I’ve received many comments in the past but this one takes the prize for the most outrageous. The writer feels that not only is there a forty year old cover up regarding the “Orangeburg Massacre” but also a clear message is made by the South Carolina Highway Patrol “colors” and uniform.
They were acquitted mainly because then SLED Chief J. P. Strom muddied the waters with a sloppy investigation which prohibited the federal government from being able to make a strong case against the white South Carolina Highway Patrolmen who killed the unarmed black students.
State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) Chief Pete Strom meets with law enforcement
officers and Columbia magazine editor Nathaniel Abraham in Orangeburg
the night of the shootings, 02-08-1968. Photo Bill Barley
SLED Chief Strom covered up the "troopers" killing the unarmed black students at South Carolina State and later rewarded most of these trigger happy troopers with appointments as SLED agents to hide them from daily contact with the public.
Recently former Governor Robert McNair publicly acknowledged the State's responsibility in this cover-up, but stated it was too late to prosecute them.
It was well known to most folks in the Low Country, especially to blacks that after this incident that the Klan was alive and well. Many Klan members were employed as patrolmen who could shoot to kill without having to worry about any meaningful justification.
There are many honorable policemen in South Carolina, but in 1968 and the decade which followed, there were many who had their own sense of street justice which made even the honest citizen cringe at being stopped by one.
It is also no small coincidence that those involved in the Orangeburg Massacre rose to power in the 1970’s. They used a brown uniform from 1930 until 1978, when the SC Highway Patrol adopted a grey “Confederate” style uniform with a military style campaign hat, matching grey patrol vehicles and changed their duty titles from Patrolman to Troopers in the name of “modernization.”
The title “Trooper“ has only been used in history by the US Calvary during the Indian massacres out west or by the SS Storm Troopers of Nazi Germany and certainly was not adopted to help them to become a more community oriented agency.
So I did a little checking and found that 17 other states use the term State Trooper including New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Alaska, states that are hardly a bastion of hate and the KKK. As long as we are in fantasy land let's not forget the Star Wars Imperial storm troopers and the Isuzu Troopers. The term trooper dates well after the civil war and became in fashionable long after the birth of the civil rights movement.
There is nothing "confederate or military" about the uniform past or present. The prior brown uniform was more symbolic of the Nazis than the current grey uniform. I suppose one could say that the grey SCHP uniform is similar to the traditional grey German Army uniform but I should point out that the Schutzstaffel (SS) wore the famous Black uniform which by the way was designed by the famous Hugo Boss.
Grey uniforms are common in 24 of 49 state highway patrols. Hawaii doesn’t have a highway patrol.
As far as the hats having some symbolic meaning or hidden intimidation factor 17 state highway patrols use the “military style” hat as does the United States Park Service and Smokey the Bear!
More about the history of the South Carolina Highway Patrol at SCHP.org