Clarence Henderson speaks at a rally for Donald Trump

Clarence Henderson speaks at a rally for Donald Trump

*Clarence Henderson, one of the original black students hailed as a hero in 1960 for taking part in the Greensboro lunch counter sit-in, is currently drawing criticism for his support of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

And he’s not just supporting the candidate quietly from the sidelines. Last month he gave the invocation at a Trump rally in North Carolina, telling the crowd: “I stand before you as one that knows what America’s all about — the good, the bad and the ugly. I would not live in any other country except America that put Jim Crow on trial and found him guilty of trying to separate the races. So I stand before you to say that we are unified.”

As Trump’s support among African Americans nationwide is less than the margin of error in some polls, Henderson, 74, says he has been criticized for his stance, with many taking to Twitter to accuse him of abandoning the principles he fought so hard for more than half a century ago.

Henderson said he isn’t paying any attention to his haters. “I would rather be in the minority on the side of justice than in the majority on the side of injustice, because I have lived a life where I saw there was injustice,” he told the Winston-Salem Journal.

Joseph McNeil (from left), Franklin McCain, Billy Smith and Clarence Henderson take

Joseph McNeil (from left), Franklin McCain, Billy Smith and Clarence Henderson sit at a Woolworth’s lunch counter (Feb 2, 1960, Greensboro, North Carolina)

Henderson attended N.C. A&T State University, when, as an 18-year-old, he joined the original four lunch counter protesters on the second day of their sit-in. He could no longer live under the official Jim Crow segregation, he said. “I did it because it was the right thing to do.”

Unlike many civil rights heroes of the time, Henderson’s political leanings went to the right – a direction he credits to his father, a lifelong Republican.

“My dad, with a third-grade education, said to me, ‘Well, son, you don’t know what the Democratic party has done as far as blacks are concerned,’” Henderson said. He discovered the Democrats had created and enforced Jim Crow and the Republican Party was behind the constitutional amendments that abolished slavery, granted equal protection to freed slaves and gave blacks the right to vote.

Henderson, who ran a financial services business for more than 25 years before retiring a decade ago, continued voting for Republicans, even when Barack Obama stood poised to become the first black president.

“I never thought I would see a black person become the president of the United States,” Henderson said. “His ideologies were different from mine. After looking at his past history, I didn’t see him as a viable candidate.”

Trump was not Henderson’s first choice for the 2016 GOP nomination. He supported Sen. Ted Cruz. But now that Trump has the nomination, Henderson said he respects his business experience, even as he acknowledges the candidate’s off-the-cuff speaking style can be a problem.

“He has proved to be a leader in the business field. Has he done everything right? No, certainly not. But I think that he has more at stake than Hillary does,” Henderson said.

Below, Henderson is interviewed on CNN: