nyang'Oro and staffer Deborah Crowder were allegedly responsible for the practice. Martin, who presented his 74-page report to the UNC Board of Governors Thursday, said signatures were forged and grades were changed. He said he could not confirm that money changed hands for the alleged scheme.

By Cash Michaels

            LAST COLUMN OF THE YEAR – Well what an exciting year 2012 has been. Just 12 months ago, none of us were all that certain that Pres. Obama could win a re-election, but he did. We didn’t think unemployment could get below 8 percent before the presidential election, but it did.
            And we didn’t think Republicans could make plum fools of themselves – like being secretly taped talking about not caring about “the 47 percent” of us who are struggling, or getting old movie stars to talk to chairs in stage at their deadly boring political convention – but they did.
            Some of us didn’t think that black voter turnout was going to be anywhere near what it was in 2008, but it was.
            Hey, there were a lot of folks who didn’t believe that Lebron James and the Miami Heat would win the NBA Championship, but they did.
            It was hard to believe that after getting fired from MSNBC, Keith Olbermann would turn around and get fired at Current TV after egotripping, but he was.
            No one would have believed that a film about black maids in the 1960’s South would be a huge hit, make tons of money, and win at least one Academy Award, but it did.
            Hey, no one would ever believe that Coco would be caught dead smoochin’ with another rapper and take pictures of it too, but she did.
            Just ask mad-as-hubby Ice-T (ha-ha).
            And, of course, even now, none of us can still believe that a madman went to a school with a semi-automatic weapon, and fired it, killing 27 people, 20 of whom were young first-graders.
            None of us, and we pray for their souls.
            Yes, it has been a pretty unbelievable, unpredictable year, and 2013 promises to be more of the same, starting with the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
            The question is, whether we believe what we see and hear or not, what are we going to do about any of it?
            Let me recommend that 2013 be a year of definite action. There was plenty of action in 2012, no question, but there was also lots of talk.
            Let’s cut down on the talking, and ramp up the positive action. Let’s do what we promised ourselves, and work hard, starting right now, to take our nation back completely in 2014. It’s time our president had a Congress he can work with again. And it’s time that we better protect our children from the ravages of gun violence and inappropriate entertainment.
            Let’s work even harder to make this a better nation, and a better world for all of GOD’s children.
            This way, when people ask, “Do you believe what we all did together?,” we can all reply, “Yeah, we did that.”
            Well, I can dream, can’t I?
            GOD WAS GOOD – Personally, as in any year, I had my struggles in 2012. I got older, fatter…and let’s be honest…some of my favorite parts are working the way they once did  (like my EYES, silly. Get your mind out of the gutter)!
            And yet, in 2012, GOD kept my family safe, helped my youngest daughter continue to grow into the fine, talented human being that she is, and gave me tremendous opportunities to do what I do best in journalism, video production, and advocacy.
            I got a chance to work with really dynamic leadership throughout the year, and learn from them. I saw commitment in front of me that I could nothing but respect, and pray for. I saw people of all stripes come together for common purposes and goals.
            And, I saw GOD’s hand in all of the good work that has been done before me.
            So 2012 was an extraordinary year, and I thank for allowing to have a family that I love, a job that I cherish, and the opportunity to serve the community in whatever fashion He would have me too.
            And by the way, this “getting older, but wiser” stuff? If only I knew now, when I was half this age…WOW!
            WILMINGTON TEN UPDATE – In just days, if it hasn’t happened by the time you read this, we are expecting Gov. Beverly Perdue to decide whether to grant pardon of innocence to the Wilmington Ten.
The most likely scenario is Gov. Perdue will wait until she is about to leave office before having her office make the announcement. That is not expected to happen until between Dec. 31st and Jan. 4th
In the meantime, The Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project continue to make the case to the public that the Wilmington Ten are indeed innocent of the false charges they were falsely convicted of 40 years.
There is no question in our minds what Gov. Perdue must do to make justice a reality.
It will be both dramatic, and historic. But it’s all to make the point that, after forty long years, justice must be done in the case of the Wilmington Ten.
We thank you for your support thus far. The work is not over, however. As long as there is still time for Gov. Perdue to make a decision, the Pardon Project and our supporters will continue to build support.
We are also asking, for those individuals, churches or institutions who wish to beyond just signing the petition, to send letters to Gov. Perdue asking her to grant pardons of innocence to the Wilmington Ten ASAP.
Here is that address:
                                                            Hon. Beverly Eaves Perdue
                                                                  Governor of North Carolina
                                                            20301 Mail Service Center
                                                                 Raleigh, NC 27699-0301
            If you want more information about the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project, you can go to or on Facebook at
Please, as we enter this holy season of Christmas, let us deliver peace and justice to those who have been forty years denied.
Thank you, and Happy New Year!
Make sure you tune in every Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. for my talk radio show, ''Make It Happen'' on Power 750 WAUG-AM, or online at And read more about my thoughts and opinions exclusively at my new blog, ‘The Cash Roc” ( I promise it will be interesting.
Cash in the Apple - honored as the Best Column Writing of 2006 by the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Columnist Cash Michaels was also honored by the NNPA for Best Feature Story Journalist of 2009, and was the recipient of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP’s President’s Award for Media Excellence in Sept. 2011.
Until next week, keep a smile on your face, GOD in your heart, and The Carolinian in your life. Bye, bye.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012



SPECIAL NOTE - I've changed a line in Cash in the Apple per the Wilmington Ten update to the following:
                      Next week on Dec. 27th, we will be loading up the bus in Wilmington to bring surviving members of the Wilmington Ten and their supporters back to the State Capital in Raleigh to make our closing statement to Gov. Perdue.

I've made it bold in the copy below. Please change accordingly.

Thank you.

                W-ed- THE SEASON FOR TRUTH

            Those of us who celebrate the Christmas season, know that thousands of years ago, GOD’s Word tells us a child was born to Mary and Joseph in the little town of Bethlehem. That child’s name was Jesus, and He was born to save the world from its sins.
            We call the story of the birth of our Lord and Savior, the “Gospel,” because it is, and always will be, the “good news.” And in the Christian world, all of us consider the Gospel to be …the truth.  
            And so it is, amid controversies over the fiscal cliff, and the senseless, mass murder of twenty innocent children, that we still seek the truth.
            That is why, for the past seven months, we have fought mightily to seek pardons of innocence from Gov. Beverly Perdue for the Wilmington Ten.  You see, the truth is the truth, regardless of whether you see it or not, or recognize it as such.
            And yet, in order for the truth to have meaning in our lives, we are compelled to recognize it as such.
            That is what we’ve been working mightily to do over the past year – making sure that the public, and ultimately Gov. Perdue, finally recognize the truth about one of the most controversial cases in North Carolina’s criminal justice history.
            Thus far, thanks to the GOD-blessed coalition work of the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project, the NCNAACP, and other lovers of freedom, justice and equality, we’ve been able to turn a significant portion of the media, and ultimately the public that has paid attention thus far, towards the truth.
            The power of our evidence  has been hard to deny.
            The truth usually is.
            So we are down to the final days for our Governor to discover the truth, recognize it, and ultimately act on it.
            And we hope and pray that she does so in the spirit of the season, and a spirit of justice.
            As the people of Abraham spent forty years in the wilderness before they found the Promised Land, so have the Wilmington Ten. After being falsely convicted and sentenced to the wilderness for crimes they did not commit, it has taken this long to uncover new evidence showing the way …to the truth.
            We are hopeful that the truth about how the man who falsely prosecuted the Wilmington Ten will truly …set them free.
            So, as we quickly approach the day we designate as the birth of Jesus Christ, we hope, and pray, that not long afterwards, we will here the truth confirmed by our governor.
            The Wilmington Ten are innocent!
            What greater Christmas present can there be for the six surviving members, and the families of the four deceased members.
            There is still time to help Gov. Perdue recognize “the truth,” and make this Christmas wish a reality, even if it comes a week or two afterwards.
            Please write her at:
                                                The Honorable Beverly Eaves Perdue
                                                Governor of North Carolina
                                                116 West Jones Street
                                                Raleigh, NC 27603

            As she leaves office after four years of standing strong on the issues that are most important to our community, ask Gov. Perdue to add to that illustrious record, and to an outstanding legacy, by making her very last decision in office…an historic truth.
            Ask her to grant pardons of innocence to the Wilmington Ten.
            From all of us here at the Wilmington Journal, Merry Christmas to our readers, our community, and our sponsors.
            Spread the good news that Christ the Savior is born!

FEB. 6TH , 1971
Special to The Wilmington Journal

            In preparation for reporting the recollections of Rev. Eugene Templeton, the former pastor of Gregory Congregation Church here in Wilmington, we asked Dr. Benjamin Chavis, who was with Rev. Templeton that fateful day of Saturday, Feb. 6, 2012, what his recollections were.
            Here is that exchange, exclusive for The Wilmington Journal:

            WJ - On the evening of Feb. 6th, 1971, the night that Mike’s Grocery was firebombed, Rev. Templeton says you were with him and his wife Donna. Do you remember what you were doing?

            DR. CHAVIS  - On the early evening and night of Saturday, February 6, 1971, I was inside the home of Reverend Eugene and Mrs. Donna Templeton, which was the two-story small frame house church parsonage next door to Gregory Congregational United Church of Christ on Nun Street in the heart of the African American community of Wilmington, NC. 
Someone that evening knocked on the front door to the parsonage and informed Reverend Templeton that Mike's Grocery Store, one block away on a different street, was on fire.  At the time of the knock on the front door, Rev. Templeton, Mrs. Donna Templeton and I were sitting together at the kitchen table having a cup of coffee and I had just got off the telephone with Wilmington Police Chief Williamson, urging him to ask the Mayor of Wilmington to declare a curfew in Wilmington to prevent and to stop armed  white vigilantes from entering into the Black community in Wilmington, to indiscriminately shoot semiautomatic firearms, set random fires and to cause great injury and fear among the law abiding Black residents of Wilmington.
The police chief refused to consider my plea for a curfew.  Gregory Church and the church parsonage were being shot at repeatedly on that Saturday night by those well-armed vigilantes who called themselves the ROWP (Rights of White People Organization). 
After hearing what was said at the door about the fire at Mike's Grocery, the three of us pause to hold hands and prayed to God in the name of Jesus Christ for grace, mercy and justice.  We remained in the house that evening together and did not go outside the house except for a brief period after about two hours later, when a subsequent knock on the parsonage front door occurred to inform us that Mike's store had burned to the ground and now a residence that was next door to Mike's Grocery was on fire and that there was an elderly woman still inside of that house..... so I went quickly outside that parsonage at that point to help rescue the elderly woman from her burning house, and also to help remove furniture from the burning house to the sidewalk in front of her house.
I returned back to the church parsonage to meet again with Rev. Templeton shortly thereafter, and spent the night in the second floor of the parsonage in Rev. Templeton's study where there was a small bed.

WJ – The following day, Feb. 7, 1971, you and Rev. Templeton had church service, and then all of you left Gregory, driving to Raleigh, before the National Guard stormed the church.

DR. CHAVIS - The shooting [by white vigilantes] at the church and at the surrounding homes there on Nun Street continued throughout that Saturday night and into the morning of Sunday, February 7, 1971.  
It was too dangerous to have a full worship service on that Sunday morning... so there was a short abbreviated worship service at 11a.m.  At about 4pm on that Sunday, we held a community and church members meeting inside the church, and it was decided that we all should immediately evacuate both the church and the parsonage for the safety of people who had been staying and meeting inside the church for the past seven days. 
We organized a six-car and small passenger van caravan loaded with eight persons per vehicle.  I drove my car as the lead car.  Rev. Templeton and Donna, along with several of the young student leaders were also inside my car to Raleigh.
 We all drove safely to Raleigh, NC to the office of the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice, located on Fayetteville Street three blocks from the State Capitol Building. We met there that night with Rev. Leon White and others from the United Church of Christ to plan a press conference for Monday morning.

THE W-TEN WITNESS - Rev. Eugene Templeton (center) seen here in February, 1971 with Rev. Ben Chavis (to his immediate left) and his wife, Donna, was the white pastor who allowed black students to use his church, Gregory Congregational in Wilmington, to plan nonviolent protests. Templeton says amid violent attacks on the church, there were no weapons there, and the Wilmington Ten were falsely convicted [photo courtesy of Wayne Moore]

by Cash Michaels

            When young Rev. Eugene Templeton came to predominately black Gregory Congregational Church in Wilmington in 1969 – the year after civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated – he knew that being its white pastor, the second in its history, would be challenging, especially with the dramatic changes in civil rights that were taking place.
            The year before , a federal court had ruled in favor of the NAACP that New Hanover County Public Schools must desegregate, and ordered the racially stratified system to do so.
            But white leaders in the city and county, not pleased with a federal court mandate that, in their minds, essentially took changed their public school system from what they’ve always cherished, decided to retaliate by immediately, and without any warning, close all–black Williston High School, one of the most popular and achievement-driven schools in all of North Carolina.
            The black community was still in shock when Rev. Templeton, then in his early twenties, arrived to lead Gregory. As the United Church of Christ minister worked to earn his place in the community, based on his previous work with black communities in Georgia, black students were experiencing racist treatment in the previously all-white schools they were bussed to.
            There were daily fights. Blacks were poorly treated in the classrooms. They weren’t allowed to carry on traditions they had proudly adopted while attending Williston.
            And in 1971, the last straw was the New Hanover Board of Education ruled they weren’t allowed to commemorate the birthday of Dr. King.
            The students had had enough, and decided to organize to confront what they felt was a school system that was racially discriminatory.
            They boycotted classes, knowing that that would cost the school system state money daily, and sought out a place where they not only could strategize and hold rallies, but also have classes to keep up with their studies.
            Of all of the black churches they approached to seek permission to headquarter at, only Gregory, with its young 24-year-old white pastor, said yes.
            “These were not wild kids,” Rev. Templeton, 69, who interviewed exclusively with The Wilmington Journal in November during a rare trip back to North Carolina, recalls. “These were kids, joined together, in some sense of community, against what they perceived to be a very powerful institution in the school board that had taken their school away, and had given them a very poor substitute.”
            Templeton gave his blessing, and got Gregory’s governing deacon board to sign off on giving the students sanctuary.
            He knew he needed assistance in guiding them, so pastor Templeton called his superiors in the United Church of Christ (UCC), and they soon sent veteran civil rights activist Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. to provide leadership.
            Having once worked under Dr. King, Chavis was known as a strong proponent of nonviolent action. It was something the UCC deeply believed in, and Chavis’ mission was to show the black students how to achieve their goals and voice their grievances in a powerful, yet peaceful manner.
            From the very beginning, when Rev. Chavis arrived that first week in February, 1971, that meant there was a special discipline enforced, and no student violated it.
“There was respect for the church,” Templeton says regarding one of the reasons why none of the black students following Rev. Chavis at Gregory ever brought a weapon there. Indeed, Templeton says the church was “off-limits for most things, except for the meetings. We needed the church because it provided the meeting space.”
            Having weapons at the church, or indeed, fighting back against the gun attacks from the white supremacists riding on pickup trucks through the streets, would have given the authorities all of the justification they would need to storm the church at anytime that week, and undermine the nonviolent principles Chavis and the students were firmly standing on.
Templeton says, “There was no sense of responsibility anywhere” by the white power structure in Wilmington about the racist conditions black students had to endure in New Hanover County Public Schools.
            Their only concern, Rev. Templeton confirms, was that that “black radical outsider,” Ben Chavis, had come to town to stirrup trouble. The media was making sure that Rev. Chavis was held responsible for every arson, every disturbance, every bullet fired and every person hurt or killed during a tumultuous week that saw the port city set ablaze.
            “The public message was, “We’re just good people trying to get along in a difficult situation, and this outsider has come in, and unwittingly duped this pastor to go along with him…and [Chavis] has totally ravaged our community,” Templeton recalls. “I know that a lot of white people in town believed that entirely to this day.”
Leaders in Wilmington’s black community cried out to the mayor and police chief to do something to stop the white marauders attacking the church, which was well behind police barricades that the attackers violated regularly. Chavis says he even pleaded for a curfew to be imposed to keep attackers off the street, but the pleas fell on deaf ears with city officials.
            Then it happened.
Saturday, Feb. 6th, 1971 – the infamous day in the case of the Wilmington Ten – Rev. Templeton recalls it beginning with more pickup trucks, with armed members of  the Rights of White People, riding through the streets of black Wilmington.
            At noon, the Gregory governing board of Deacons met, and decided that enough was enough. They voted to have all of the black students to leave the church.
            Templeton says both he and Rev. Chavis felt “very defeated.” The people who had supported them initially were saying, “Stop, your cause is over. You cannot succeed.”
            Templeton recalls feeling a “huge sense of betrayal” after all that they had been through.
            Most of the students left Gregory as ordered, and went back to their homes and families to be safe. About six of the older students insisted on staying with Rev. Templeton, his wife, and Rev. Chavis in the parsonage, in order to protect them from harm, and provide security during the church service the following morning.
            That left the church locked and empty, Templeton says.
            Later that fateful Saturday afternoon, a young black teen from the neighborhood named Steve Mitchell was killed across from Gregory. The death greatly added to the deep depression and sense of failure Rev. Templeton, Ben and those with them were feeling.
            When a white man is also killed nearby, Templeton and Chavis knew they had to go.
            As the night went on, Templeton says they heard sirens from the direction of Mike’s Grocery, the white mom-and-pop neighborhood store that black residents cherished because the Greek owner would always give credit to those in need.
            Someone had firebombed Mike’s, and the sirens were coming from fire trucks answering the call. It wouldn’t be long after public safety personnel were on the scene that someone began firing bullets in their direction.
            Prosecutors say the shots came from the steeple of Gregory Church, not far away.
            Templeton says that’s impossible because there were no weapons in the church, and no one with a weapon at the church for that day, or that week.
            “We were scared of getting killed. We weren’t thinking about shooting firemen and policemen,” the former pastor recalls. [We] had enough going on just to protect [ourselves].”
            Templeton is clear that of the people that were with him in the parsonage that evening, with the exception of Ben Chavis, none of the others who would be eventually arrested and charged with conspiracy in connection with the firebombing of Mike’s, or the alleged sniper assault on firefighters and police officers dealing with the blaze, were there.
            Willie Earl Vereen and James “Bun” McKoy were musicians, and were playing a gig out of town, they told The Wilmington Journal.
            Connie Tindall, before he died last August, told The Journal that Feb. 6th was his birthday, and he was with friends celebrating it at a club nowhere near Gregory church or Mike’s Grocery.
            Judy Mack, a daughter of Anne Shepard – the white female member of the Wilmington Ten – recently told reporters that her mother was a “white woman of size,” and it would have been impossible for anyone to have not seen her in the area if she were preparing to set fire to Mike’s Grocery, or were brandishing a firearm.
            “She’s not somebody you would have missed,” Templeton recalls, noting that he doesn’t remember seeing her that prior week at all.
            The five other student Wilmington Ten members maintained that they were innocent of any charges in connection with the white-owned grocery store.
            “[For prosecutors to target] that whole group doesn’t make sense to me,” the former pastor says.
            And Rev. Templeton insists that Rev. Ben Chavis was with he and his wife for the entire day. In fact, at the time of the firebombing of Mike’s, Templeton says Chavis was with him, preparing in the event that the National Guard stormed the church with teargas during Sunday morning’s church service and Sunday school.
            “[Ben] is with us,” Templeton says. We were getting all of the washcloths we could son that we could moisten them, so we could, if the [church] got teargassed, we could protect the people there.”
“And that’s what we were actually planning. That was the ‘conspiracy’ we were about,” Templeton says.
Early Sunday morning, Feb. 7th, about five people, including a mother with her two children, attending services at Gregory Church. One of the deacons who demanded that the black students leave came to conduct the Sunday school.”
“We give them the washcloths to protect them,” Rev. Templeton recalls. “We tell them what’s going on. We say that in this craziness, we need to have a prayer, and then everybody needs to go home.”
As far as Templeton knows, he says, everybody left.
The pastor gets down on the floor in the rear of a vehicle, with three men sitting above him on the seat, their feet proving cover. With his wife sitting in the front, the car drives out of Wilmington, arriving in Raleigh later that day.
Templeton vaguely remembers Ben Chavis leaving in a separate car.
The National Guard subsequently storms the church later that day, but it is empty.
It is a year later before anyone is arrested, and put on trial, in connection with the events of Feb. 6th, 1971.
The next time Rev. Templeton returns to Gregory is the following weekend for the funeral of Steve Mitchell, the black teen who had been gunned down near the church.
Before the funeral, Wilmington Mayor Luther Cromartie telephoned Pastor Templeton, a call he’ll never forget.
“Look boy,” Templeton remembers the mayor telling him, “I don’t want this funeral to be turned into a circus.”
“And he was so clear that he thought we were planning the funeral as another jumping off point for another …provocation to the town. That got me.”
Templeton performed the service, then left Wilmington for Hickory, NC, because people said it wasn’t safe for him to stay.
It wasn’t long before Rev. Templeton resigned as pastor of Gregory Congregational Church. For years after, he and his wife lived in fear.
That became particularly true a year later when, in 1972, after he was asked to come back to Wilmington to testify for the defense of the Wilmington Ten, Templeton and his wife flew into Fayetteville from New Jersey to catch the connecting flight to Wilmington.
But friends from Wilmington leave an urgent message at the Fayetteville airport for him to call. When he does, Templeton is told that if he and Donna step off the plane to go to Wilmington, word is the Klan will assassinate him.
Donna was pregnant. Templeton decides he can’t take that chance. The couple turns around, and head back to New Jersey, leaving the Wilmington Ten defense team to drastically change their strategy as a result.
In Oct. 1972, a jury of ten whites and two blacks convict the Wilmington Ten, none of whom take the stand in their own defense because, in the opinion of defense attorneys, the state put forth no credible evidence.
Attorney Irving Joyner, who worked with the defense, said their hope was that given the racially charged climate, and the fact that ten Pender County whites dominated the jury, that having the white pastor testify to what he knew might buy them a chance to effectively counter the state’s fabrications.
Without Templeton, however, it made no sense putting any of the Ten on the stand. So the best the defense could do was to show that the state’s witnesses were lying.
But that didn’t matter to the “KKK and Uncle Tom-type” jury, or presiding Judge Robert Martin, who made clear early on that he was pro-prosecution.
The Wilmington Ten were convicted, and sentenced to 282 years in prison, some of which they served before Gov. James B. Hunt - under great worldwide pressure after Amnesty International issued its report, and CBS’s “60 Minutes” uncovered that the state’s witnesses lied and evidence was fabricated – commuted their sentences.
In Dec. 1980, the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned all of the Wilmington Ten convictions, and directed North Carolina either to retry them, or dismiss all charges.
The state has done neither, leading up to now, when Gov. Beverly Perdue is being petitioned to grant pardons of innocence to the Wilmington Ten.
In the intervening years, Rev. Templeton has worked hard to rebuild his life, deeply haunted by the singular event that has changed his life, and made him live in fear for a good portion of it.
On February 3rd, 2011, after Mayor Bill Saffo apologized to the Wilmington Ten during the UNC-Wilmington commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the 1971 incident, Rev. Templeton, having returned to Wilmington for the first time in years, was greeted as a hero by African-American community for supporting the black students when no other pastor would.
Until that night, Rev. Templeton says he carried the guilt of thinking that he hadn’t done enough forty years ago to help Ben Chavis and the others.
Today, as forty years ago, Templeton insists that all of the Ten are innocent
He says that Ben Chavis is “a man of GOD” who abhors violence, and always has.
Rev. Templeton says if he were to speak to Gov. Perdue personally, he would tell her about the struggle he and Ben went through that fateful evening of Feb. 6, 1971.
“We had been beaten by the church, by the government, and all we had going for us was the rightness of the cause. I will never believe that that makes people guilty of anything,” Rev. Templeton says.
“I ask you to give [The Wilmington Ten] their pardons, so that they can move on with their lives, with as little baggage, from what this horrible sequence has done to them, as possible.”

            [CLINTON] The prison superintendant who allegedly allowed his inmates to have hot sauce rubbed on their genitals for the sexual entertainment of his prison guards, has now retired. Sampson Correctional Institution Supt. Lafayette Hall had been suspended without pay for the incident while under investigation. One of Hall’s correction officers, Anthony Jackson, has resigned, and another David Jones, remains under investigation. Supt. Hall had been at the prison since 2000. The SBI is continuing its probe.

            [DURHAM] The US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has tossed most of the claims in a federal lawsuit by the several Duke lacrosse players involved in the 2006 alleged rape of a black dancer. The court disallowed all federal claims for damaged made against the city of Durham, but left standing claims under North Carolina law that Durham police violated the players constitutional rights. The dancer, Crystal Mangum, claimed that she was raped by three members of the Duke lacrosse team. State Attorney General Roy Cooper later threw the rape charges out, claiming lack of evidence, and malfeasance by the Durham district attorney.

            [RALEIGH]  As mandated by state law, outgoing Gov. Beverly Perdue has submitted a proposed budget to Gov.-elect Pat McCrory, and among her suggested items – compensation for the victims of the state’s forced sterilization program. The governor has been an advocate for the eugenics victims since she took office in 2009. Perdue established a committee to determine compensation, and then gave a recommendation to the Republican-led General Assembly. The state House passed a compensation bill, but the Republicans in the Senate refused to take up the measure. House Speaker Tillis has said that he’ll push for compensation again when the Legislature reconvenes. No word on whether Gov.-elect McCrory will endorse Perdue’s proposal.


            Durham Sheriff’s deputies stopped a woman entering the Durham County Courthouse Monday who was allegedly carrying several bags of heroin, a razor blade and a screwdriver in her purse. The woman, Kelly Hawkins, 32 of Durham, was arrested and charged with felony possession of heroin, and misdemeanor of drug paraphernalia. Hawkins was released from jail on $4,500 bond.

            Calling allegations that it is propagating “a climate of fear and intimidation,” the Wake County Public School System denied a complaint filed with the AdvancED school accreditation agency from the conservative group, Wake County Taxpayers Association. WCTA has been critical of the Democrats on the board ever since they took over the majority a year ago, and was especially critical after Supt. Tony Tata was fired several months ago. WCPSS says the Democratic majority “has operated openly and transparently.” The system also told AdvancED that it scrapped the GOP’s choice plan because it was causing problems with student assignment.

            Kristin Ruth, the former Wake District Court judge forced to resign after she was tricked into altering other judges’ DWI sentencing orders, was given a reprimand after she pled guilty to failing to discharge the duties of her office. She was ordered to never seek a judicial office again. Ruth was praised for immediately coming forward once she realized that attorney James Crouch had used her to un knowingly backdate many of his DWI cases. Crouch is now serving time in prison for his scheme.

By Cash Michaels

MERRY CHRISTMAS – With so, so much going on in the world, the Christmas holiday season couldn’t have come at a better time.
Is it me, or does it seem to you too like folks are more anxious for Christmas to come than ever before? The joy of the season, the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and, of course, the exchange of gifts and presents, is what makes this time of year so precious in all of our memories, and hearts.
So I hope and pray that you and your family have the most blessed time this Christmas season.
Merry Christmas!
Lord knows we deserve it!
HAPPY KWANZAA – As always, Dec. 26th to January 1st are the seven days of Kwanzaa, a holiday period that is unique to the African-American community, which celebrates the seven African-based principles of hard work and fruitfulness.
Those principles are:
                                    Umoja (Unity)
                                    Kujichagulia (Self-determination)
                                    Ujima (Collective work and responsibility)
                                    Ujamaa (Cooperative economics)
                                    Nia (Purpose)
                                    Kuumba (Creativity)
                                    Imani (Faith)
Since it was founded in 1966 by Prof. Ron Karenga, Kwanzaa has exploded worldwide, reminding those of us of African heritage that, with the exception of GOD, our families and communities come first.
At least that’s the way we look at it at our house.
No matter, Happy Kwanza!
DISGRACE IN NEWTOWN – Almost a week since the unthinkable carnage at the elementary school in Newtown, Conn., and it is still hard to believe that this nation could not protect its children against the evil assault that claimed the lives of 28, 20 of whom were first-graders ages 6 and 7.
The president has been eloquent, if not poignant, in expressing the sorrow of our nation. He vowed that we could no longer tolerate the wanton bloodshed of gun violence in our nation.
We here in the African-American community know far too well the horror of having young, productive and promising lives snuffed out by stray bullets, all because some gangbanger wants to take out some idiot who stepped on his foot, or winked at his woman.
Let’s be honest with ourselves, we cry for these precious babies who are victims of some of the most ignorant, yet vicious acts of violence known to man. But yet, we tolerate it because we firmly believe in our “constitutional right” to blow one another away for something as minimal as a verbal slight.
A member of my family has to be in mortal danger before I’d even consider taking another person’s life, but that isn’t the standard today. The power of life and death that a gun – ANY gun – gives certain people is so intoxicating, it has reached pandemic proportions in our nation.
So let’s be real, we will never be able to control the flow and use of semi-automatic weapons in our society until we get a grip on the insane hunger we, as a nation, have for real blood.
We need to get back valuing life again, if for no one else, our children.
You see what we’ve done…indeed what we’ve been doing to our babies.
What will it take next to get all of us to commit to a real culture change?
I shudder to think what the answer to that question could be?
WILMINGTON TEN UPDATE – In just days, if it hasn’t happened by the time you read this, we are expecting Gov. Beverly Perdue to decide whether to grant pardon of innocence to the Wilmington Ten.
The most likely scenario is Gov. Perdue will wait until she is about to leave office before having her office make the announcement. That is not expected to happen until between Dec. 31st and Jan. 4th
Earlier this week, The News and Observer of Raleigh came out with a powerful editorial endorsing pardons of innocence for the Wilmington Ten. We certainly thank them for that, and hope tat other mainstream newspapers throughout the state, join in the chorus for Gov. Perdue to do justice in this regard.
Next week on Dec. 27th, we will be loading up the bus in Wilmington to bring surviving members of the Wilmington Ten and their supporters back to the State Capital in Raleigh to make our closing statement to Gov. Perdue.
It will be both dramatic, and historic. But it’s all to make the point that, after forty long years, justice must be done in the case of the Wilmington Ten.
We thank you for your support thus far. The work is not over, however. As long as there is still time for Gov. Perdue to make a decision, the Pardon Project and our supporters will continue to build support.
We are also asking, for those individuals, churches or institutions who wish to beyond just signing the petition, to send letters to Gov. Perdue asking her to grant pardons of innocence to the Wilmington Ten ASAP.
Here is that address:
                                                            Hon. Beverly Eaves Perdue
                                                                  Governor of North Carolina
                                                            20301 Mail Service Center
                                                                 Raleigh, NC 27699-0301
            If you want more information about the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project, you can go to or on Facebook at
Please, as we enter this holy season of Christmas, let us deliver peace and justice to those who have been forty years denied.
Thank you.
Make sure you tune in every Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. for my talk radio show, ''Make It Happen'' on Power 750 WAUG-AM, or online at And read more about my thoughts and opinions exclusively at my new blog, ‘The Cash Roc” ( I promise it will be interesting.
Cash in the Apple - honored as the Best Column Writing of 2006 by the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Columnist Cash Michaels was also honored by the NNPA for Best Feature Story Journalist of 2009, and was the recipient of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP’s President’s Award for Media Excellence in Sept. 2011.
Until next week, keep a smile on your face, GOD in your heart, and The Carolinian in your life. Bye, bye.