Tales from the Governor’s Mansion: Anecdotes from the West Family Oral Histories

As described in an earlier post, we graduate assistants have been reading through the transcripts of oral histories held by SCPC to collect subject headings and summaries for the library catalog. I’ve come across a number from the West family, which put together an interesting picture of the West family and the lives of political families on the whole. They give a rather complete outline of life in the Governor’s Mansion.


Governor and Mrs. John West

John Carl West left his law career to serve first as Lieutenant Governor and then as Governor to South Carolina from 1967 to 1975. He returned to law briefly before becoming United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1977 to 1981, when he returned once again to law and accepting the position as Chairman of the Board of the Seibels Bruce Insurance Company. His wife, Lois R. West, was the first interviewed, in 1995. John C. West participated in four oral histories between the years 1996 and 1997. Together with their daughter Shelton West Bosley, they participated in one last oral history in 2000.

All three interviews mention one incident in particular: the time that Mr. West, with the encouragement of one of his assistants, invited every employee of the state of South Carolina to the Governor’s Mansion for an event. When he realized how many there were, he figured only a fraction of them would attend. Just the opposite: hundreds of employees attended! Mr. and Mrs. West stood out in the cold to greet every guest as they were let into the house in shifts, taking breaks only to refill the coffee pots.

Another anecdote that Mrs. West seemed particularly fond of relating happened when a Girl Scout troop came through the Mansion. One of the girls asked Mrs. West about the flowers, to which she replied that they were her flowers, because this house belonged to her as well. Mrs. West received a phone call from the girl’s mother later expressing concern that she had come home with an armful of flowers she had plucked from the Mansion’s garden.

These and many other tales from the Governor’s Mansion and from other times in the Wests’ lives can be found in three of our oral history transcripts: Gov. West’s, Mrs. West’s, and their interview with their daughter Shelton. You can also check out the rest of the oral history transcripts at http://library.sc.edu/scpc/oralhist.html, or if you’d like to learn more about John Carl West, you can see the full contents of his collection at http://library.sc.edu/scpc/west.html.

Contributed by graduate student assistant Clara Bertagnolli

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Christmas on the Potomac

Eisenhower card

Christmas card sent to Congressman Dorn by President Dwight D. Eisenhower

When I looked into the over eight hundred cartons of papers donated by former congressman William Jennings Bryan Dorn, shortly after coming to the South Caroliniana Library in 1983, I discovered three cartons of Christmas cards which he and Miss Millie had received over the years. At first, I assumed that these had little value in documenting Mr. Dorn’s illustrious career. But in looking through them, I was fascinated by lovely cards from President Eisenhower and Nixon, financier Bernard Baruch, governors from George Bell Timmerman to Dick Riley, foreign dignitaries, and many others.

This collection of cards gave us the material for a terrific exhibit. And, early in the 1990s, we decided to share these cards with the community. We’ve mounted a holiday exhibit almost every year since, and have made a habit of requesting the cards being sent out by our donors, other members of the delegation, and USC presidents We love the images sent by members of Congress. They typically consist either of a view of the Capitol in winter or a photo of their extended family.

Sanchez card

One of Representative Loretta Sanchez’ creative cards featuring her beloved cat Gretzky

We learned some cards were to be eagerly awaited –chiefly those of the U.S. president, USC president, and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. Rep. Sanchez sent wonderfully humorous cards in which she posed with her Persian cat, Gretzky (1991-2010). All on our staff mourned Gretzky’s passing. I also looked forward to the cards Fritz and Peatsy Hollings sent out as a Thanksgiving tradition. Each reproduced an original cheery and colorful painting by their nephew.

A few years ago, we devised a PowerPoint exhibit of our holiday cards and have presented that on and off campus. We always enjoy selecting the cards for the exhibit and it typically garners some nice publicity for the Library.

For 2013, we are featuring cards received last year by U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham. A special thanks to Kate Moore for her vision and skill in mounting these exhibits, and to Debbie Durkin of Team Graham. Debbie is the Senator’s office manager and she makes sure that we receive all of the Senator’s historically valuable materials and receive them in wonderful order. Debbie, like each of Senator Graham’s staff with whom we have had contact, has been an absolute delight!

First Dog Bo

From this year’s exhibit: “First Dog” Bo cavorts in the snow on the grounds of the White House
on this card from President Obama

This year’s exhibit is currently on display at the front of Thomas Cooper Library.

Contributed by Herb Hartsook

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In Memoriam: Mary T. Kelly

Mary Kelly

Mary Kelly

Mary Kelly passed away on November 9 at the age of 90.  She was reared in New York, eventually earned her Ph.D. in organic chemistry, and moved to South Carolina with her husband in 1965.  We acquired her papers in 2008 and opened the rich and substantive collection in 2010.  We value the collection chiefly as it documents her work to protect the environment and particularly her focus on the nuclear industry and its impact on the state.  In 1984, she was recognized as the South Carolina Wildlife Federation’s Conservationist of the Year.  She was an important figure in the League of Women Voters and served as President of the state League from 1985 to 1987.  Eighteen feet of papers, 1970 to 2008, document her interest and expertise in environmental issues and involvement with the League.


Contributed by Herb Hartsook

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Enriching South Carolina’s Civil Rights History

ID Newman

The Reverend I. DeQuincey Newman
(Photo: Bill Barley)

South Carolina Political Collections is honored to preserve the papers of two Civil Rights icons, I. DeQuincey Newman and Modjeska Simkins.  Research interest is high for these collections, as one might expect, and the University has long worked to encourage and promote research in them. 

The University began receiving Mrs. Simkins’ papers in 1988, with the bulk of the material coming after her death in 1992.  At that time, repositories did not yet routinely scan and mount collections on the web.  Using the standard technology of the time, we microfilmed the collection.  This served both to minimize the physical handling of the fragile original documents and to make made the collection widely available.  Through interlibrary loan, the Simkins’ microfilm has been available to anyone with access to a borrowing library. 

Modjeska Simkins

Early photo of Modjeska Simkins

We received the Newman collection from his family in 2003.  The Rev. Newman’s collection seemed a perfect candidate to be scanned and mounted on the web.  This practice was supplanting microfilming as a means of preserving and making archival collections more widely available.  The Newman papers would see high demand from the public, was a relatively small collection at 2.5 feet; and was quite fragile.  It became our first endeavor in scanning an entire collection. 

Following still-evolving best practices at that time, we determined that only those documents to which we held clear copyright would be made available outside the library.  The entire collection has been available online, but only to patrons actually on the USC campus.  However, in recent years, there has been a growing consensus in the archival profession that repositories can and should make entire collections available to the public over the internet, despite copyright concerns.  The thinking is that the value of making searchable, easily accessible manuscript collections available online far outweighs the very slight risk of copyright infringement for most collections. 

I.D. Newman and Hollings

I.D. Newman accompanied Senator Ernest F. Hollings on his 1969 “Hunger Tours” of poverty-stricken areas in South Carolina

Clearly, this is not true for donors such as contemporary authors, people who value and closely monitor their copyright interests.  But, for most SCPC donors, this will hold true.  Should repositories receive complaints about copyright violations in materials mounted on the web, it will be easy to examine these on a case by case basis.  If it is determined a complaint is valid, individual items can easily be removed from the online publication.  To date, across the profession, repositories are not hearing complaints.

With our decision to open the previously-restricted Newman materials, we also took the opportunity to revise and perfect the Newman metadata and improve the access to and searchability of the collection.  With the help of Digital Collections, we have just now re-launched the electronic version of the collection, assuring scholars across the country and world greater access to this rich collection. 

Modjeska Simkins Victory Savings

Modjeska Simkins addressed the crowd at the dedication of the Harden Street branch of the Victory Savings Bank, which she founded in 1921.
(Columbia, SC)

We are working on the Simkins collection as well.  The microfilm has been scanned and we are presently developing metadata.  Scanning is a fairly simple technological process; metadata is much more of an art and requires a great deal of time to do it right.  We hope to add the electronic version of Mrs. Simkins’ collection to our web site during 2014, at which time we will retire the microfilm.

We always tell people that our web site is full of riches. These riches grow monthly as we add more collection descriptions, oral history transcripts, exhibits, and yes, even blog posts.

Contributed by Herb Hartsook and Dorothy Walker

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Whiskey and Watermelons: Anecdotes from the Johnston Years

Recently, we started a cataloging project for our oral histories. The transcripts have been available on the SCPC website, but we wanted to incorporate them into the university library catalog. Before we can do anything else, we have to read through the oral histories and make a note of potential subject headings. This also gives us an opportunity to better acquaint ourselves with a fascinating part of our collections.

I’ve most enjoyed coming across behind-the-scenes political anecdotes in these interviews. They enliven the historical narrative by adding a personal dimension to the records of public figures. So far, my favorite oral history has been that of Thomas W. Chadwick, a member of Sen. Olin Johnston’s staff from 1955-1965. Chadwick recalled a number of entertaining stories from his years with the senator.

Chadwick remembered Johnston receiving gifts of whiskey from a friend in the liquor distribution business. This posed a dilemma for the senator. Johnston did not drink, but having lived through the Depression, he also did not waste anything. So, he solved the problem by giving away whiskey to staff members. One fine day, the senator called Chadwick into his office. He pulled a bottle of bourbon out of his safe and said, “I want you to take that bottle of whiskey and use it, but I want you to give Betty Rose [Chadwick's wife], you give her what you’d have paid at the liquor store for that bottle. And then I know something good will be coming out of that.”

Speaking of gifts, Johnston regularly brought in watermelon from S.C. and gave it to journalists on the Hill. During one delivery, Johnston was standing by the fruit truck for a photo. Hoping to cash in on the publicity, Sen. Strom Thurmond came running down the steps and crashed the picture. Johnston was livid and said there would be no more watermelon if any paper ran the picture with Thurmond. One reporter protested, saying that Thurmond was there after all. Chadwick retorted, “So you go to him for watermelon, if you want watermelon out of this deal. You go to Strom for them.”

Clearly, Johnston was a man with little tolerance for rude behavior. During the Eisenhower administration, the nominee for the Myrtle Beach postmastership made some unkind public remarks about Johnston. The senator was chair of the Post Office and Civil Service Committee. He approached a close friend, Sen. Frank Carlson (R-Kansas), and said, “Frank, this man is personally obnoxious to me, and I want the White House to withdraw the nomination.” As further incentive, Johnston threatened to hold up pending pay raises for executive and judicial positions. Carlson came back and asked, “Who do you want?” Johnston gave him the name and resume of his preferred nominee, and they flew the paperwork to the president in Pennsylvania. Eisenhower signed the nomination while on the golf course and sent it back.

Find these and other stories at http://library.sc.edu/scpc/ohchadwick.pdf. Once you’ve finished reading about Chadwick and Johnston, check out the rest of our oral histories at http://library.sc.edu/scpc/oralhist.html.

Contributed by graduate student assistant Chris Fite

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A Successful Parents’ Weekend

The Hollings Library is normally closed on the weekends although we do open for periodic “Open Gallery” weekends.  On October 5 & 6 we were privileged to welcome students and their families  for Parents’ Weekend.  Exhibits on display spotlighted material from USC’s Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC), Moving Images Research Collection (MIRC), and of course SCPC.parweekend

We saw a large number of people come through, probably close to one hundred for both days.  They were able to ask us questions and take a look at our current exhibits: Turning a Crisis into an Opportunity: Integration of Higher Education in South Carolina; Wreaking Havoc: The Art of the Political Cartoonist (which includes the hood of a car that was used as a cartoonists’ canvas!); and our semi-permanent exhibit that serves as a showcase for the variety of our collections.exhibits

The next Open Gallery is this Saturday, October 12, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  It is free and open to the community.  We invite everyone to come and see our beautiful state-of-the-art building and what we have on display!

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In Memoriam: Jerry Beasley (1934-2013)


Jerry Beasley

John Gerald “Jerry” Beasley, from a photo used in The State newspaper

I was saddened this morning to read of the recent passing of Jerry Beasley.  Jerry was a great friend to this University and played a major role in raising SCPC’s first named endowment. 

In 1998, we launched a campaign to establish the William Jennings Bryan Dorn Endowment.  In a 1940 campaign ad, Bryan Dorn stated, “My only promise is to endeavor to keep my feet on the ground and tune my ear to the heart-beat of all the people.”  Dorn did just that, forging a career of public service that few can match.  Bryan Dorn represented South Carolina’s Third District in Congress for thirteen terms between 1947 and 1974.  An eloquent advocate of South Carolina’s interests, Dorn was particularly effective in the areas of agriculture, industrialization, and highway construction.  He helped organize the informal House Textile Committee around 1961 and served as its secretary.  Dorn is perhaps best remembered as a champion of the interests of America’s veterans.  He ended his public service chairing the South Carolina Democratic Party from 1980 to 1984.

In 1998, Mr. Dorn’s collection was among the finest and most complete congressional collections preserved anywhere and among the largest manuscript collections ever accepted by the University.  Perhaps most important, it was our most heavily used collection, documenting his campaigns for office, life and career in public service, and his interests outside of government.  In addition, his papers document, in a very personal way, the lives and concerns of his constituents.

Dorn brochure

Retired Congressman Bryan Dorn robustly gracing a brochure for his gubernatorial campaign in 1974

We sought help from leaders in the state who had worked with Mr. Dorn and two men stepped up, Jerry Beasley and Steve Griffith.  Both were close to Mr. Dorn and were enthusiastic about their task, but it was a difficult one.  Fund raising experts told us that you can’t raise significant money for a politician once they leave office, and Mr. Dorn had been out of public life for over a decade.  However, Jerry and Steve focused on individuals and foundations related to SC’s textile industry and succeeded in raising a very significant endowment.

Today, the principal totals more than $89,000.  Over the years, the endowment has helped support a number of student assistantships, and more recently funded an annual award for the best undergraduate paper written based on research in SCPC and a research awards program supporting visits by distant scholars studying SCPC holdings. 

I will be forever grateful for Jerry’s friendship and his enthusiasm and devotion to this project honoring Mr. Dorn which has benefited SCPC and our patrons so greatly.

Contributed by Herb Hartsook

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Desk Musings

McNair desk

Desk used by Robert McNair as chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the S.C. House of Representatives

Desks are important. 

When I visit someone’s office, I always note the person’s desk and try to glean some sense of the person from their desk and what they keep on it.  President Calvin Coolidge once said, “We need more of the Office Desk and less of the Show Window in politics.  Let men in office substitute the midnight oil for the limelight.”

When I worked as Curator of Manuscripts at the South Caroliniana Library, I was privileged to use a desk from the U.S. Senate’s Russell Office Building identical to that used by Senator Olin Johnston.  It was a most imposing desk and I loved its history.  At home I have two desks, a roll-top made in Glasgow, Scotland, around 1890, and a Stickley Brothers library table from around 1910. 

Patterson desk

The desk used by Liz Patterson as a member of the S.C. Senate

When we inaugurated SCPC, I imagined that we would acquire members’ desks and that, in time, each of our staff would work at a historic desk.  We acquired our first one with the receipt of former Governor Bob McNair’s papers, when he gave us a beautiful large desk which he had used as chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the S.C. House of Representatives.  We used it in our reading room for years, and when we moved into the Hollings Library, it became the desk in our VIP Office.

Recently we received another desk from the Honorable Liz Patterson; the one she used as a member of the S.C. Senate.  This particular desk is smaller than McNair’s because it was the one she occupied among the many on the floor of the Senate.  Immediately we placed it in SCPC’s Seminar Room, where visitors and staff are able see it.

In many ways a desk is a tool.  What does your desk say about you?

Contributed by Herb Hartsook

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Is this the same place? — SCPC’s gallery gets a facelift

SCPC’s exhibit gallery in the Hollings Library looks completely different these days, and we’re downright excited about it.  We’ve changed the layout of our gallery in anticipation of mid-2014 that will bring us new design features on the walls and windows and interactive elements (like touchscreens).  We think the new layout makes our gallery more inviting and less confusing.  If you can’t make it to the Hollings Library to see for yourself, check out the before, during and after shots!  Click on any image for a gallery of larger views.

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“Wreaking Havoc: The Art of the Political Cartoonist”

The editorial cartoon at its best can combine trenchant political insight, genial good humor, incisive satire, a certain utopian whimsy, melancholy and a Message with a Moral. 

~ Professor Robert Darden, Journalism Department, Baylor University

Latent cartoonists are not the team players or company cheerleaders destined to be rewarded by schools and corporations.  We tend to be difficult, annoying, and seditious….  Official disapproval is something you have to go through to be a cartoonist….  You have to butt heads with Authority.

~ Kate Salley Palmer, Growing Up Cartoonist


Caricature of John West, U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia (1977-1981) (Kate Salley Palmer)

Editorial cartoons have historically graced the pages of most American daily newspapers and have been widely popular.  Their subject matter ranges from local to international matters and often provides biting commentary.  We have come to realize that our collections of political cartoons are one of SCPC’s most popular and accessible assets.

Unfortunately, the numbers of artists employed as editorial cartoonists is shrinking.  According to the Herb Block Foundation, in 1900 there were approximately 2,000 editorial cartoonists employed by American newspapers.  In 2010, perhaps forty.

Derrick/Hollings campaigns

Congressman Butler Derrick and Senator Fritz Hollings (Walt Lardner)

We currently have on exhibit a selection of cartoons by SCPC donors Walt Lardner and Kate Salley Palmer, and USC alumnus Robert Ariail, perhaps South Carolina’s best known cartoonist.  The exhibit, “Wreaking Havoc: The Art of the Political Cartoonist,” also includes our favorite piece of ephemera, the hood of Jim and Kate Salley Palmer’s old Oldsmobile station wagon, the last vestige of an automobile once decorated bumper to bumper by cartoonists attending an annual meeting.

RIP Keyserling

Wildlife mourning the passing of S.C. Representative Harriet Keyserling in 2010 (Robert Ariail)

Last week, SCPC presented a wonderful program titled “The Art of Political Cartooning,” featuring presentations by Palmer and Ariail and moderated by Charles Bierbauer, the visionary dean of USC’s College of Communications and Information Studies.

Thanks to Library Media Developer Jason Steelman, the video of that panel is now available on our website and YoutubeThree particularly charming moments occurred when Kate, who enjoys creating cartoons including song parodies, sang her cartoons.  She has a lovely singing voice.  Please visit one of these pages and enjoy the program, which enthralled the audience at the Hollings Library.

Palmer car hood

Kate & Jim Palmer donating the decorated car hood to SCPC in March of 2007

~ contributed by Herb Hartsook

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