COLUMBIA — The "fired up, ready to go" rallying cry for Barack Obama's presidential campaign has deep roots in South Carolina's civil rights movement.
For months, the Illinois senator has capped speeches, talking about the "Hat Lady" from Greenwood, who enlivened a rainy morning last spring at a rally by shouting, "fired up, ready to go."
Edith Childs' words inspired the crowd and Obama. And now Obama uses them at the end of speeches, telling crowds that if her single voice could change a room, it can change a city, a state, a nation — the world.
The words didn't begin with Childs, however — they long were staples of NAACP rallies in South Carolina.
Nelson Rivers, field operations chief for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said he first heard the late civil rights activist and Charleston native Jondelle Harris Johnson use the call. And he used it often during marches, rallies and banquets.
"Many NAACPers in South Carolina and really in the Southeast region knew that we have used this slogan for years and it was a part of my battle cry and stump message when I rallied our troops," Rivers said Thursday. Now, the words have a "new life in the sense it's in front of a larger and certainly different audience," he said.
Childs recalls Rivers and others using the call and has said as much to Obama, she said. The Greenwood County Council member, known for her array of colorful hats, said she's grateful that Obama has given the words new wings.
"I think it has really helped people see the importance of being fired up for something that's really going help you in the long run," Childs said.