Lance Nelson

SCLC-SCOPE, 1965, South Carolina, Alabama
Current Residence: San Diego, CA
Web Site:

I and three other volunteers spent the summer of 1965 in Allendale, South Carolina, organizing a voter registration drive for SCLC-SCOPE. Being a few months under 18 years old at the time, I recall needing to organize special permission to participate. I also missed my high school graduation ceremony to attend the SCOPE training in Atlanta.

The other volunteers were William (Bill) Leue, Patricia Bokulich, and one other male, whose name I cannot now remember. Bill and I were from the State University of New York at Albany SCOPE group, Patricia and the other volunteer came down from Wayne State University.

On August 2, 1965, I and thirty-eight others were arrested as a result of a sit-in at the Allendale County Courthouse. This was precipitated by a lackluster registration-day performance of the voter registration officials, who shut the process down with 200 or so folks left waiting to register. There was considerable publicity over the arrests and the marches in Allendale that followed while a number of us remained in jail. We believe that this publicity helped in the passage of the Voting Rights Bill of 1965.

I continued this work in Chicago as a freshman at the University of Chicago. I went on to an academic career studying religion, especially the religions of India. I suppose this career trajectory and academic interest was inspired, in part, my first-hand experience of nonviolent resistance, which of course was Gandhian in origin. I am currently a professor of theology and religious studies at the University of San Diego.

I continue to treasure the memories of the friends I made, both among the SCLC-SCOPE workers and the wonderful people of Allendale County.


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