Jim Covington: Documentarian Extraordinaire

Most of our success is the product of interaction with our donors and friends.  I first met Jim and Nola Covington 22 years ago at a celebration of Senator Fritz Hollings’ decision to donate his papers to the University.  At that event, Nola mentioned that Jim had a great deal of memorabilia relating to Fritz’s career.  Little did I realize what a major role Jim would play over the coming years in helping us document major events in the history of South Carolina Political Collections, often bringing his personal equipment and filming these events for us, nor did I realize the importance of Jim’s vast collection of newsfilm and photographs amassed over a long career in television.

On May 23rd, we hosted a small group to view a film Jim made on October 10, 1960 as part of a team working for WBTV covering Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy in a campaign appearance with then governor Fritz Hollings on the steps of the South Carolina State House.   Jim recently reminded me that he had sent Hollings a copy of the film back in 1960, and hoped it might be retained as part of our Hollings Collection.  The film was easily found from the finding aid.  Greg Wilsbacher, of the Moving Image Research Collections, reformatted the original film and added WIS news coverage to better represent the activities of the day.  Hollings’ introduction took approximately five minutes and is typical Fritz–eloquent and forceful.  Kennedy spoke for almost sixteen minutes and began by recognizing supporters including SCPC donors U.S. Senator Olin Johnston, state Democratic Party Chair Ted Riley, and Columbia Mayor Lester Bates, seated prominently behind him.  He went on to applaud the genius of John C. Calhoun, then got into the meat of his speech–the importance of an active government empowering the populace.  Everyone enjoyed seeing the video on the big Program Room screens and reflected on the day, Hollings, and Kennedy.  And Jim brought and gave to the University photographs taken, and the microphones used, that day.  We also showed off a photograph given us by Bud Ferillo, who at age 14 attended the speech.  Special events like this are rewarding in many ways and remind me that archival work is really about people and relationships, not just documents.                                                                              —Contributed by Herb Hartsook

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