South Carolina’s senior civil rights advocate Bishop Frederick C. James received the Leon A. Love Lifetime Achievement Award from the South Carolina African American Heritage Foundation and Columbia SC 63: Our Story Matters at an outdoor ceremony at his home on July 23, 1 p.m.
Engaged with ministry and activism at ninety-eight years old, Bishop James has led an extraordinary career as a minister, educator, and civil rights advocate as an ecumenical theologian, advocate for fair and decent housing, proponent of civil rights, political leader and public servant.
Jannie Harriot, the foundation’s executive director, said, “For generations, Bishop James has been a trailblazer for freedom and justice. The SCAAHC is very pleased to honor to him for his unfailing dedication to human rights, African American history, and historic preservation. His rich and amazing life inspires and reminds us all of the important need to preserve and document African American history in the Palmetto State.”
Born in 1922 in Prosperity, South Carolina, Bishop James has served the African Methodist Episcopal Church for more than 70 years in the United States and South Africa. He has also served on White House and State Department advisory boards, and he was an invited dignitary at the signing of the Voting Rights Bill on August 6, 1965.
In 1943, Bishop James earned his bachelor's degree in history and English from Allen University and his master's of divinity degree from the Howard University School of Religion in 1947. He returned to South Carolina in 1947 to become pastor of Wayman African Methodist Episcopal Church, Winnsboro, then Chappelle Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church, Columbia, and then Mt. Pisgah African Methodist Episcopal Church in Sumter, a position that he held for 19 years. He was also a professor at Allen University in Columbia, and, later, Dean of Allen University’s Dickerson School of Theology.
As a champion for civil rights, James became a community and state social and political action leader. In 1960 while serving as the pastor of the Mt. Pisgah A. M. E. Church in Sumter, he was elected consultant and director of social action of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In this position, he formed a close relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1963, he became president of the Effective Sumter Movement where his assisted with student demonstrations and the Freedom Rides.
In 1972, James was elected to the AME Bishopric and was assigned Presiding Bishop of the AME Church in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Swaziland, Namibia, and Mozambique. Four years later, Bishop James was assigned as bishop in Arkansas and Oklahoma. He formed a lifelong friendship with then-state Attorney General Bill Clinton. In 1984, he was assigned to the Seventh Episcopal District, State of South Carolina where he led the way in restoring full accreditation to Allen University. In 1992, Bishop James assumed the role of Ecumenical Bishop and Chaplaincy Endorsement Officer of the African Methodist Episcopal Church International.
In 1993, James was appointed Bishop of the Second Episcopal District (Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, and North Carolina) of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He and his wife, Theressa, retired from active duty in 1996 and returned to live at home in Columbia.
A life member of the NAACP, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and a thirty-third degree Mason, James was inducted into the South Carolina Black Hall of Fame (1991) and the Columbia Housing Authority Wall of Fame (1994). In 2003, he received South Carolina’s highest honor, The Order of the Palmetto, for his significant contributions to the state.
The lifetime achievement award is part of the Heritage Commission's annual “Preserving Our Places in History” program. Leon A. Love Sr. (1950–2016) was the chairman of the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission, where he championed the importance of identifying, recording, and preserving the African American experience in our state.
The event begins at 1 p.m. Today.