Snapshot of History: Butler Derrick of South Carolina’s Third District

S.C. Political Collections Celebrates Congress Week

South Carolina Political Collections is a proud member of the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress (ACSC). ACSC is sponsoring its fifth annual Congress Week, April 1 – 7, with the theme “The People’s Branch.” This is the fourth of five posts celebrating Congress Week.

butler derrick

Butler Derrick

“Butler Derrick is a true leader, a man of principle and integrity. When the public thinks of Congress, I’d be proud if they thought of Butler Derrick, because he was a member of the House in the finest sense of the word.” So said Former Speaker of the House, Thomas Foley, upon Butler Derrick’s retirement from the House of Representatives in January 1995.

Butler Carson Derrick, Jr. (1936-2014) was elected to Congress in 1974 to represent South Carolina’s Third District. He served in that office until 1995 and rose to serve as Chief Deputy Majority Whip — the fifth most senior leadership position in the U.S. House — before retiring from office. At the time of his retirement, Derrick was considered one of the ten most influential members of Congress.

As a means of highlighting the people and subjects of our collections, South Carolina Political Collections has created a series of digitized “samplers” we call In Their Own Words. Derrick is our most recent subject.


Derrick visits with some constituents

Derrick’s In His Own Words is still a work in progress, and more items will be added later this year. The digitized material includes campaign speeches, statements in press releases, op-ed pieces, statements concerning bills before the Rules Committee, letters, and photographs.

Here you will find remarks concerning issues of critical importance to him and South Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District as well as those of national and international significance. Among the subjects: South Carolina lakes, the Richard B. Russell Dam, the development of a South Carolina National Heritage Corridor, nuclear energy and waste management, crime bills, the Brady Bill for gun control, national energy policy, defense appropriations (Desert Shield/Desert Storm), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the 1991 “October Surprise” investigation of the Iran hostage crisis and presidential election of 1980, and many others.

Swirl, Inc

Visiting Swirl, Inc., in Easley, SC, 1986
(pictured: Bob Olson, V.P. of Operations, Derrick, Larry Nachman, Chairman of the Board, and Ervie Lee McNeely, sewing)

Derrick made statements upon the resignation and pardon of Richard Nixon; wrote a letter to President Reagan concerning the terrorist hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985, during which American tourist Leon Klinghoffer was killed; led a 1984 memorial service for the victims of the Korean Air Lines flight shot down by the Soviets on September 1, 1983; and promoted America’s Bicentennial by taping a “Bicentennial Minute” for CBS and sponsoring a Bicentennial essay contest.

Seen by his party and others in Congress as a bridge between the liberals and conservatives, Derrick surprised many with his announcement on February 16, 1994, that he would retire at the end of his term. In his retirement announcement Derrick said, “The U.S. Congress is the greatest deliberative body in the world. I will always be grateful to the people of the Third District for the honor of serving in the House of Representatives.” When asked about his greatest achievement Derrick replied, “I am most proud of my solid, honest, straight-forward leadership and the thousands of people I’ve been able to help.”

derrick and carter

Derrick with President Jimmy Carter

We hope Butler Derrick: In His Own Words will provide you with a window into the heart and mind of this well-respected South Carolinian.

For more on Butler Derrick and to view the collection finding aid, see his page here.

By Kate Moore

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