Father and Son: The Blatts, Sol, Sr. and Sol, Jr.

Sol Blatt, Sr

S.C. House Speaker Sol Blatt, Sr., and his wife, Ethel

Sol Blatt, Sr. (1895-1986) was the long-serving speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives.  Sol Blatt, Jr. (1921-2016) was a distinguished federal judge.  Both were dedicated to the University of South Carolina and SCPC is proud to hold their papers.

The collection consists chiefly of papers of Speaker Blatt but includes WWII letters of Judge Blatt, Jr. written as a naval officer.  After Judge Blatt’s death, his family presented SCPC with a significant addition including dozens of speeches given by Speaker Blatt and hundreds of letters of condolence received by the family on the Speaker’s passing in 1986.

Of particular note is a two page letter, 30 Aug. 1957, written by Speaker Blatt to Donald Russell.  At this time, Russell was the wildly popular president of the University, and about to launch a run for governor.

Sol Blatt, Jr

Sol Blatt, Jr, served in the Navy during World War II.

Blatt wrote, You took the University when it was rundown at the heel, buildings dilapidated, a faculty not up to standard and within a short period of time, because of your devotion to the University, your outstanding character and ability, you made the University of South Carolina a real institution and now it ranks with any University in the South. . . .  There is much more to be done.  Our enemies among the citizens of this State and some other institutions in South Carolina are fighting us hard.  We have made progress when the others have been at a standstill.   They are jealous and want to destroy you and the University.  They will encourage you to run for public office hoping to prevent further progress at the University and then on Election Day they will destroy you. . . .  There are plenty of available candidates for Governor.  There is not a living sole (sic) who can replace you as President of the University.  If you leave now, you are leaving us without having completed the job you started out to do. 

Blatt was prescient as Russell did run, but lost to Ernest F. “Fritz” Hollings.  The race was not close.

Among the condolence letters were many familiar names.

Former congressman Bryan Dorn noted, There is no one whom I admired more in the political world than Speaker Blatt.

Former governor, James B. Edwards, wrote, You have the comfort of knowing that the devotion shown him by his many friends and colleagues enriched his life, as his enthusiasm and dedication enriched the lives of so many others.

Supreme Court Justice Ernest Finney recalled, I remember him from my days in the legislature as a gracious gentleman who was always kindly disposed toward me.  In many ways, those years were the high point of my career, and the Speaker contributed much toward making them so.


President Nixon addresses the General Assembly in February of 1973. He was in town to thank the state legislature for its support of his Vietnam policy.
(Speaker Blatt is second from the podium; Governor John West is to the left.)

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In Memoriam: Crawford Cook

Crawford Cook passed away this past weekend.  He was the ultimate political insider.  In 1997, he graciously sat for an oral history interview during which he reflected on his life.

Crawford Cook

Crawford Cook

He began his life in politics as campaign manager for Marshall Parker’s 1962 bid for Lieutenant Governor.  Parker, then a Democrat, lost to Bob McNair, but in 1966 mounted a ferocious challenge as a Republican in the race for the U.S. Senate against Democrat Fritz Hollings.  Cook worked for Hollings in that race and then served as Hollings’ chief of staff in Washington.  Cook returned to South Carolina after Hollings’ successful 1968 campaign for a full term in the Senate.  He later was closely associated with John West, South Carolina governor and Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.  We will miss this grand gentleman.


Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings

His oral history will soon be mounted on the SCPC web site.  In our interview, I noted that Hollings gave Cook great credit for his primary ousting of incumbent senator Donald S. Russell, who had stepped down as Governor to be appointed to the Senate after the death of senior Senator Olin D. Johnston.  Cook then went on to help Hollings turn back Parker in the general election.  Hollings noted the deep personal ties Cook had forged with leaders across the state.  Cook responded, “He’s never told me that, but I’m glad to hear it because it really was very important.  During my years with the Municipal Association, when the legislature was not in [session] I traveled almost constantly, making speeches for mayors and councilmen, at civic clubs, at church meetings, etc.  I made a lot of personal friends across the state among the mayors and the councilmen.  Frankly, I was surprised, when it came time to organize for Hollings, how many there really were and how willing they were to really go to bat for Fritz.”

By Herb Hartsook

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Modjeska Monteith Simkins Papers Now Online!

Victory Savings Bank

Interior view of the Victory Savings Bank

We are pleased to announce the digitization and online accessibility of the Modjeska Simkins papers!  After several years of work, the staff of the Digital Collections department recently completed the extensive and rather costly project for SCPC.

Civil Rights activist Modjeska Simkins of Columbia, S.C., served as the South Carolina State Secretary for the NAACP, 1941-1957; as Campaign Director for the renovation of Good Samaritan-Waverly Hospital, 1944-1950; as Public Relations Director for the Richland County Citizens’ Committee, 1956-1988; and as President of the Southern Conference Educational Fund, 1972-1974.   She also helped found, in 1921, the Victory Savings Bank of Columbia.  As a voice of African-American leadership in the South, Mrs. Simkins was truly a political force.

Citizens' Committee

Modjeska Simkins leads a meeting of the Richland County Citizens’ Committee

The digital papers are searchable topically or by keyword, and are eminently browsable if you’d just like to have a look at the sort of activities with which Mrs. Simkins was involved.  We hope our researchers and the general public will benefit from having this rich and important collection accessible at their fingertips.

SCPC would like to thank everyone in the Digital Collections department who had a hand in this project, especially Kate Boyd and Ashley Knox, who orchestrated it.


Mrs. Simkins in 1986
(photo from the Nancy Moore Papers, SCPC)

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New Booklet Published – Sarah Leverette: South Carolina lawyer, teacher, mentor, ground breaker

leverette booklet

Sarah Leverette: South Carolina lawyer, teacher, mentor, ground breaker

Sarah Leverette is featured in a new booklet written by Becci Robbins, the communications director at the South Carolina Progressive Network.  Following up on her wonderful booklet on Civil Rights icon Modjeska Simkins, Robbins here looks at the life of SCPC donor Leverette – pioneer lady lawyer, former University of South Carolina law librarian, leader in the League of Women Voters, and at age 96, an active realtor and inspiration to all who know her.

The Leverette booklet may be read online here.

Readers who wish to learn more about Ms. Leverette are encouraged to visit SCPC and delve in her papers and those of the League of Women Voters of SC and the local League of Columbia/Richland County.

Sarah Leverette League of Women Voters Endowment Fund provides support for the archive of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina and the papers of League leaders, and encourages the study and use of these collections.

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Outreach at SCPC


Gwen Mellinger was our 2016 Dorn Award recipient for conducting research this summer; one of numerous researchers who spend time with the collections at SCPC

Congressional repositories like SCPC serve a broad audience ranging from younger students, perhaps working on a History Day project, to senior scholars researching their next book.

Years ago, to help excite people about the potential of our collections, we began a web initiative titled In Their Own Words (ITOW) which presents selected materials from our most important collections.  These currently present documents, photographs, audio clips and other materials from the papers of Sol Blatt, Butler Derrick, Bryan Dorn, Fritz Hollings, Bob McNair, Modjeska Simkins, Dixie Walker, and John West.  The labor-intensive nature of this process limits us to a goal of producing one ITOW annually.  We are currently working on an ITOW for Olin Johnston.  When the University received Senator Johnston’s papers after his death in 1965, it became our first major congressional collection.


Civil Rights leader Modjeska Simkins, subject of one of our editions of In Their Own Words

At least one other congressional repository has adopted our ITOW initiative.  When speaking to the public and to my fellow congressional archivists about ITOW, I always note that one of our goals is to provide original source materials that can be used in the classrooms of South Carolina’s public schools.  Whether or not this is actually happening, ITOW certainly makes such use possible.

The Digital Public Library of America does something that is similar but much more focused.  Its Primary Resource Sets typically provide 16 to 20 documents, editorial cartoons, photographs, and audio and film clips related to a specific issue.  On a recent visit to their web site I was drawn to their selections relating to the Equal Rights Amendment, the labor movement among West Virginia coal miners, and the Scopes Monkey Trial.  South Carolina is well-represented in the ERA set with two wonderful cartoons by our own Kate Salley Palmer which we provided for that purpose.

We are currently debating the best use of our limited resources to generate greater use of SCPC holdings.  We recently mounted a major exhibit looking at the evolution of congressional collecting since the creation of SCPC in 1991 and plan to renew an active exhibit schedule with two major exhibits annually.  And we will continue mounting smaller exhibits in the Hollings Library’s Brittain Gallery and will soon add a second exhibit case to provide us more space for these popular and often more topical exhibits.


Zach Johnson

Zach Johnson joined our staff this summer and will divide his attention between processing collections, planning and implementing our exhibit schedule, and outreach to undergraduate and graduate students and teaching faculty across the state.

As any regular reader of this blog knows, we are excited by our work.  It seems almost every day we discover treasures among our materials and we want to share our excitement about the issues, events, and people documented in our collections with the broadest possible public.  I’ll be interested to see what the next year brings in terms of outreach for SCPC.

By Herb Hartsook

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25 Years of South Carolina Political Collections

exhibit signTo celebrate the 25th anniversary of SCPC’s founding, we have mounted an exhibit tracing the development of congressional collecting in general and our department in particular.

The University of South Carolina received its first congressional collection in 1965 and acquired papers from other political figures and organizations in the decades that followed, but the announcement of Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings’ donation in 1989 to the library proved to be a milestone. Realizing the potential this collection and others had, the University created Modern Political Collections (MPC) – now called South Carolina Political Collections (SCPC) – as a department of the South Caroliniana Library in 1991. The department immediately set about securing more collections from political figures all over the state. Of our donors, Senator Hollings has been instrumental in the growth of SCPC. Since giving his collection, he has visited the library for numerous events and convinced many other political figures to donate their papers as well.

Senator Hollings and his wife Peatsy viewed a political exhibit at U of SC's McKissick Museum in 1996

Senator Hollings and his wife Peatsy viewed a political exhibit at U of SC’s McKissick Museum in 1996

Though SCPC’s collections and development were thriving in this time, the department’s physical space was not. The Pearle building (“The Warehouse”) where SCPC was located had terrible climate control, limited office and exhibit space, and generally poor conditions for archival materials. It was clear a new building was necessary, and Senator Hollings wanted to make sure that happened. He successfully got $14 million in funding for the Hollings library, which has proved to be a magnificent space for SCPC and the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. His work on behalf of the library will have a huge impact for decades to come.

The Pearle building, aka "The Warehouse"

The Pearle building, aka “The Warehouse”

The department has changed over the years. In 2005, Modern Political Collections was renamed South Carolina Political Collections and became an autonomous department of the Library. A year later, groundbreaking for the new building began, and four years later, in May of 2010, SCPC moved into the new space.

The size of the department has increased and now includes five staff members and numerous student assistants. In its 25 year history, SCPC has gained a national reputation for the quality of its collections and staff. With over 125 discrete collections, SCPC is one of the largest repositories for political papers in the United States.

The Hollings Library

The Hollings Library

As congressional offices move more and more to electronic records, it is our job to make sure historians and other researchers always have access to our materials, no matter the form they take. To that end, we always keep an eye towards the future when processing papers, developing institutional standards, and maintaining our collections.

By Zach Johnson

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Anita Hill Party 2016

Anita Hill

The SCPC exhibit at the venue

Last night, SCPC attended the 25th Annual “I Believe Anita Hill” Party and presented a parallel exhibit.

The Anita Hill Party is an annual reminder of the outrage resulting from Anita Hill’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee during the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. The event also serves to highlight “the effect of the different perspectives of men and women, of the need for more women in politics and other policy-making positions, and of the need to get involved, to stay involved, and to stay in contact with other strong women of all ages and backgrounds.”

Moxon vote dress

The “Vote” dress from the Barbara Moxon collection

SCPC is the repository of the Anita Hill Party Collection, documenting the history of the organization and its annual events.

For the event last night, SCPC brought items from the collection and some from related collections to display for attendees, and to highlight our role in documenting the organization. One of the most popular items on display last night was the “Vote” dress worn by former League of Women Voters President Barbara Moxon on Election Days and other important events. Also on display were images and memorabilia from previous Anita Hill Parties through the years.

Contributed by Zach Johnson

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In Memoriam: John Drummond (1919-2016)

John Drummond

State Senator John Drummond

Former state senator John Drummond of Ninety Six, S.C., passed away on September 3rd.

A World War II Air Force fighter pilot and successful businessman, Drummond represented Greenwood County in the Senate for over forty years and led the Senate as President Pro Tempore from 1996 to 2001.  During his tenure, he witnessed the transformation of South Carolina from a solidly Democratic legislature to one dominated by Republicans.

A true maverick, Drummond enjoyed a good filibuster over issues on which he was passionate.  In later years, he stood out among his Democratic peers for his willingness and ability to work across party lines for the good of the people of South Carolina.

John Drummond

Senator Drummond

Former governor Jim Hodges noted, “I wish we had more people like John Drummond in service across our country.  He believed that once elections were over, you still work together to accomplish things and not work for your political party.”

Senator Drummond’s papers, some five linear feet of material, are available for research at SCPC.

A memorial exhibit has been mounted in the Brittain Gallery of the Hollings Library (the main lobby).  Please stop by and learn more about this great South Carolinian.

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The New Voter: 74-page Booklet has been Digitized!

League of Women Voters 1921

The New Voter, 1921

Last month Herb blogged about a remarkable League of Women Voters find, a 1921 booklet entitled The New Voter.

Since then, our colleagues in UofSC’s Digital Collections department have completed scanning the entire publication and have made it publicly available online with searchable text!

It is perfect timing, because on this date, August 18, in 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote in this country.  In honor of those ‘trails blazed,’ why not take a look at The New Voter?

Thanks to all in Digital Collections who worked on this project for us!

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New Frontiers: The South Carolina League of Women Voters in 1921

League of Women Voters 1921

The New Voter, 1921

The papers of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina is a keystone collection here at SCPC.  We often note that the League’s interests, so well reflected in its archives, touch on every issue of consequence impacting government and politics.  The collection description notes that the state League was formed in 1951 from three local leagues then existing in Charleston, Columbia, and Spartanburg.

This is not exactly true.  The work of its predecessor, the South Carolina Equal Suffrage League, helped see the passage in August 1920 of the 19th Amendment allowing women the vote.  Shortly thereafter, the Equal Suffrage League was renamed the South Carolina League of Women Voters.  In 1921, it published a seventy-four page booklet titled The New Voter.  We learned of this booklet just last week when we found a copy in an addition to the League collection donated by Laurel Suggs.


Barbara Moxon models her “vote” dress, 1970s

Laurel and her mother, Barbara Moxon, both served as state League president and have been League mainstays.  A patriotic dress made by Mrs. Moxon, and worn by her on countless election days, can be seen in our exhibit gallery.  Based on comments overheard by our staff, it is probably the most popular item on display.

The New Voter begins by laying out the new organization’s purpose – “to safeguard and advance the legal, industrial and educational rights of women and to raise the standard of American citizenship by working for a more intelligent electorate.”  It then lists nine resolutions the League intends to advocate to improve government.  These particularly aim to improve the status of women.  Among the measures addressed are equal pay and better support of child welfare and public schools.

The New Voter goes on to provide a tutorial on government and elections, describing in detail the primary and general election process, the laws affecting women, and the overall system of government at the federal, state and local levels.

League of Women Voters

A page of The New Voter spelling out “What Women May Accomplish”

This primer for our newly-enfranchised voters is remarkable both for its content and quality.  Much of it could have been written yesterday.  Parts, though, purely reflect the era in which it was written.

I had never before seen this booklet but assumed that a check of the Libraries’ catalog would show multiple copies, as it is rare to find a South Carolina imprint not already held by the South Caroliniana Library.  A careful search assisted by the Caroliniana staff resulted in no hits, anywhere in or outside of South Carolina.  The Suggs/Moxon copy may be the only extant copy of this fascinating booklet.

Given its importance in documenting the history of the suffrage movement in South Carolina, the Libraries will digitize the booklet and make it universally available through the South Carolina Digital Library.  Once digitized, the actual booklet will be added to the League’s collection.

League of Women Voters

A page of The New Voter describing the “Party Machinery”

This exciting find helps explain the great attraction of archival work.  Donors often possess an inspiring sense of history.  And they gladly share their treasures.  And on any given day, we might receive a gift that makes our minds race and our hearts sing.  The New Voter is just that type of gift.

A favorite section will give you a sense of the booklet:

The Machine – The Boss – The Ring 

The man who often, through force of will, superior skill, courage and personality controls the “MACHINE” is called the “BOSS,” and the small group of men in every party who manage the affairs of the party, often through selfish motives, is call the “RING.”  A striking illustration of the power exercised by a RING is given by the famous TWEED RING, which controlled the government of New York City for several years, during which time more than $100,000,000 was wasted or stolen from the City Treasury.

By Herb Hartsook

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