NEWBERRY — Dr. Bennie Goggans reflected on his senior year at Gallman High School in 1970 at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day program.
Goggans was the guest speaker following the march from Bethlehem Baptist to Miller Chapel A.M.E. in remembrance of the late Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr.
Goggans grew up in Newberry and graduated from Gallman High before the school closed down and students were moved to Newberry High. However, Goggans said the black students there fought to keep Gallman High open.
“Nothing reflects a village more than my senior year at Gallman,” said Goggans. “In the ’60s — y’all remember the ’60s — black students stood up for our rights.”
Goggans said the Freedom Riders and Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech in Washington, D.C., were important moments he remembered.
“He (MLK) left us with many dreams and justices,” said Goggans. “But back to 1970, my senior year at Gallman. This was my turn. The black people were full of pride.”
Goggans recalled famous African-Americans such as James Brown, The Jackson 5 and Marvin Gaye and how they influenced his generation.
Goggans remembers marching and protesting with fellow students his senior year in an effort to keep Gallman open. One of the protests got out of hand, he said, and someone had to pay for the damages.
“One night, a sheriff deputy showed up at my door and arrested me,” said Goggans. “I was now facing 30 years in prison versus four years at college.”
Goggans said he was thankful for his parents and his lawyer who helped him get a reduced his sentence.
“I was a student Monday through Friday and Saturday and Sunday, I was a prisoner,” he said.
Goggans was allowed to play basketball and was allowed to take the SATs at Newberry College, but Christmas fell on a weekend that year so he spent Christmas in jail.
“I wonder if we made a difference?” Goggans asked.
Goggans, who now has a private dentistry office in Tuscaloosa, Ala., told the young people that they are “never too young to do the right thing.”
In 1974, he received his bachelor’s degree from S.C. State and then attended Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn., completing dental school in 1979. He was in the U.S. Navy from 1979-1983.
He also recognized members of the Gallman Class of 1970, which included six individuals. Among them was Johnnie Gray, who represented his wife, Beunelle Riggings Gray. Gray was presented a high school diploma from Goggans because she was expelled that year due to her opposition to the closing of Gallman and involvement in Civil Rights issues.
The event included comments from other pastors who recalled King’s legacy along with the peaceful march to remember the history and work of those who paved the way for blacks today.
Traditional hymns, a performance by Newberry native Jeffery Lampkin and performances by Sims Chapel Young Adult Choir, United Voices, Newberry Mass Choir, New Vision Ministries and New Enoree Mass Choir were also featured.
The Rev. Nura Ray Matthews encouraged everyone to keep remembering but not to quit.
“We’ve got to remember the struggle that got us here to this point. Martin Luther King was a giant of a man that marched to a different drumbeat. When you hold one race down, every race is affected,” said Matthews. “We can’t turn back now… We have a check to cash that all men are created equal. Let us change the way we think by reading the Word of God.”