Millions of people across America and the world watched Rock Hill's Elwin Wilson apologize again Wednesday for beating up a black Freedom Rider 50 years ago at a downtown bus station.
Wilson watched himself on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," sitting less than 100 yards from his own living room - in the home of the Andersons, a black family he had hated for so long just for moving into his neighborhood.
He watched it in a sunroom with women in their 30s now -Karen and Terryl and Sheryl - and a young man named Andy and the parents of those four Anderson kids.
That sunroom belongs to what is still the neighborhood's sole black residents - Clarence and Helena Anderson.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Herald
The family has lived across the street from Wilson since 1978 - more than 30 years of dealing with the former Ku Klux Klansman's hatred and actions against blacks.
Wilson, 74, finally apologized in 2009 for a lifetime of hating blacks for no good reason at all.
"Mr. Wilson, come in, please," Helena Anderson said to her guest a few minutes before the show started. "You know who I am, right?"
Wilson marched right in.
"You are Clarence Anderson's wife," he said, "and I wish I was nicer to you for so long."
Then he hugged Helena Anderson and her daughter Terryl. He hugged the women of this family that he despised just because they lived across the street from him.
Wilson still can't explain why, because there is no explanation for hate.
'Ashamed of what I did'
Wilson was escorted downstairs to the sunroom, where the Andersons had gathered to watch Oprah and her guests talk about the Freedom Rides of 1961.
The Andersons had all read the initial stories in The Herald about Wilson's remarkable apology to John Lewis in 2009. They had seen the subsequent apology on ABC a few days later in person at Lewis' office in Washington.
They read all about the awards Wilson had received since apologizing to Lewis and fostering racial reconciliation.
"But we had to grow up across the street from him - the only black family," said Terryl Anderson-Smith, the oldest daughter at age 39. "We had to live with him."
Wilson is the only man, alone in America, to apologize for his hatred that turned to violence against that black man who later became a congressman, U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia.
"I hope the word hate just disappears from the language, just like the 'N' word I used so many times ought to disappear forever," Wilson said as he watched himself on television.
The segment of the show with Wilson lasted just a couple of minutes.
"I am ashamed of what I did," Wilson told the Andersons, "ashamed of who I was."
Millions watched Oprah, the most powerful black woman on earth, cry as Wilson apologized for a lifetime of hating blacks and the fists he used to make sure blacks knew it.
The segment of the show that featured Wilson and Lewis centered on May 9, 1961 - the day Lewis and 12 other Freedom Riders stopped in Rock Hill on a trip meant to expose the injustices of segregation.
Lewis and a white Freedom Rider named Al Bigelow were beaten by Wilson and other racists as they tried to enter the "white" waiting room.
Wilson never forgot the bleeding black man on the floor.
He told Oprah he had always hoped to be able to find out who that man was whom he had beaten, and he did meet Lewis two years ago after apologizing.
Lewis accepted the apology, saying he had forgiven Wilson 50 years before, and the two men have been friends ever since.
'We knew who he was'
Still, across the street from Wilson, there were the Andersons, where they had lived since 1978.
Helena Anderson said she never worried about integrating the neighborhood when the family bought the home. But her husband, Clarence, knew that his neighbors back then were upset.
"They tried to keep us out," said Clarence Anderson.
Wilson corrected him.
"I tried to keep you out," he said. "I was trying to block it. Me and some others tried to get up enough money to buy the house so you couldn't get it."
Wilson admitted Wednesday how he had cursed out - and threatened with violence - the real estate agent who helped sell the house on that beautiful corner lot to the black family.
But the Andersons moved in all those years ago, across the street from Wilson and his black lawn jockey.
Wilson, who was known throughout Rock Hill and especially on that street - Tillman Street - for hating blacks, and he didn't care who knew it.
"We played hop-scotch up to the end of the driveway," Terryl recalled. "We knew not to go any further down toward where Mr. Wilson lived."
Her sister Sheryl, a couple of years younger, said the Anderson children were well aware of what Wilson thought of them.
"We didn't even walk down the street on his side," she said. "We knew who he was."
It wasn't long afterward, in the early 1980s, that someone stole Wilson's black lawn jockey - and he was going to get even with somebody.
'Never so mad'
"My bike was purple, my sister's bike was green, and we were riding down the street and I saw it in the tree in Mr. Wilson's yard," Terryl said. "The black doll, hanging by its neck in a noose from his tree.
"The red lips. The big white eyes. The black skin."
Terryl and Sheryl rushed home and told their father. Clarence Anderson came out of his house and across the street.
"I sure exchanged words with Mr. Wilson right then and there," Clarence Anderson said. "I was never so mad in my whole life.
"This was not some word; this was a threat against my family."
Wilson - the racist, the coward back then - didn't have the guts to come out and meet Clarence Anderson, the father of those black children, who stood under that black baby doll swinging from a noose in a tree.
"I remember for sure, Mr. Wilson," Helena Anderson said, "you didn't come out to talk to Clarence. He had to call in to you."
Wilson said her memory was exactly right.
"Clarence told me he had a .38 and I better get that doll out of that tree," Wilson said. "I told him I had a AK-47, and he better get gone.
"I said it from inside."
When Anderson complained to the police, Wilson told the officers he could do anything he damn well pleased.
The police told Wilson that he would start a race conflict if he didn't take down the doll. There would be protests and worse.
Finally Wilson relented - but he remained unrepentant for decades.
'It takes courage'
During those same years, the Anderson daughters grew into beautiful women and wives and mothers themselves - living their own lives in their own homes as teachers and social workers and mothers. The Andersons' son took over his father's family business.
Still, Wilson despised them all because they were black and they lived across the street.
"I am ashamed," he told the Andersons on Wednesday, Oprah's show blaring across the room.
Finally - after Wilson apologized in The Herald in 2009 to local civil rights protesters, and later to Lewis in the paper and on TV - he apologized to the man who lived just across the street.
And when civil rights activists from Georgia came to see Wilson later in 2009 to film part of a movie documentary, Wilson asked Anderson to come over and meet them and talk with them.
"You did the right thing Mr. Wilson; you apologized and it takes courage," said Helena Anderson - still gracious and wonderful and forgiving after having lived across the street from hate for so long.
All the Andersons are that way - forgiving and wonderful. They have not dwelled on Wilson's hate all their lives and that hate is now gone, to boot.
It was the Andersons who invited Wilson into their home to watch Oprah, so they could hear it for themselves, from Wilson himself.
And now, on the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, Lewis was invited with 177 other Freedom Riders to go on "Oprah." He suggested that Wilson also appear on the show.
The two had appeared together at civil rights events in Maryland, California and Georgia, and had met in Washington to receive the Common Ground Award - given annually to people who promote peace and reconciliation.
Lewis, ever gracious, said on "Oprah" again Wednesday that he respects Wilson's courage as the sole person to ever apologize for the beatings of 1961.
That violence - started first in Rock Hill - turned into bombs on a bus in Alabama and beatings and prison in Mississippi.
Elwin Wilson watched himself on TV as the man who started all that hate and violence.
"I was wrong," Wilson said in that sunroom filled with black people, "so wrong in my heart."
The Andersons - as a family - told Elwin Wilson that he was forgiven.
And then "Oprah" was over.
Wilson got up to leave, but before he could walk across the street to his house, there were handshakes and hugs from his neighbors, the Andersons.
There was no talk of race anymore, or hate, or black dolls hanging from a noose in a tree.
Helena Anderson then said to Wilson as he walked down her front steps, "Come back soon - you are always welcome in our home."
Editor's note: Comments have been disabled because of repeated violations of site policies. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, racist remarks, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.