NC community mourns civil rights activist who fought for justice, equality

North Carolina news

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – Friday, people gathered not to say goodbye, but a see you later to Willie McCleod.

“He fought for justice. He fought for equality. He fought for doing the right thing,” William Cureton said.

McCleod, who died New Year’s Eve at the age of 78 lived his life for other people.

“I’m almost in tears. But he was a friend,” Cureton added. “He was someone that you looked up to, someone who never changed on you,” Pat Washington said.

McCleod was a member of the Friendship Nine, a group of black men who spent a month in the York County Jail in 1961 sitting at the white-only counter in McCrory’s Variety Store. They refused bail to make a statement for racial equality.

“We didn’t do it for fame or fortune. We did it to bring about change,” another member of the Friendship Nine said.

Their convictions were overturned in 2015.

What might seem surprising is that they rarely talked about the sit-in.

Those who knew McCleod would say he was a good man, a leader who believed in the doing the right thing. Not only for racial equality, but to inspire the next generation.

“He also was our Sunday school teacher, he also was on our trustee board and he was an important part of our church,” Rev. Dr. Brandon Ingram said. said. “He wanted to make people’s lives better and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who would say he didn’t.

“Well done, Mr. McCleod. You’ve been a servant of God, and now is time to take your rest,” Washington said.

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