Christmas at the Governor’s Mansion

Living Room decorated for Christmas at the mansion in 1992.

Christmas at the Mansion in 1992

The semester is drawing to a close, and the USC community is preparing for a well-deserved break. Of course, for many, the holiday season is no time for relaxing. It is full of decorating, cooking, shopping, family visits, and a host of other activities. If that describes your schedule, you may already be feeling drained and discouraged. Well, how about taking a break, having a cup of hot cocoa, and spending time with some of our oral histories?

As part of the SCPC oral history collection, we have interviews from the Governor’s Mansion Oral History Project. Former governors and family members graciously sat with interviewers and told stories about personal life in the mansion. These reminiscences provide a wonderful glimpse into the everyday lives of the First Families, including their Christmastime memories.

Although the Governor’s Mansion is always a busy place, it experiences a dizzying whirl of activity every December that makes your schedule look like a breeze. Hundreds of people come through the mansion during the busy holiday season. Gov. John C. West (1971-75) would joke about his bouts of “invititis.”

During the holidays and other busy times, Gov. David M. Beasley (1995-99) had a remedy for exhaustion. When feeling overwhelmed at events, he quietly left the crowd downstairs, changed from black tie attire into blue jeans, and watched TV with his children. Security alerted him when it was time to go back.

Each year, governors take time during the holidays to show their gratitude to state officials and employees. Gov. and Mrs. West recalled hosting dinners for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED). Chief Pete Strom always kidded the First Lady about interrupting police operations. His undercover agents had to shave and clean up for dinner with the governor. Afterward, it took a couple of weeks for them to regain the scruffy looks needed for work.

One Christmas, Gov. Beasley and his family gave the mansion’s butlers a unique present: dinner in the State Dining Room, served by the First Family. Since the butlers served meals year-round, the First Family decided to turn the tables as a gesture of thanks. They even mimicked the idiosyncratic manners of each butler, such as placing an item on the table and then moving it ever so slightly. The staff absolutely loved it.

Visit our oral history page for more stories from the Governor’s Mansion (http://library.sc.edu/scpc/oralhistlist.html). You can read about life in the mansion under the following governors: Robert E. McNair, John C. West, James B. Edwards, Richard W. RileyCarroll A. Campbell, David M. Beasley, and James H. Hodges.

Contributed by graduate student assistant Chris Fite

Read parts 1 and 2 in our oral history series:
Tales from the Governor’s Mansion: Anecdotes from the West Family Oral Histories
Whiskey and Watermelons: Anecdotes from the Johnston Years

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