A Senator’s Devotion: Condolence Letters Written to Ernest Hollings on the Loss of his Wife, Peatsy


Peatsy and Fritz Hollings cruising the Amazon in December 2003

This week, we visited Sen. Hollings’ office at MUSC (the Medical University of South Carolina) and picked up more materials for his collection.  Among these were condolence letters he received after the passing in 2012 of his beloved wife, Peatsy.

She was a wonderful partner.  He famously joked that when once asked the secret to their very successful marriage, he replied that it was simple, they “were both in love with the same man.”  But when serious, he noted that she had been a teacher and when they married, she continued to teach and he was her student.  Hollings gave up the life he loved and retired from the Senate so he could better take care of Peatsy as she battled Alzheimer’s.  And in her final years, his dedication to her was inspirational to all who saw them together.

Among the letters of condolence were four we’d like to highlight.


Wedding cake, August 21, 1971

Sen. John D. Rockefeller, IV (D-WV) wrote, “My time in public life was absolutely influenced by your beloved Peatsy.  I adored her and her total love of you and of life.”

Senator Michael B. Enzi (R-WY) wrote, “She was your best friend, your closest advisor, and your greatest source of strength and support.  Whenever there was a problem she was right there by your side, giving you advice and helping you to find your best course of action.  That is why you made for such a great team as you succeeded in so many different things in your lives.”

Journalist Cokie Roberts wrote, “you have taken such care of her for so long, there must be a huge hole in your life. . . . what a great lady she was.  And what fun!”

And finally, Lynda Johnson Robb, daughter of President Lyndon B. Johnson and wife of Senator Charles Robb (D-VA), recalled Peatsy’s role as a Senate wife: “Peatsy was our Senate den mother.  When you retired and she left all the fun and good works disappeared from our Tuesday meetings.  No wonder no families wanted to move to Washington – no Peatsy here to welcome them. . . .  The loving care you have given Peatsy gives you a star in your crown.”


A shoulder to nap on

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In Memoriam: Judge Sol Blatt, Jr.

Sol Blatt Jr SRS

Sol Blatt, Jr, surveys an Atomic Energy Commission housing compound at the Savannah River Nuclear Site, Barnwell County, early 1950s. (photo from the W.D. Workman papers)

We mourn the passing of our good friend, Senior U.S. District Court Judge Sol Blatt, Jr., on Wednesday, April 20th. The Barnwell, S.C., native was the longest-serving judge in the 4th circuit, having been nominated for the court by President Richard Nixon in 1971.  He served as chief judge from 1986 to 1990 and senior judge from 1990 to 2016.

Judge Blatt was the son of a South Carolina powerhouse – long-time Speaker of the state’s House of Representatives, Solomon Blatt.

Blatt Jr on ship

Blatt aboard ship during World War II (photo from the Solomon Blatt papers)

While Judge Blatt gently turned away our many approaches proposing SCPC as the repository for his personal papers, over the years he became a good friend to us, primarily through our work with the papers of his father, and with the collections of his close friends Fritz Hollings and John West.

Among his father’s papers we received some early papers of the son, chiefly letters written home while Sol, Jr., served in the U.S. Navy during World War II (with both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets).

Our condolences go out to Judge Blatt’s family.

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The Story Behind a Photograph

jb edwards and j clyde shirley with william d workman

James B. Edwards (front) and J. Clyde Shirley with William D. Workman.
(photo by Doug Alverson)

This wonderful photo shows Dr. James B. Edwards with J. Clyde Shirley, signing Shirley’s 1978 book Uncommon Victory for journalist William D. WorkmanUncommon Victory remains the only book-length study of Edwards’ remarkable 1974 campaign for Governor.  Edwards defeated his highly-favored opponent, General William Westmoreland, in South Carolina’s first statewide Republican primary.  Edwards then went on to win the general election, becoming South Carolina’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction.

That wild election is one of the most intriguing campaigns in South Carolina history, featuring a large Democratic field and terrific intrigue when leading candidate Charles “Pug” Ravenel was eventually declared ineligible, and longtime congressman Bryan Dorn was made the Democratic nominee at the last minute.  Shirley worked on Edwards’ behalf in the 1974 race and, while not a professional scholar or author, provides rich details of the Edwards campaign as only an insider could.

The Republican pioneer Workman challenged incumbent Olin Johnston for the U.S. Senate in 1962.  His historic campaign is considered a transformative milestone in the development of the modern Republican Party, as Workman’s effort built a truly statewide Republican organization.

walt lardner cartoon

Cartoon by Walt Lardner commenting on the crowded 1974 gubernatorial primary field

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SCPC’s future and the changing nature of congressional collections

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

Work with legislative and particularly congressional collections has evolved markedly over the 25 years in which SCPC has existed.  Over that time, congressional archivists have gained recognition as a significant element of the archival community.  This has come about through the growth of the Congressional Papers Roundtable of the Society of American Archivists (CPR) and the rise to prominence of many CPR leaders within the profession itself.  The formation of the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress in 2003 was a significant milestone.

SAA is publishing more and more material aimed at digital preservation and access.

SAA is publishing more and more material aimed at digital preservation and access.

A rich literature has developed, including a handbook for legislative archivists and records manuals for members of Congress.  I like to think the two-day workshop Cynthia Miller and I developed, The Acquisition, Processing, and Reference of Legislative Collections, also contributed to the development of our profession and of best practices for legislative collections.

But, clearly, I am becoming a dinosaur as the profession is at a crossroad.  Congressional offices have transitioned to an almost paperless environment.  Many of the skills I’ve developed over the past 38 years are becoming obsolete.  I have always enjoyed performing preliminary inventories of new collections or major accessions.  I could often tell within a moment of opening a carton what types of records I was seeing and what informational value those records would hold.  Weeding material having no historic value from a collection is both a science and an art, and I am good at that.  But, as I often remark, I am a 19th-century kind of guy.  Those skills have ever diminishing value in today’s electronic world.

Members of South Carolina's congressional delegation stand with Governor Nikki Haley at a press conference

Members of South Carolina’s congressional delegation stand with Governor Nikki Haley at a press conference

South Carolina’s congressional delegation totals nine individuals.  SCPC is currently receiving papers from Senator Lindsey Graham and Congressmen Jim Clyburn, Mick Mulvaney, Tom Rice, Mark Sanford and Joe Wilson.  We expect to soon have agreements with all but one member of the delegation.  We know of no other repository currently serving both its state’s U.S. senators and none serving this proportion of its state’s delegation.  Most of these offices are 95-98% born-digital.  It is a different world and presents widely different challenges.

Records are going digital in a big way.

Records are going digital in a big way.

The paper-based congressional collection is a thing of the past.  Rather than measuring major collections in thousands of cartons of records each containing 1-2,000 pages of material, we speak of gigabytes.  The best practices I helped develop cannot address many of the new challenges we face.  How do you ensure the immediate and long term preservation of electronic media?  How do you make electronic media available to your public?  How do you weed irrelevant material from these often vast electronic files?

I would like to say I am on top of this situation, but I am not and the profession is not.  But an ever-growing number of younger archivists, such as our own Dorothy Walker and Laura Litwer, are working to come up with answers to these “problems.” I hope my experience allows me to play a valuable role in overseeing and directing their work.

Kenneth Stampp

Historian Kenneth Stampp

But I often think of famed historian Kenneth Stampp (1912-2009), author of the landmark history, The Peculiar Institution: Slavery and the Ante-Bellum South.

Years ago I met Stampp when he visited the South Caroliniana Library to look at its rich ante-bellum plantation holdings, being considered for inclusion in a microfilm publication being produced over his name.  As he sat in our reading room, he told me that he was so glad that he came of age during the era when scholars worked with the actual paper records created by flesh and blood men and women.  He reflected that he would hate to have to spend hours reading microfilm or microfiche in completing his necessary research.  I have thought of Stampp so often since that conversation, but never more than now, when the very nature of archival work is changing so dramatically.

–Herb Hartsook


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SCPC’s Endowment Allows Us to Thrive

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

Congressman Bryan Dorn in front of the U.S. Capitol

Congressman Bryan Dorn in front of the U.S. Capitol

Our early years were dedicated to developing procedures for archival work with legislative collections; with arranging and describing the major collections we had “inherited” from the Caroliniana’s Manuscripts Division; and with taking in over 1,400 ft. of Sen. Hollings’ non-current records.  We completed the processing of the Olin Johnston collection, a project I had begun years earlier while supervising the Manuscripts Division.  After Johnston, we tackled the papers of Bryan Dorn.  Johnston and Dorn alone accounted for some 1,400 feet of material before processing.  One major thing we learned during these years was how much time was required for a large complex processing project.  Remember, there were no established “best practices.”  By the time we had finished the Dorn collection, we knew an estimate of ten hours per foot of material was a reasonable bench mark.  That mark guides our planning to this day and is generally accepted across the profession.

SAA guide

Cynthia Pease Miller’s guide, published by the Society of American Archivists

One major step in the national recognition of USC as a leader among congressional repositories occurred in 1994 when the Society of American Archivists first hosted the workshop I devised with Cynthia Pease Miller, then the archivist of the U.S. House of Representatives.  Over the next ten years, we presented this two-day workshop, “The Acquisition, Processing, and Reference of Legislative Collections,” all over the country, sharing our expertise with a wide variety of archivists and administrators intent on developing congressional collections.  Cynthia eventually wrote the SAA handbook, Managing Congressional Collections, published in 2008.

As SCPC matured, we could begin to seriously consider our future.  With two major collections now open and described to the folder level, which greatly facilitated their study, we began to attract more scholars.  1996 proved a transformative year for SCPC.  It was a time to rethink our staffing and budget.  We hired a full time staff assistant to help with processing and the supervision of our reading room and we decided to work towards endowed support of our programming.

Hartsook & Benfield

Herb Hartsook with Carol Benfield, 2014

Under the urging of Dean of Libraries George Terry and with able mentoring from accomplished development officer Carol Benfield, SCPC set out to raise endowed funds.  Our donors of collections and their friends have been most generous, and we have succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.

About half of our donors of collections also contribute to our endowments.  Some are not able to make a gift commensurate with the expenses we incur in our work on those collections, but others give far more.  In seeking a collection, we never tie the solicitation for the papers to the request for help in funding our work.  By the time we reach out to a potential donor of a collection, we know we want their papers regardless of any financial support.  As I note in a fundraising workshop, congressional donors are almost all skilled fundraisers.  And often, they value what we do and want to help us.

We currently benefit from twelve endowments totaling over $1,500,000.  In addition, we have received private contributions for specific projects and also several grants.  And those numbers could change dramatically at almost any time as SCPC currently has several major proposals under consideration by potential contributors.

SCPC grads

SCPC has great graduate student help, thanks to our endowments!

Our endowments do wonderful things.  Originally, we hoped to underwrite our graduate assistantships.  Our students help with all of the various work here, and typically, if they are looking at an archival career, the experience they gain with us make them attractive commodities on the archival job market.  Our Bryan Dorn and John West endowments both support assistantships.  Another endowment covers half of one of our faculty salaries.  Next we added an endowment underwriting staff development such as travel to conferences.  SCPC staff regularly attend the annual meetings of the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress and the Society of American Archivists, allowing us to keep on the forefront of the profession.  Next we added an endowment providing a stipend for a summer graduate assistant drawn from outside of South Carolina.  We have benefited terrifically from these summer assistants.  Then, we took some of the income from our Dorn Endowment to fund a research awards program for scholars planning significant study of our holdings.  The Class of 1956 funded an endowment to underwrite an annual lecture named for former USC president Donald Russell.  And, right now, we have an exciting proposal out to fund additional programming and outreach.

Our fundraising success provides benefits usually unnoticed by our visitors but it has had a tremendous impact on our service to the public.  I often recall the words of Samuel Pepys, who on March 21, 1667, noted in his diary, “It is pretty to see what money will do.”

–Herb Hartsook

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SCPC Today: 121 Collections and Growing (Part 2)

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.  Today’s post concludes my reflection on how we have developed our holdings.


William D. Workman holds a copy of the U.S. Constitution and the S.C. budget for 1963.

We were very conscious in the early 1990s that the vast majority of our holdings were papers of Democrats.  This made sense.  During most of the 20th Century, the Democratic Party dominated South Carolina politics.  But by 1991, the Republican Party was on its way to dominance.  Clemson’s Strom Thurmond Institute held not only the papers of Sen. Thurmond, but those of Thurmond associates, Republicans Fred Buzhardt, Carroll Campbell, Harry Dent, John Napier and Ed Young.  We had inherited from the Caroliniana the papers of Republican pioneer William D. Workman and the archives of the Republican Party itself.  But I worried that SCPC might have difficulty.  I worried that we would be seen as the Democratic repository while Clemson received the majority of collections from South Carolina Republicans.


Congressman Floyd Spence as chairman of the House National Security Committee, 1995

We decided to address this by actively seeking the papers of prominent Republicans and inaugurate a major oral history program interviewing Republican pioneers.  Early on, we reached out to each member of South Carolina’s congressional delegation.  Floyd Spence, the popular Second District representative and the first prominent South Carolinian to switch to the Republican Party, immediately called in response to our letter.  I will never forget our conversation.  Spence asked what he could do to help us.  I requested that he pledge his papers.  His response: “Done.  What else can I do?”  And that willingness to help defined our relationship.  For the rest of his life, Mr. Spence was a devoted friend to SCPC.

young floyd spence

Young Floyd Spence as “Big Man on the USC Campus”

That gave us credibility, but since Mr. Spence was so clearly identified as a staunch USC alumnus, I worried it might not be enough.  I hoped to build on Mr. Spence’s commitment by seeking the papers of Dr. James B. Edwards.  Edwards was an oral surgeon, among the first to practice that challenging specialty in South Carolina.  He became a Republican pioneer and was elected to the state Senate in 1972.  In 1974, the Republican Party had recruited Vietnam War commander, General William Westmoreland, to run for governor.  The Party decided to hold its first statewide primary as a party-building measure and recruited Edwards as an opponent for the hugely popular general.  As Edwards later told me, if he was going to run, he would run to win.  And he did win, both the Republican primary and an eventful general election, becoming the first Republican elected governor since Reconstruction.

jim edwards

Governor Jim Edwards

Edwards was a popular and unexpectedly successful governor, despite having to work with a Democratic state legislature.  He was selected by President Ronald Reagan as Secretary of Energy, then went on to lead the Medical University of South Carolina where he served as president for seventeen eventful years.  I always marvel that Edwards became a huge success in three such disparate fields — dentistry, politics, and higher education.

I reached out to Dr. Edwards in 1995 and received polite but firm responses that he wasn’t interested in us.  But he never said he was committing his papers elsewhere.  So I continued to seek him out at a Party Silver Elephant dinner and wrote him whenever I could report a development that might interest him.  The first hint that we might be successful came after I had sent Dr. Edwards the description of the papers of Arthur Clement, a recent acquisition by the South Caroliniana Library.  Clement was an important African American businessman and a friend of Edwards’.  I received a full page letter from Edwards in which he reminisced about his good friend.  I also often ask our donors to speak to prospects and compliment our stewardship.  Such testimony carries a lot more influence than a promise by an unknown archivist.  So I asked Sen. Hollings to speak with Dr. Edwards on our behalf.  Soon thereafter, Hollings called to tell me that he and his wife Peatsy had spoken with Dr. and Mrs. Edwards, and he thought Dr. Edwards was ready to speak with us.

jim edwards

Dr. Edwards at home in Mt. Pleasant, 2009

During the drive to Charleston for our meeting with Dr. Edwards, the Library Development Director Carol Benfield and I strategized on exactly what we would say.  We assumed we would have a very limited time to make our case and wanted to be as convincing as possible.  We were escorted into Edwards’ office at the Medical University, and I started our spiel.  Dr. Edwards almost immediately held up his hands and said he didn’t need to hear more, that Hollings had persuaded him to donate his papers.

This was a major milestone in the development of SCPC.  It assured that we would never be considered merely the repository for Democratic collections.  Equally important, Dr. Edwards valued what we did, invited me to conduct a life history over a series of visits to his lovely Mt. Pleasant home, and he and his wife Ann became important champions of SCPC as well as dear personal friends.

I hope these anecdotes share some of the story of SCPC’s evolution over the past twenty-five years from its conception to our prominence as a leading congressional repository.  We’d be nothing without the active help we have received from so many of our donors and their families and associates.

–Herb Hartsook

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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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25th Anniversary of SCPC: How we began

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.


Reading Room at the South Caroliniana Library

Modern Political Collections, now SCPC, was created in April 1991 as a division of the University of South Carolina’s main special collections repository, the South Caroliniana Library.  The Caroliniana has long been known for its remarkable holdings of manuscript collections, published materials and visual materials relating to South Carolina and its history.  I worked as the Caroliniana’s Curator of Manuscripts for seven years before establishing SCPC.  It was a thrilling experience, working with a wide array of rich and wonderful collections and meeting fascinating researchers as well as memorable donors of collections.

The creation of SCPC was a result of the decision by U.S. Senator Ernest F. “Fritz” Hollings to donate his papers to the University.   The potential his papers represented, in terms of importance, size and complexity, made the University rethink its special collections arrangements.


Our original benefactor

Hollings was a graduate of The Citadel and the USC School of Law.  He began his career of public service as a member of the S.C. House, served as Lt. Governor under George Bell Timmerman, and succeeded Timmerman as governor.  Don Fowler, political scientist and former chairman of the national Democratic Party, has described Hollings as governor (1959-1963) as “The leader who best exemplified the creativity and leadership that transformed the South to a new era of progress and prosperity.…While many have improved and added to the programs that he created, we still work with the basic institutional arrangements he created and we still benefit from them.” [letter to the author, Aug. 19, 1996]

In 1966, Hollings won election to the U.S. Senate.  By 1989, when the University approached Hollings about his papers, he was highly regarded as an active proponent of a strong military, a balanced budget, and social programs designed to help the poor become active contributing members of society.

terry portrait

Shown unveiling a portrait of the late George Terry are then-USC President, Andrew Sorensen; artist, Larry Lebby; USC President Emeritus, John Palms; George Terry’s widow, Lynn Robertson; and then-Dean of Libraries, Paul Willis (2005)

When the University decided to go after the Hollings collection, then-Dean of Libraries George Terry asked me to design our proposal.  I surveyed the field, and found there were few repositories devoted to contemporary political papers, but that we had two in our backyard — at Clemson and Georgia.  The University of Georgia’s Richard B. Russell Library is probably the best congressional repository in the country and has served as our model.

Part of the appeal to Sen. Hollings was that we wanted to build on his collection to create a nexus of holdings that would allow significant studies of modern society, government, and politics.  SCPC’s mission has, from the beginning, been to collect, preserve, and encourage research in private papers documenting South Carolinians and their government at the national and state levels since 1945.


Allen Stokes

Upon SCPC’s creation in 1991, we inherited rich collections to go along with the Hollings papers.  These had mainly been acquired through the efforts of Caroliniana Director Allen Stokes and Field Archivist Tom Johnson.

At our founding, in addition to Hollings, we transferred from the Caroliniana’s Manuscripts Division two major unprocessed congressional collections totaling over 1,300 linear feet, the papers of Senator Olin Johnston and Congressman William Jennings Bryan Dorn, and eleven smaller collections including the papers of the Democratic and Republican parties.  Most of these collections had received minimal attention from the Caroliniana staff, probably because of their size and complexity.

Dean Terry’s vision for Political Collections was challenging.  From our earliest discussions, his vision called for us to eventually merit a building of our own and status as an independent unit of University Libraries.

scpc warehouse

The Warehouse, a/k/a the Old Pearle Building

Our first home was in an old warehouse on the edge of campus.  We spent weeks transferring our collections from the Caroliniana, and soon received three tractor trailer loads of Hollings papers from the Suitland Records Center outside Washington.  We also visited Hollings’ Charleston office in the old Customs Building, where we found a treasure trove — important records from his time as governor.  (Before the term of John Carl West, governor’s papers were considered personal rather than state property.)

Today, we hold 121 discrete collections including the papers of members of Congress, governors, leaders in our state legislature, jurists, both major state parties, journalists, Civil Rights activists, editorial cartoonists, and others.  A significant endowment supports professional and student positions, public programming, professional development for our staff, and a research awards program.  And, we are receiving or have pledged to us the papers of eight members of South Carolina’s current nine member congressional delegation.

Next week we will share additional reflections on SCPC’s history.

–Herb Hartsook

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Insurgents All: The General (Jackson) and the Mogul (Trump)

A guest post contributed by Dr. Lacy K. Ford, Jr., senior vice provost and dean of graduate studies and professor of southern history at U of SC

Political observers are prone to search the historical landscape far and wide for analogues to the most striking phenomena of each campaign season.  This year is no exception.


Donald Trump

In a typical campaign year, the search for a counterpart of an avowed socialist challenging an experienced party veteran at the risk of harming his party’s ultimate chance for success (think Henry Wallace 1948) would provide enough fodder to occupy the punditry.  But this year the pundits are preoccupied if not obsessed with fathoming the unexpected success of billionaire real estate mogul and political novice Donald Trump in the Republican primaries.

huey long

Louisiana’s legendary populist politician Huey Long — “Every Man a King”

Historical comparisons to Trump have hatched like mosquitoes in the Congaree flood plain.  The irreverent, iconoclastic Trump and his insurgency have been compared to Barry Goldwater’s takeover of your grandfather’s Republican Party in 1964 or the maverick John McCain’s failed challenge to “W” in 2000.  Trump has even been compared to third party movements like those of Ross Perot, George Wallace, and, most aptly, Huey Long.   Each historical analogy may yield some insight into the Trump movement, but to find the most telling (and perhaps troubling) comparison, commentators might have to forage a century further back than Long, to the rise of General Andrew Jackson, the “Old Hero,” to the presidency during the 1820s.

Unlike Trump, Jackson was not a political newcomer, having served in the US House of Representatives and largely inconsequential periods in the US Senate from Tennessee, but, like Trump, his notoriety and fame emanated chiefly from outside the world of politics.

andrew jackson

General Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812

Jackson exploded onto the national political scene based on his popularity as a successful military leader.  Jackson was not only the hero of the Battle of New Orleans, the decisive, face-saving American victory during the War of 1812 (actually achieved after the peace had been negotiated in Europe) and his exploits in a variety of campaigns in “Indian wars” (military engagements against Native American tribes) which had pushed the tribes further west and cleared valuable land for the expansion of slavery and the cotton kingdom across the deep South.  If Jackson earned fame as a military leader (or “chieftain” as his critics referred to him), Trump earned his as a rich (if publicity-hungry) business tycoon known for mastery of the “Art of the Deal,” and more importantly as reality TV celebrity known for delivering the lines “You’re fired” at the end of each episode of the “The Apprentice.”

trump the apprenticeThe appeal of Jackson and Trump parallel.  They voiced both the fears and aspirations of frustrated and even angry citizens who are neither comfortable nor fluent with the language of complexity and nuance or with the give-and-take compromise of politics in our republic.  They both flashed tempers and did not shy from vitriolic denunciation of their targets and opponents.  Neither won kudos for tolerance or moderation.  They both have won support by vowing to let nothing stand in the way of getting their way—perhaps including legal and constitutional restrictions.  Their urgent calls for the unrestrained pursuit of greatness resonates with impatient portions of the population, but spawn fears of authoritarian excess and a rogue presidency among others.

John C Calhoun

Jackson’s vice-president, South Carolinian John C. Calhoun, led the virulent opposition during the Nullification Crisis of 1832.

As Jackson rose to power, James Madison, John Quincy Adams and John C. Calhoun, men who disagreed on many issues of their day, all expressed concern that as his popularity grew Jackson might prove an American Napoleon or Cromwell.  At the very least they knew that, if elected, Jackson would be the first American president not born to that “aristocracy of talent” that Thomas Jefferson thought should lead governments.  The early national elite’s skepticism regarding Jackson proved warranted.  As a commander, he had summarily executed soldiers who deserted during battle and invaded Florida without formal approval of the Monroe administration.  As president, he refused to enforce a U.S. Supreme Court decision which favored the tribal rights of Native Americans in Georgia; he threatened to invade S.C. during the nullification crisis, and he destroyed the Second Bank of the United States, the controversial pillar of the national financial system, with fiery rhetoric.

andrew jackson

Jackson’s populist support

None of Jackson’s excesses troubled the majorities that elected him.  Whether the people, like Shakespeare’s spirits, will come in sufficient number for Trump when he calls them (as they did for Jackson) remains an open question.  But the appeal of the powerful outsider playing to fear and promising a return to past greatness (no matter how irrational the fear or improbable the restored glory) should never be underestimated.

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A Successful Evening: The Donald S. Russell Lecture with the Hon. Jean Toal

Held on the evening of February 11th, the inaugural Donald S. Russell Lecture by the Hon. Jean Toal was a great success!  We are pleased to announce that the event is available on YouTube.  The entire program is presented, including the introduction by the Hon. Judge Joe Anderson.

Here is the link to the video, and below are some still shots from the evening.


Dean Tom McNally chats with Bud Ferillo and retired Justice Toal before the event.


SCPC director Herb Hartsook opens the proceedings.


Judge Joe Anderson introduces the keynote speaker.


The audience was entertained.


Justice Toal had them spellbound.


We had a good crowd, and Donald Russell watched over the event with approval from a big screen.

Justice Toal caught up with former SC First Lady Ann Edwards.

Justice Toal caught up with former SC First Lady Ann Edwards.


The new book!

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