Meet Clarence Henderson, Civil Rights Hero And RNC Speaker

Who is Clarence Henderson? Meet Civil Rights Hero And RNC Speaker
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The Republican Party is putting its best and brightest supporters on display this week at the national convention. They have been highlighting GOP supporters from all levels of the party, from elected officials to rank and file voters. One speaker this week is an activist from a movement not usually associate with Republicans: the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

Who is Clarence Henderson?

Clarence Henderson was part of the historic sit-ins at the Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, NC. He joined those actions in 1960 to protest segregation in America at the time. However, despite his history with racial justice movements, he remains a staunch conservative who supports Donald Trump and the Republican party now. He has been an outspoken supporter of the President since the 2016 campaign and will be a featured speaker at the convention this week. 

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Clarence Henderson grew up in Greensboro, NC. 

Henderson was born in the late 1930s in the heavily segregated south. He recalls multiple incidents where white people attacked him or his family, including a robbery attempt when he was just a little boy. In 1960, he was a student at N.C. A&T State University when he decided to sit down at the  Woolworth’s lunch counter in 1960 to protest racial segregation that was legal at the time. In later recollections of the events he said, "I was all of 18 years of age, and my parents knew about it after the fact.” He joined the protest on the second day of action. His motives at the time were simple: he wanted to change the system “so all could eat in the same place.” He, along with his fellow protestors, were arrested for their actions. 

Henderson at a sit-in in 1960.

Clarence Henderson didn't continue activism after that.

Despite his participation in one of the pivotal protests of the Civil Rights era, Henderson did not become a lifelong activist. He left North Carolina for New York City where he worked in a show story before being drafted in 1966. After a stint in the Army, he returned to Greensboro where he finished college and started a family. His first marriage ended in divorce and he had a child with a woman to whom he was not married. He raised two daughters as a single father, something that eventually impressed his current wife Robin Henderson. He worked in the financial industry for most of his career. 

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Henderson is very conservative in his personal views. 

While we traditionally think of the Civil Rights movement as being more of a left-leaning philosophy, that's not how Henderson sees it. “As time evolved, I understood that sitting at the counter was actually a way to defend America’s freedom, make sure that all people are free, because the more people that we have free, the freer we are,” he has said to reporters. His version of freedom is less oversight from the federal government and more state and local control, a stance that the Republican party has favored. 

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He didn't vote for Barack Obama.

Henderson readily admits that he never expected to see a Black president of the United States. He also admits that he didn't vote for Barack Obama in either of his two elections to the lands' highest office. He didn't feel that Obama had the experience or the priorities to lead in the way Henderson wanted. 

He likes that Trump is a business executive. 

In 2016, Henderson started supporting Trump after Senator Ted Cruz, who had been his first choice for the nomination, suspended his campaign. Henderson was a fan of Trump's long resume as a business owner. And while he isn't blind to the off-putting nature of Trump's bluster and his history of bankruptcies, he says that the mistakes are acceptable to him. “He has proved to be a leader in the business field. Has he done everything right? No, certainly not," Henderson remarked in 2016Earlier this year, he wrote that he feels the tax reforms and deregulation of the Trump administration have done more to empower Black people than any president before Trump. 

Henderson is back to doing some activist work. 

Now in his 70s, Henderson is a leader with The Frederick Douglass Foundation of NC. He frequently speaks about his experience with the Civil Rights movement but also talks about the need for entrepreneurship and business opportunity to help people get ahead. In a recent column for the Fox News website, he commented that he disagrees with the Black Lives Matter movement on free enterprise and he believes that to be more important that policy change in achieving social justice. 

Henderson is expected to speak on Wednesday night, for which the theme is Land of Opportunity. It seems like a good bet that he will talk about business ownership and how he believes less regulation helps people start their own businesses. 

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Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. She is the creator of the blog FeminXer and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.

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