S.C. House Speaker Sol Blatt, Sr., and his wife, Ethel
Sol Blatt, Sr. (1895-1986) was the long-serving speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives. Sol Blatt, Jr. (1921-2016) was a distinguished federal judge. Both were dedicated to the University of South Carolina and SCPC is proud to hold their papers.
The collection consists chiefly of papers of Speaker Blatt but includes WWII letters of Judge Blatt, Jr. written as a naval officer. After Judge Blatt’s death, his family presented SCPC with a significant addition including dozens of speeches given by Speaker Blatt and hundreds of letters of condolence received by the family on the Speaker’s passing in 1986.
Of particular note is a two page letter, 30 Aug. 1957, written by Speaker Blatt to Donald Russell. At this time, Russell was the wildly popular president of the University, and about to launch a run for governor.
Sol Blatt, Jr, served in the Navy during World War II.
Blatt wrote, You took the University when it was rundown at the heel, buildings dilapidated, a faculty not up to standard and within a short period of time, because of your devotion to the University, your outstanding character and ability, you made the University of South Carolina a real institution and now it ranks with any University in the South. . . . There is much more to be done. Our enemies among the citizens of this State and some other institutions in South Carolina are fighting us hard. We have made progress when the others have been at a standstill. They are jealous and want to destroy you and the University. They will encourage you to run for public office hoping to prevent further progress at the University and then on Election Day they will destroy you. . . . There are plenty of available candidates for Governor. There is not a living sole (sic) who can replace you as President of the University. If you leave now, you are leaving us without having completed the job you started out to do.
Blatt was prescient as Russell did run, but lost to Ernest F. “Fritz” Hollings. The race was not close.
Among the condolence letters were many familiar names.
Former congressman Bryan Dorn noted, There is no one whom I admired more in the political world than Speaker Blatt.
Former governor, James B. Edwards, wrote, You have the comfort of knowing that the devotion shown him by his many friends and colleagues enriched his life, as his enthusiasm and dedication enriched the lives of so many others.
Supreme Court Justice Ernest Finney recalled, I remember him from my days in the legislature as a gracious gentleman who was always kindly disposed toward me. In many ways, those years were the high point of my career, and the Speaker contributed much toward making them so.
President Nixon addresses the General Assembly in February of 1973. He was in town to thank the state legislature for its support of his Vietnam policy.
(Speaker Blatt is second from the podium; Governor John West is to the left.)