ATLANTA (AP) – A Democratic U.S. Senate candidate from Georgia says he used to be suspicious of white people because he never spoke to one his age until his all-black high school consolidated with an all-white one when he was 18.

The 57-year-old Michael Thurmond said those suspicions dissipated as he interacted with whites at his Athens, Ga., school.

Before that, he said “the only white friend I had was on TV – Beaver,” from “Leave It to Beaver.”

Thurmond made the remarks in a keynote speech Tuesday at a diversity conference sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C.

The USDA last month forced employee Shirley Sherrod to resign from her Georgia position when a blogger posted a heavily edited video that made her appear racist. Later it was shown her remarks were taken out of context and officials asked her to return.

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