Campus project comes decades after college closed and 50 years after students made civil rights history
More than two decades of perseverance and raising money by alumni of Friendship Junior College and area black Baptist churches are about to pay off - Plans are now final to build on the campus that is one of Rock Hill's most important historic sites.
Since the school closed in 1981 after 90 years of service and the buildings were demolished and lost to fire, just the grassy campus on Allen Street just west of downtown Rock Hill was left.
Only a few foundation bricks were left to mark its important legacy to the city, state and nation.
This week, though, Friendship's Board of Trustees and the leadership of the Sandy River Baptist Association voted to build the Dr. J.H. Goudlock Life Center. Goudlock was president of the school for 40 years, from 1933 to 1973.
It will include an adult day care and space for meetings, as well as a place for Friendship to share its past and future with the community.
Friendship alumni and church leaders have raised money for more than 20 years to return some type of physical presence to the plot of land that for so long helped start the careers of so many successful people.
"It has been a long time coming, but this will be a building that will be something that the school and the community can be proud of and use," said the Rev. Richard A. Graham, secretary of the school's trustee board and a school alumnus.
Graham's brother, Clarence, also an alumnus, is one of the Friendship Nine protesters who in the past six months have been lauded for their historic protests 50 years ago.
The one-story building will cost a little more than $1.1 million, with a groundbreaking scheduled for this fall.
About $800,000 in donations already has been collected through member churches, alumni and benefactors. School and church leaders are urging friends of Friendship to help finish the money-raising so that the building can be finished without debt.
Initial plans for a two-story building were scaled back to keep costs down, but the design is amenable to additions later.
"We look at this as the first phase," said the Rev. John Robinson, a Friendship alum and president of the joint council of the Sandy River Baptist Association. "This is just the beginning of a new Friendship presence in Rock Hill.
"With continued support, this will be more than a building - it will be a place that shows the great impact of Friendship and its people."
The Sandy River Baptist Association is a group of historically black Baptist churches in York and Chester counties.
The Baptist-sponsored college behind Mount Prospect Baptist Church was the springboard for legions of black ministers, professionals and even tradesmen before financial problems and dwindling attendance after integration of colleges closed the doors.
In its heyday, the school had thriving programs in education, music and religion that sent hundreds of graduates on to four-year schools for careers - especially in teaching and the ministry.
But it also offered important programs for blacks to enter skilled building trades and other occupations.
Hundreds of Friendship students during the late 1950s and early 1960s joined growing protests to demand an end to segregation.
In 1961, after a year of protests by Friendship students, the "Jail, No Bail" strategy - in which the Friendship Nine protesters opted for jail time rather than paying fines - pushed Friendship Junior College to the fore of the civil rights movement in America.
And to a place in American history.
Never before had civil rights protesters chosen to make a statement by remaining in jail - in this case, hard labor at the county work farm - rather than paying bail and going home.
Friendship Normal and Industrial Institute was founded in 1891, housing students from elementary school through the college level.
The black Baptist churches were crucial to the school's development and success. Friendship graduates pastored those churches, and now, in 2011, those 74 Sandy River churches are continuing the commitment to Friendship, its alumni and its heritage in the community.
The Rev. Osbey Roddey, longtime Rock Hill city councilman and alumnus of the school, is the current chairman of the Friendship Board of Trustees.
The Rev. George Lowery, another Friendship alum who serves on the baptist association leadership team, said the building will give the community a physical symbol of Friendship that can be used for meetings, receptions and other events.
"This is a great time for Friendship," he said.