In Memoriam: Jerry Beasley (1934-2013)


Jerry Beasley

John Gerald “Jerry” Beasley, from a photo used in The State newspaper

I was saddened this morning to read of the recent passing of Jerry Beasley.  Jerry was a great friend to this University and played a major role in raising SCPC’s first named endowment. 

In 1998, we launched a campaign to establish the William Jennings Bryan Dorn Endowment.  In a 1940 campaign ad, Bryan Dorn stated, “My only promise is to endeavor to keep my feet on the ground and tune my ear to the heart-beat of all the people.”  Dorn did just that, forging a career of public service that few can match.  Bryan Dorn represented South Carolina’s Third District in Congress for thirteen terms between 1947 and 1974.  An eloquent advocate of South Carolina’s interests, Dorn was particularly effective in the areas of agriculture, industrialization, and highway construction.  He helped organize the informal House Textile Committee around 1961 and served as its secretary.  Dorn is perhaps best remembered as a champion of the interests of America’s veterans.  He ended his public service chairing the South Carolina Democratic Party from 1980 to 1984.

In 1998, Mr. Dorn’s collection was among the finest and most complete congressional collections preserved anywhere and among the largest manuscript collections ever accepted by the University.  Perhaps most important, it was our most heavily used collection, documenting his campaigns for office, life and career in public service, and his interests outside of government.  In addition, his papers document, in a very personal way, the lives and concerns of his constituents.

Dorn brochure

Retired Congressman Bryan Dorn robustly gracing a brochure for his gubernatorial campaign in 1974

We sought help from leaders in the state who had worked with Mr. Dorn and two men stepped up, Jerry Beasley and Steve Griffith.  Both were close to Mr. Dorn and were enthusiastic about their task, but it was a difficult one.  Fund raising experts told us that you can’t raise significant money for a politician once they leave office, and Mr. Dorn had been out of public life for over a decade.  However, Jerry and Steve focused on individuals and foundations related to SC’s textile industry and succeeded in raising a very significant endowment.

Today, the principal totals more than $89,000.  Over the years, the endowment has helped support a number of student assistantships, and more recently funded an annual award for the best undergraduate paper written based on research in SCPC and a research awards program supporting visits by distant scholars studying SCPC holdings. 

I will be forever grateful for Jerry’s friendship and his enthusiasm and devotion to this project honoring Mr. Dorn which has benefited SCPC and our patrons so greatly.

Contributed by Herb Hartsook

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