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Myrtle Beach NAACP leader calls for public apology after ‘nasty’ disagreement with county councilman

Myrtle Beach NAACP President Mickey James said he plans to speak at Horry County Council asking Councilman Bill Howard to publicly apologize for a disagreement the two got into during Memorial Day weekend.
Myrtle Beach NAACP President Mickey James said he plans to speak at Horry County Council asking Councilman Bill Howard to publicly apologize for a disagreement the two got into during Memorial Day weekend. cslate@thesunnews.com

The president of the Myrtle Beach branch of the NAACP is accusing an Horry County councilman of verbally attacking him and says he will ask County Council that the man offer a public apology.

Mickey James, NAACP Myrtle Beach branch president, on June 4 sent a certified letter from the local branch of the civil rights organization asking Councilman Bill Howard to apologize for his “atrocious” behavior displayed during Memorial Day weekend.

The letter says that if Howard does not “formally apologize to the public and confess [his] shortcomings,” the NAACP will seek “direct action to remove you from office.”

The letter was delivered June 8, according to U.S. Postal Service tracking information.

“It might seem like nothing, but it’s a big deal to me because he’s in public office,” James said. “It needs to be known that his behavior was not OK.”

James said he also will speak during Tuesday’s County Council meeting and that he plans to send letters to all of County Council recounting his run-in with Howard.

Howard said he thinks James was so worked up by the incident that he’s not remembering it correctly, saying specifically he did not encourage anyone to be violent.

“I’ve got the whole thing on video,” he said. “If I have to sit him down and show him the video, I will. … I like Mickey. I’m sorry we had a little tiff – a little disagreement.”

Both James and Howard say they crossed paths the night of May 24 during Bikefest while James was out canvassing the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade, where Howard has a restaurant. Both men said James asked Howard how his business, Dirty Don’s Oyster Bar, was going that weekend.

What happened after that is different according to each man. Howard said he spoke of the need to do away with Bikefest and that Memorial Day weekend should be for those who’ve fought and died for the country.

James said Howard got “agitated” by the question.

“He was irate that business didn’t turn out well,” James said of Howard. “He cursed at me and started telling me to get these folks out of town. … He was using curse words, but I don’t want to say things to you that I know you can’t print.”

Bikefest began in 1979 as a rally for black motorcyclists.

“I said, ‘You’re acting racist,’” James said.

That’s when James said an employee threatened him and Howard egged him on.

Howard said that didn’t happen.

“I have no knowledge of that,” he said of someone threatening James. “I didn’t encourage anyone. On the surveillance video, you can see, when he left I had my hands in my pockets.”

Howard said repeatedly he thought the video would negate James’ claims, but that he didn’t want to make James look bad.

“I’m not trying to get any mileage out of this,” he said. “I’m not trying to hurt Mickey in any way. … Mickey is my friend.”

James said he thinks the video would make Howard look bad.

James said he is making it an issue because he feels the County Council and the public should know about what he is calling Howard’s bad behavior.

“I just feel like it was very, very nasty,” James said. “I’ve been president [of the local NAACP] for 15 years and I’ve never had something like this. I’ve never had to go after a person over something like this before.”

Howard said his disagreement with James does not involve County Council.

“I was representing my businesses,” he said. “It has nothing to do with County Council at all, or the county, or the people I represent.”

Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or on Twitter @TSN_mprabhu.

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