Robert Anderson, 1944-2009: Pioneering student dedicated life to helping others
By Chris Horn
Though he holds a prominent place in South Carolina's modern history as one of three individuals whose admission desegregated the University in 1963, Robert Anderson spent most of his life far away from his native state and the alma mater he left 43 years ago.
"He was a spirit lifter, a generous soul who would give you everything."
But his death earlier this year has prompted an outpouring of remembrances, shining a fresh light on the quiet man who spent his life helping some of society's most downtrodden individuals.
"He was a spirit lifter, a generous soul who would give you everything," says Susan Raskin, a social worker in New York City and Anderson's companion for the past 22 years. "We met while working at the Bowery Shelter--which was kind of a strange place to fall in love--and I was always struck by his calmness.
"He could get through to people who were crazy and talking out their heads. He was drawn to helping those that most people are afraid of."
Anderson's early life was marked by a series of challenges: his father's untimely death; his experiences as a student at South Carolina, which included many acts of racism; and combat service in Vietnam.
James Solomon, one of Anderson's fellow African American students in fall 1963 who went on to a long and successful career in state government, recalls Anderson's campus life.