A memorial celebration of Chuck McDew will be 1 to 3 p.m., May 6, at Metropolitan State University, Founders Hall, 700 East Seventh Street. All are welcome to attend in remembrance and to learn from McDew’s example, honoring his legacy and catching something of his vision for a just future. The celebration is sponsored by Metropolitan State and East Side Freedom Library.
McDew was born in 1938 in Massillon, Ohio. He was encouraged by his father to attend college in South Carolina, and he enrolled at South Carolina State University.
He had made a start at actively protesting injustices even before high school, but his experiences being arrested and beaten because of his race — in his first semester at college — furthered his growth into a resister and a civil rights leader.
In 1960, he participated in protests against segregated lunch counters in Orangeburg, S.C. In the same year, McDew was invited by reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to attend a student organizational gathering. McDew and other students decided to found an alternative student organization, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Marion Barry, future mayor of the District of Columbia, was chosen as the first chairman.
McDew followed Barry as chairman and served from 1961 to 1964. He was succeeded by John Lewis (a member of Congress for the past 31 years), Stokely Carmichael (later known as Kwame Ture) and H. Rap Brown.
As noted in the African American Registry, McDew devoted his life to bringing about social and political change, the development of local black leadership, and advancing civil and human rights, which meant fighting against racism. McDew was a teacher, a labor organizer, and managed anti-poverty programs. His impact was felt across the nation, and he was a recurring and effective presence on radio and television. McDew advised and taught at Metropolitan State from 1981 until his retirement in 2006. He is survived by his brothers Mark and Eric, his daughter Eva Goodman and his son-in-law Dion Goodman.