No one, I think, would ever have denied that Maurice Bessinger was a man of faith.
And he wasn’t particularly a “still, small voice” man either; he wanted everybody in earshot to know that slavery had been God’s will, that desegregation was Satan’s work, and the federal government was the Antichrist. God wanted only whites to eat at Bessinger’s six Piggie Park barbecue joints; so His servant Maurice took that fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 1968 decided that his religious freedom argument was “patently frivolous.”
Until the day he died, however, Bessinger insisted that he and God were right. His last fight was to preserve the Confederate flag as a symbol of South Carolina. “I want to be known as a hard-working, Christian man that loves God and wants to further (God’s) work throughout the world as I have been doing throughout the last 25 years,” he told his hometown newspaper in 2000.
Growing up in the pre-civil-rights South, I knew a lot of folks like Maurice Bessinger. I didn’t like them much, but I didn’t doubt their sincerity. Why wouldn’t they believe racism was God’s will? We white Southerners heard that message on weekends from the pulpit, on school days from our segregated schools, and every day from our governments. When Richard and Mildred Loving left Virginia to be married, a state trial judge convicted them of violating the Racial Integrity Act. That judge wrote that “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents … The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”