ANDERSON – Prior to the 1970s, no member of the African-American community in Anderson and Madison County was able to win elective office.
That all changed when Amos Jackson, a Democrat, won election in the 1970s as an at-large member of the Madison County Council. Four decades later, Republican Rudy Pyle won in a countywide race for Circuit Court Division 1 judge.
Shortly after Jackson won election to the county office, John German was elected the first black member of the Anderson City Council.
German was elected to the City Council in 1976 and lost in the 1980 primary to Charles Gardner.
“I helped Bob Rock,” German said Friday of Rock’s successful campaign for mayor in 1972. “I was an assistant to him and decided to run for the city council.
“I wasn’t going to run again, but people talked me into it,” he said. “I had a business back then and had more of an interest in that. I couldn’t live on the city council pay.”
German said Jackson was probably the ground breaker for African Americans and people followed his lead.
“I was proud of the number of African Americans that were hired by the city by Mayor Rock,” he said. “There were probably more hired than there is now.”
German said it is his opinion the city of Anderson has regressed back to the 1950s and 1960s. He said the city hasn’t upgraded the infrastructure over the years.
“At the time it was unheard of,” current Madison County Councilman John Bostic said of the victories by Jackson and German.
“They were the ground-breakers for Ollie (Dixon) and I,” he said. “They were the councilmen we knew and were in contact with.”
Bostic said in the 1970s the makeup of the Anderson and Madison County councils were not reflective of the representation of the county’s population in terms of minority members.