According to Hugh Munn’s entry titled “South Carolina Law Enforcement Division” in the South Carolina Encyclopedia, SLED was created in 1947 by executive order of then-governor Strom Thurmond. Loosely modeled after the Federal Bureau of Investigation, SLED replaced the South Carolina State Constabulary and served as a “crime-fighting organization with statewide authority.”
Workman’s collection contains photographs of the original headquarters and barracks,some of the organization’s founding members (including its first chief Joel D. Townsend), and a scientific criminal investigation seminar conducted at the SLED barracks in 1956.
According to “Police Going to School,” an article published on December 10, 1956, in The Columbia Record, the seminar was the “first of its kind.” Led by SLED officials, it provided training for South Carolina law enforcement officers on aids to investigation, interrogation, and examination. Some of the training programs documented in Workman’s photographs include polygraph machines, ballistic examinations, chemical testing, diving gear, and K-9 units.
In addition to the SLED photographs discussed above, Workman also captured images of law enforcement officers from the Charleston Police Department in 1937, the South Carolina Forestry Commission in 1951, and the Barnwell Police Department in 1952.
By Mae Howe
Reprocessing and digitization of the William D. Workman, Jr. Papers photographs has been made possible by a grant from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission.