Clennon Washington King, was the first black man to run as an independent for president of the United States, in 1960. He ran under the Afro-American Party. Clennon was the first African American to attempt to attend the University of Mississippi. And yes, Clennon King was that black activist, who, in 1976, was refused membership to the all-white Baptist Church, which then, US presidential candidate Jimmy Carter was a member.
But in 1979, Clennon King found himself being escorted from lockup at the Central Police Station, in downtown Nassau, to a jail cell to HM Fox Hill Prison.
Clennon King came to the Bahamas seeking political asylum. While awaiting the decision, by the Progressive Liberal Party government, Clennon was remanded to Fox Hill Prison.
His 1979 application for asylum was eventually refused by the Bahamas government.
The reasons were long.
They stemmed from, as far back as 1958, and Clennon King’s racist sentencing to an asylum for the mentally insane.
June 1958 – HISTORY PROFESSOR CLENNON KING TRIED TO BECOME FIRST NEGRO TO ENTER AN ALL WHITE PUBLIC SCHOOL IN MISSISSIPPI. HE IS COMMITTED TO A MENTAL INSTITUTION FOR PSYCHIATRIC EVALUATION WHEN HE REFUSES TO LEAVE
Clennon King said that all he wanted to do his PhD and that there was no negro school that offered the course he wanted. Only the whites only University of Mississippi offered the PhD program he wanted. In June 1958, white police officers, while arresting Clennon King for not leaving University of Mississippi, after being told negroes would not be integrated into Mississippi schools, said he must be insane for trying. From this, a judge ordered Clennon King committed to a mental hospital. King would have to wait until a panel of 17 white psychiatrists ruled on his sanity.
When Clennon’s lawyer, Sidney Tharp of Jackson, Mississippi submitted a writ of Habeas Corpus, he was ejected from the courtroom. The judge said he was interfering with the mental examination and must have been under the influence of alcohol or goofballs.
Two physicians declared Clennon King insane. He spent nearly two weeks in a state asylum before his younger brother, civil rights lawyer C. B. King, secured his release.
(Alabama Tribune, Friday, June 13, 1958)
AUGUST 1958 – CLENNON KING ATTEMPTS TO REGISTER HIS SIX YEAR OLD DAUGHTER IN AN ALL WHITE MISSISSIPPI PUBLIC SCHOOL
After his attempt to become the first negro registered in the whites-only University of Mississippi, which only resulted in his arrest, then being committed to a mental hospital by racist police and judges, Clennon King would be branded, a lunatic, for the rest of his life. Everything that Clennon King would try to do after his 1958 arrest would be seen as the antics of a madman.
(The Palladium-Item, Sunday, August 31, 1958)
1960 – CLENNON KING RUNS FOR PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AS INDEPENDENT CANDIDATE UNDER AFRO-AMERICAN UNITY PARTY
(Pensacola News, Tuesday, 10 May 1960)
1960 CLENNON KING ON TRIAL FOR VAGRANCY IN NEW ORLEANS
(The Greenwood Commonwealth, Tuesday, April 26, 1960)
1966 – CLENNON KING SENTENCED TO FOUR YEARS IN JAIL IN CALIFORNIA FOR NOT PAYING CHILD SUPPORT. CLENNON SAID THE SYSTEM WAS SET UP FOR THE NEGRO TO FAIL
Clennon was sentenced under a law which later overturned.
(The Pittsburgh Courier, Saturday, 20 August 1966)
1970 – CLENNON KING APPEALS JAIL SENTENCE BASED ON UNCONSTITUTIONALITY OF CALIFORNIA LAW… AND WINS
(The Times Advocate, Friday, 01 May 1970)
November 1976 – TWO DAYS BEFORE THE UNITED STATES PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS CLENNON KING SOUGHT TO BECOME A MEMBER OF ALL WHITE CHURCH WHICH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE JIMMY CARTER BELONGED. THE CHURCH CANCELLED SERVICES REFERRING TO LAW NOT TO ALLOW NEGROES
(Fort Collins Coloradoan, Monday, 01 November 1976)
1979 – CLENNON KING COMES TO BAHAMAS SEEKING POLITICAL ASYLUM
By 1979, Clennon King was 59 years old, in 1979, as he sat in Fox Hill Prison. He was far from a young man. King had already spent more than twenty-five years fighting for civil rights as a controversial and somewhat eccentric professor, minister, and political candidate. He had been in jail several times before.
Just the year before, in 1978, in the state of Georgia, Clennon King has been convicted of trying to buy votes in a national election. He was convicted of offering to pay $100 cash to any voter who cast ballots for him in each of the three local office elections, he was seeking simultaneously. He was sentenced to 12 months in jail.
Unable to face another jail term, Clennon fled to Florida, to plead to be allowed to live there while the United States Supreme Court reviewed his conviction appeal.
While awaiting a decision by Florida Governor Bob Graham who stated that technicalities prevented them from deciding immediately, Clennon King, went to Nassau, to plead his case for political asylum.
He was immediately arrested.
(Tallahassee Democrat, Wednesday 14 November 1979)
(Tallahassee Democrat, Sunday, 11 November, 1979)
1980 – 2000
CLENNON KING ALLOWED TO LIVE IN FLORIDA AND DIES FEBRUARY 12, 2000 FROM PROSTATE CANCER
After the Bahamas effectively deported Clennon King, he was allowed to live out his life in Miami. There he founded a church in his little apartment. Few came.
Like most of the black men and women, who were the early forerunners for the civil rights movement in the United States, one way or the other, many just faded over time, becoming obscure figures, overshadowed by personal frailties, tragedies and poverty.
It is painfully obvious that Clennon King never really recovered from his false, racist imprisonment in that mental asylum, for no other reason that, as a negro, he tried to register in an all white university, in Mississippi in 1958.