SCPC Today: 121 Collections and Growing (Part 1)

To celebrate Congress Week, April 1-7, 2016, South Carolina Political Collections (SCPC) will post daily blogs reflecting on our history and celebrating our 25th anniversary.

dole institute

The Robert J. Dole Institute for Politics at the University of Kansas

Some repositories are defined by one major collection.  This is certainly true of the presidential libraries and also of prominent congressional repositories like the Robert J. Dole Institute and Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies.  We instead take great pride in the wide array of collections held by SCPC.  Among our collections are the papers of twenty-seven members of Congress; eleven recent South Carolina governors; jurists, including two state Supreme Court chief justices; leaders in our state legislature; journalists; editorial cartoonists; Civil Rights activists; and organizations including our major state parties and the League of Women Voters.

hollings & thurmond

Fritz Hollings with Strom Thurmond in 1969. Thurmond’s papers are the foundation  of Clemson University’s special collections.

Our largest collections include some of the largest manuscript collections in South Carolina.  We eventually received more than 2,400 cartons of material from U.S. Senator Ernest F. Hollings.  To the best of my knowledge, only the Strom Thurmond collection at Clemson University is larger.  I believe Thurmond donated approximately 3,000 cartons of material to Clemson.  We received over 800 cartons of materials documenting the careers of congressmen Bryan Dorn, 1947-1948 & 1951-1974, and John Spratt, 1983-2011.  Each of these acquisitions is quite a story in its own right, but some of the smaller collections involve equally interesting back stories.  And in this and tomorrow’s post I will share the stories of two smaller collections – the papers of John West and James Edwards.

Fritz Hollings wanted to see SCPC become a center for the study of government and politics.  Towards this end, shortly after he donated his papers, he convinced his friend and fellow Citadel graduate John West to visit SCPC.  West served during World War II, earned his law degree at USC, served in the South Carolina Senate, as Lieutenant Governor, as Governor, 1971 to 1975, and as President Jimmy Carter’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, 1977 to 1981.  West quickly decided that his papers should come here, and soon became a major SCPC supporter.

john and lois west

SC Governor John & First Lady Lois West

West’s collection is relatively small but rich, particularly because of the presence of a diary begun on the campaign trail and maintained through his years as governor and as ambassador. In the diary, West documented his life on a nearly daily basis.  This diary reflects both West’s deep sense of history as well as terrific discipline.  I can’t imagine how he made time each day to record his thoughts, but he did and we all benefit from his foresight. The diary is unique among our holdings and presents valuable insights into West’s service and personal life.

My relationship with West deepened over time, particularly through the hours we spent recording a life history oral history interview.  West grew up on a small farm and remarked about working from “can’t see to can’t see,” rising before dawn and not resting until the sun had set.  That picturesque phrase is one I find myself repeating at least once or twice a month.

Tomorrow’s post will continue this theme.

–Herb Hartsook

west and hartsook

John West with SCPC Director Herb Hartsook

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