In 1970 Fielding became one of the first three African Americans elected to the South Carolina General Assembly since 1900.
Civil rights activist, legislator. Fielding was born in Charleston on July 6, 1923, the son of Julius P. Fielding and Sadie E. Gaillard. He graduated from Avery Normal Institute in Charleston. From 1943 to 1946 he served in the U.S. Army in the American and European theaters. He married Thelma Erenne Stent of Charleston on December 24, 1946. They had three sons. Fielding earned a B.S. from West Virginia State College in 1948.
Fielding, a funeral home director, was a civil rights activist and leader in the African American community in Charleston in the 1950s and 1960s. As early as 1952 he ran for political office in order to encourage blacks to vote and to become politically active. In the early 1960s Fielding was involved in the Charleston Movement, a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People–backed organization formed to oppose discrimination and segregation in public facilities and businesses in Charleston. In June 1963 he was arrested while trying to be served at the Fort Sumter Hotel in Charleston. He was one of four black leaders who met with the city’s mayor to end segregation of public facilities and other discriminatory practices in Charleston. He also was a member of a biracial community relations committee formed in 1963 following the sit-ins and mass demonstrations. In 1966 he was the first recipient of the Charleston Business and Professional Men’s Association’s Man of the Year award.
In 1970 Fielding became one of the first three African Americans elected to the South Carolina General Assembly since 1900. He was reelected in 1972 and served a third term from 1983 to 1984. In 1984 he was elected to the state Senate, where he served until 1992. Fielding was a candidate for the Sixth Congressional District seat in 1992 but was defeated by James Clyburn in the Democratic primary.
Politically, Fielding was a pragmatist who attributed much of his political success to the development of a broad platform that appealed to blacks and whites from all income groups. Within the legislative arena, he was an advocate for changes that had an impact on the African American community. These included the creation of single-member legislative districts, the elimination of the full-slate rule (which required voters to cast as many votes as there were seats to be filled in an election), the creation of a State Human Relations Commission, and funding for sickle-cell anemia testing. In 1975 he received the Legislative Black Caucus Award for his work in the General Assembly.
Fielding did not seek reelection to public office following his 1992 congressional campaign. He continued to be active in com- munity and political affairs in Charleston.
Bailey, N. Louise, Mary L. Morgan, and Carolyn R. Taylor, eds. Biographical Directory of the South Carolina Senate, 1776–1985. 3 vols. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1986.
O’Neill, Stephen. “From the Shadows of Slavery: The Civil Rights Years in Charleston.” Ph.D. diss., University of Virginia, 1994.