CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) – Dr. Jack Bass was a newspaper reporter in 1968 when he got an assignment that changed his life.
"My editor back at the Charlotte observer said ‘talk to as many people tomorrow as you can', Bass.
Bass was sent to Orangeburg to cover what is now known as the Orangeburg Massacre – an outbreak of police brutality that began with a protest against a segregated bowling alley and ended the lives of 3 students.
"Students had built a bonfire and they were taking wood from an uninhabited house, basically banister rails. And, someone threw one of them in the air and it fell and struck a policeman, highway patrolman, right in the face," Bass said.
Moments later, patrolmen opened fire in an attempt to calm the crowd of 200, mostly South Carolina State University students.
"When someone got shot in the left thigh from the rear-end of the left thigh or the soles of their feet or other parts of their body, [we knew] that they were clearly shot from the side or the rear," Bass said.
Samuel Hammond, Henry Smith, both SC State University students and Delano Middleton, a high school student were killed. 28 others were injured.
"It was the first time ever I had a story that was too big to tell in a news paper format," said Bass.
Nine state highway patrolmen were charged with excessive force on a college campus. They were later acquitted.
Activist Cleveland Sellers was the only person convicted for the incident. Sellers was imprisoned for 7 months. In 2007, federal agents refused to re-open the case.