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Man apologizes for 1961 racist beating

Feb. 5, 2009 at 8:22 PM

ROCK HILL, S.C., Feb. 5 (UPI) -- A South Carolina man has admitted beating up Rep. John Lewis and another Freedom Rider during an attempt to integrate a bus station 48 years ago.

Edwin Wilson also acknowledged that he taunted protesters in Rock Hill, S.C., several weeks earlier in 1961. He apologized for all his actions, the Myrtle Beach Herald reported.

Lewis, then a 21-year-old seminary student, and a white Freedom Rider, Al Bigelow, walked into the waiting room at the Rock Hill Greyhound station on May 9, 1961. They were attacked by a group of young white men.

"They left us lying in blood," Lewis later said.

Lewis said that Wilson's apology is the first he has received for the incident.

"I accept that apology, and would love to have the opportunity some day to talk to that man if he wants to," Lewis told the Herald in a telephone interview. "I have no ill feelings. No malice. This shows the distance we have come. It shows grace on his part. It shows courage."

Wilson, 72, said that his father owned a gas station near the bus depot.

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