Former South Carolina Governor James B. Edwards on the 1964 Presidential Campaign Waged by Barry Goldwater

This entry is the second in a short series of posts celebrating the 50th anniversary of Barry Goldwater’s 1964 Presidential campaign. See the first and third.

An exhibit in the Hollings Library’s Brittain Gallery, October 16 through November, “In Your Heart, You Know He’s Right: The 50th Anniversary of Barry Goldwater’s 1964 Presidential Campaign,” will celebrate the anniversary and feature campaign ephemera.

brochure gold backgroundThe campaign caught the hearts of many South Carolinians and helped create an environment in which a nascent Republican Party began its rise to parity and eventual domination of South Carolina.

In 1964, oral surgeon Jim Edwards was becoming politically active and was drawn to the conservative message put forth by the iconic conservative candidate, Barry Goldwater.  When I first sat down with Dr. Edwards to discuss his donation of papers to SCPC, he spoke at length on why he was a conservative.  I have never heard a more moving and convincing argument for the conservative cause.  Dr. Edwards provided the following for this blog series:

During this time I was trying to read all I could about Communism and how it had spread around the world and had even invaded our own government.  The more I learned and studied about it, the more concerned I became.  About this time Roger Milliken funded a television program on all three of the TV stations simultaneously about how the Communists had invaded our own government and how many known Communists were serving in important positions in our government.  The program showed how they disrupted the hearings of the House Un-American Activities committee.

This further disturbed me, and I began more and more wondering what I could and/or should be doing to fight against what was going on in my country.  What was I going to leave my children and grandchildren?

bumper sticker small orangeAbout the same time the national Republican Party had nominated a man named Barry Goldwater for president.  I was passively interested in him. I had read the books Profiles in Courage by Jack Kennedy and The Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater.  Goldwater appealed to me and one night a good friend of mine was at my house visiting.  Goldwater was on the television and I said I would like to help that man Goldwater.  Arnie Mahoney said, “Jim, why don’t you go to the precinct meeting with me next week?”  I responded by saying, “What is a precinct?”  He explained it to me and I said I would go.

Well, the meeting went smoothly and they explained that each precinct needed to raise a certain quota for Goldwater’s campaign and that our precinct needed to give $1,500.  The precinct president asked if anyone had any suggestions about how to do it.  How to raise the $1500?  No one responded….  I finally said, “Why we don’t have a BBQ dinner at Alhambra Hall.  I believe we could get a crowd out for that.”  Everyone seemed to agree.  As usual the one making the suggestion wound up as chairman.  Ann and I arranged for the hall and asked the town if they would mow and clean up the grounds.  They said sorry, so Ann mowed the grounds with our little riding mower.

We set the date and, in the meantime, Bryan Rowell of Sullivan’s Island Precinct and big Clay Cable of the Isle of Palms Precinct asked if their precinct could join us and make it an East Cooper BBQ.  We all agreed and we all worked together.  We invited Paul Belknap, our County Chairman, to speak and we really had a great success.

sticker AUH2OWe sold all we had and sent for more barbecue, baked beans, and coleslaw.  We were selling AuH2O [“Goldwater”] for a dollar a can and as we began to sell out, we started auctioning it all for $10 a can.  The crowd swelled as the night went on, and when it was over, Arnie, Clay Cable, Bryan Rowell, Ann and I were up until after midnight counting the money.  We wound up not with $1,500 but over $15,000.

The next day the fight began over who was going to get the money.  The Republicans said it was theirs.  No, said Democrats for Goldwater, it was theirs.  The argument was getting hotter and hotter.  I had the cash, so I deposited it in the bank under “East Cooper Conservatives” and told both sides they were going to lower their voices or they would get none.  I then got together Clay Cable and Bryan Rowell and we quietly divided the money, making sure that it all got properly dispensed for use by Goldwater.  Paul Belknap, County Chairman, was most appreciative of the financial help that we had given him and the Republican Party, and wrote me a very nice note after the election.

We were all really brokenhearted [by Goldwater’s defeat] and Paul Belknap resigned as County Chairman to get back to the business he was running, which was Charleston Rubber Company.  They manufactured a variety of rubber gloves used in industry.  He was a wonderful patriotic person who did his part and my life has been enriched by knowing him and his wife.

Not long after the Goldwater defeat, I got a call from Arthur Ravenel and Richard Coen.  They asked if they could come by and visit after I completed my schedule for the day.  Arthur and I had been friends in St. Andrews Parish Grammar School during the fourth and fifth grade.  I told them that I would look forward to seeing them.  When they arrived, I was surprised at the number.  There were six or seven as I remember.  Among the group was Julia Dougherty, Tom Alexander, Arthur Ravenel, [Richardson M.] Sunny Hanckel, Micah Jenkins, John Harlbeck and Richard Coen.  I welcomed them to the office, and gave them a short tour and offered them each a Coke.   I could tell they were on a mission, but they were slow to come to the point.

After a few minutes, one of them explained to me that Paul Belknap was resigning as Chairman and they were looking for someone to be Chairman of Charleston County Republican Party.  I was truly shocked.  I thought they should recruit an attorney.  They said an attorney in his right mind would not want the job.  I wondered why they would expect me to want it.  I told them that I would have to think about it.

A button that made a statement--actual size 7 inches.

A button that made a statement–actual size 7 inches.

I went home that evening wondering why I should even consider such a thing.  I had a very good practice that I enjoyed – I had, for the first time in my life, a comfortable income stream.  I even had some time to hunt, fish and spend time with my family.  I also wondered how the political life would affect my practice.  Would the referral doctors not send me patients?  Would patients refuse my service because of politics?

I waited nearly a week asking the questions.  I really didn’t know what the pressure would be, but I was unhappy with the way things were going in my country.  I was also aware that the only way to change anything in the U.S. was through political action.  I sincerely wanted to preserve our system and to leave a free country with the same opportunities that I have had.  There were none seeking the job and I wondered why?  After a few days of prayerful consideration, I decided I would try it, even though I had only attended one precinct meeting in my life.  Once I agreed to accept the job, I asked if there would be a campaign for the position.  I was told that there would be an election, but no one was wanting the job, and after being nominated, I was elected by acclamation.

SCPC holds a number of collections (and oral history interviews) documenting the rise of the Republican Party in South Carolina.  The Goldwater campaign was a landmark event in that rise and Dr. Edwards a central figure in the spread of the Republican ideal throughout South Carolina.  Please plan to visit the Hollings Library’s Brittain Gallery and see a little of what captivated South Carolinians just fifty years ago, and marvel at the changes in our political landscape.

Contributed by Herb Hartsook

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