Thomas Cooper Library Recognized in “Best of” List

Thomas Cooper Library

Thomas Cooper Library
(from the article)

Everyone likes “Top Ten” and “Best of” lists, particularly if you make the list.  Readers Digest recently published its list of the Most Impressive Libraries in Every State.  Their criteria appears to be chiefly based on architectural merit with a nod to the importance of the collections. 

The libraries chosen range from the venerable to the very new.  UNC-Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library opened in 1929 while University of Georgia’s Richard B. Russell Library opened in 2012. 

Edward Durrell Stone

Illustrious architect Edward Durrell Stone in 1958

Representing South Carolina—our own Thomas Cooper Library.  Designed by famed architect Edward Durell Stone and the firm Lyles, Bisset, Carlisle & Wolff, what was then called the Undergraduate Library opened in 1959 and supplemented the existing McKissick Library with some 40,000 sq. ft. of additional space.  Well regarded from the time of its construction, in 1963 the Undergraduate Library was recognized with a First Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects

Eventually, it was decided to concentrate library collections and services in an expanded Undergraduate Library and, in 1976, the newly renamed Thomas Cooper Library opened with four new floors added underground to provide a total of nearly  290,000 sq. ft. of library space.  The pool we all admire was added at the front of the Library at the same time.

The excavated site of the future Thomas Cooper Library

The excavated site of the future Thomas Cooper Library

How is Thomas Cooper faring today?  Libraries the world around are facing a sea change as we deal with the growth of electronic resources which can be accessed anywhere at any time.  This would seem to diminish the need for physical libraries, but student use of Thomas Cooper has actually doubled in recent years.  The addition of Hollings Library at the rear of Cooper may be the most dramatic change in recent times, but change and the evolution of University Libraries, its resources, and staff, is constant as we strive to meet the demands of our faculty and students. 

Hollings Library

The Hollings Special Collections Library, located behind Thomas Cooper

I was pleased to see Readers Digest select the University of Michigan’s Law Library to represent Michigan.  The classic old building received a major renovation since I graduated.  Like Cooper, they too added underground space to preserve the original old building while adding a significant addition that has received rave reviews. 

By Herb Hartsook

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Invaluable Help from MIRC

Marine Corps

Marine Corps film still

USC Libraries has four special collections units, each with significant reputations.  The newest of these treasures is our Moving Image Research Collections (MIRC).  MIRC is in the news this month because of its receipt of the United States Marine Corps Film Repository.  You may have heard USC has initiated a $25,000 project to digitize all footage from Parris Island, S.C., and is seeking contributions.

The Marine Corps archive joins MIRC’s internationally important, ever-growing collection, which is anchored by Fox Movietone News.  More important for SCPC’s purposes, MIRC oversees the WIS Newsfilm collection, which contains any number of pieces relating to SCPC donors.  MIRC staff are always helpful in locating films we need and also provides invaluable assistance in reformatting some of our own films, such as the 1960 clip showing then-governor Fritz Hollings and presidential candidate John F. Kennedy speaking from the State House steps.

JFK microphones

The microphone holders used for the 1960 Kennedy campaign speech and donated by Jim Covington

That clip was filmed by journalist and friend to the Libraries Jim Covington.  When we played it on the big screen in the Hollings Library Program Room a while back, Jim brought and donated the microphones he used on that occasion.  The mics were the state-of-the-art in 1960 and very distinctive.

Recently, Jim suggested that the WIS collection should include footage he shot sixty years ago of Hollings being sworn in as a US Senator.  Since Hollings was elected in a special election to complete the unexpired term of Olin Johnston, who had died in office the previous year, this took place in November of 1966.  This gave Hollings a boost in seniority over the regularly elected new senators who were sworn in on January 1.


Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings in 1969

Most archivists love the challenge of a good puzzle and Amy Ciesielski Meaney took on the daunting task of locating the film.  Not all of the WIS film is clearly identified; in fact, some is not labelled at all.  After much searching, Amy found a film labeled only Nov. 9-16, 1966.  In reviewing the film, she saw Hollings, but the clip did not have sound and she could only hope that it was the swearing in, a rather informal affair in the office of the Secretary of the Senate.  Amy emailed some frames from the film and it looked right.  I asked graduate assistant Mary Clare Johnson to look in the Hollings collection news clippings to see if she could find any showing the ceremony.  Within a half hour Mary Clare brought a clipping with a photo identical to one of the stills: “Hollings signs Senate payroll.”

It’s wonderful when things work out.  We hope soon to provide a link to the film so everyone can see it and to celebrate the 60th anniversary of this occasion.  I only wish I had started this ball rolling in time to share the clip on the actual day of the event, November 9th.

By Herb Hartsook

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Election Night Watch Party Recap

The Election Night Watch Party this past Tuesday cohosted by SCPC and Student Government in the Russell House was a great success! Around 200 people attended, most staying until the event officially ended at 9pm, though we kept the televisions on and the room open until 11pm. Viewers were treated to free food and tea while watching results roll in on CNN and MSNBC.

SCPC's elections display at the Russell House Ballroom on Election Night.

SCPC’s display at the Russell House Ballroom on Election Night

A number of people came by to check out SCPC’s political cartoons and artifacts, and we got a few questions about the items and the department. One student remarked that they didn’t know Hollings was public space but will now probably visit after talking to us. Hunter Harley, the organizer of the event from Student Government, made brief remarks around 7:00pm encouraging people to come to our table, followed by remarks from the Carolina Creed Office.

If you’re still feeling in the “election mood”, the library has two exhibits up documenting election history using items from our collection. Presidential Elections: Eisenhower through Obama is on display at the front of Thomas Cooper through November, and Election Day in South Carolina is on display in Hollings library through the end of December.

There is also still a vintage Votamatic voting machine in Hollings where visitors can now vote on their favorite DOG BREED!

By Zach Johnson

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Mock Election Results!

voting machine



The official returns of the SCPC Mock Election are in!

Unlike the actual Presidential Election, Hillary Clinton won a resounding victory in our informal mock election with 78.13% of the vote. Donald Trump came in second place with 12.5% of the vote, while Evan McMullin had half that percentage at 6.25%. Gary Johnson received one vote, making it 3.13% of the total.

The mock election took place using a vintage Votamatic machine donated to SCPC by Congressman Joe Wilson, the same type of machine that was at the center of the contentious Florida recounts in 2000. Proving that even today this machine can cause uncertain results, SCPC actually had one ballot that we were unsure how to count. There was a dimple in the ballot by Trump’s name (a “pregnant chad” in the terminology from the 2000 election), but the hole by Clinton’s that was fully punched through. We counted this ballot for Clinton in our tally.

The Election Day exhibit will stay up through the end of November, with a new ballot question to vote on.  Stay tuned!

mock election returns

The Returns!

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Presidential Elections Exhibit

election exhibit

The exhibit installation at the front of Thomas Cooper

Election Day is only four days away, so earlier this week SCPC installed an exhibit in the front gallery of Thomas Cooper Library tracing the history of Presidential Elections from Eisenhower to Obama using items from our collections. Through this exhibit, visitors can see how, over the past 70 years, campaigns have changed in some ways but remained the same in others. The exhibit includes things like campaign buttons, political cartoons, strategy materials from campaign workers, fundraising letters, and much more.

The Goldwaters album

The Goldwaters album

In particular, we’ve tried to highlight unique materials produced by various campaigns’ supporters and opponents. For instance, Eisenhower was a popular war hero before he became president, with both Republicans and Democrats looking to add him to their own ticket. But inevitably after the election he had his detractors. One fellow produced a sarcastic, little booklet listing the “accomplishments” of Eisenhower, including “Helped big business rescue nation’s resources from ravages of nature” and “No president served so few, so ably, at the expense of so many.”

Barry Goldwater’s failed 1964 campaign in particular also produced a plethora of unique and interesting items. One such item is a record by “The Goldwaters” whose album cover proclaimed that they “sing folk songs to bug the liberals.” We have both of these items on display.

The exhibit will run through the end of November.

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Digitization of the William D. Workman, Jr. Audio Reels – Part I

(c) Daniel P. B. Smith / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 / GFDL

The William D. Workman, Jr. Papers include 66 recordings on reel-to-reel tapes. The recordings were created between 1938 and 1971. They include several recordings of Workman, mostly as he talked about his book The Case for the South or campaigned in 1962 to represent South Carolina in the US Senate. Although he was not elected, he was able to obtain enough votes to show “that a Republican could win a state-wide race.”[1] The rest of the tapes capture other political voices of the time, including those of Edgar A. Brown, Barry Goldwater, Fritz Hollings, Olin D. Johnston, and Strom Thurmond.

These rare and valuable recordings are a treasure, but one at risk of being lost due to the deterioration of the tapes. During an inspection, many of the tapes were found to be suffering from “vinegar syndrome.” This irreversible phenomenon occurs as the acetate bases of older tapes and films break down. It receives its name from the smell of the acetic acid created as a byproduct of the deterioration.

To preserve as much of the tapes’ contents as possible, we have contracted with the audiovisual preservation company Scene Savers to digitize the recordings for us. We recently got word that they received the tapes and have started digitization. We are looking forward to hearing the content and (hopefully!) making them available to everyone as a digital collection. We should have an update before the year is out.

[1] Finding aid for the William D. Workman, Jr. Papers, p. 2

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Father and Son: The Blatts, Sol, Sr. and Sol, Jr.

Sol Blatt, Sr

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

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.)

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In Memoriam: Crawford Cook

Crawford Cook passed away this past weekend.  He was the ultimate political insider.  In 1997, he graciously sat for an oral history interview during which he reflected on his life.

Crawford Cook

Crawford Cook

He began his life in politics as campaign manager for Marshall Parker’s 1962 bid for Lieutenant Governor.  Parker, then a Democrat, lost to Bob McNair, but in 1966 mounted a ferocious challenge as a Republican in the race for the U.S. Senate against Democrat Fritz Hollings.  Cook worked for Hollings in that race and then served as Hollings’ chief of staff in Washington.  Cook returned to South Carolina after Hollings’ successful 1968 campaign for a full term in the Senate.  He later was closely associated with John West, South Carolina governor and Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.  We will miss this grand gentleman.


Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings

His oral history will soon be mounted on the SCPC web site.  In our interview, I noted that Hollings gave Cook great credit for his primary ousting of incumbent senator Donald S. Russell, who had stepped down as Governor to be appointed to the Senate after the death of senior Senator Olin D. Johnston.  Cook then went on to help Hollings turn back Parker in the general election.  Hollings noted the deep personal ties Cook had forged with leaders across the state.  Cook responded, “He’s never told me that, but I’m glad to hear it because it really was very important.  During my years with the Municipal Association, when the legislature was not in [session] I traveled almost constantly, making speeches for mayors and councilmen, at civic clubs, at church meetings, etc.  I made a lot of personal friends across the state among the mayors and the councilmen.  Frankly, I was surprised, when it came time to organize for Hollings, how many there really were and how willing they were to really go to bat for Fritz.”

By Herb Hartsook

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Modjeska Monteith Simkins Papers Now Online!

Victory Savings Bank

Interior view of the Victory Savings Bank

We are pleased to announce the digitization and online accessibility of the Modjeska Simkins papers!  After several years of work, the staff of the Digital Collections department recently completed the extensive and rather costly project for SCPC.

Civil Rights activist Modjeska Simkins of Columbia, S.C., served as the South Carolina State Secretary for the NAACP, 1941-1957; as Campaign Director for the renovation of Good Samaritan-Waverly Hospital, 1944-1950; as Public Relations Director for the Richland County Citizens’ Committee, 1956-1988; and as President of the Southern Conference Educational Fund, 1972-1974.   She also helped found, in 1921, the Victory Savings Bank of Columbia.  As a voice of African-American leadership in the South, Mrs. Simkins was truly a political force.

Citizens' Committee

Modjeska Simkins leads a meeting of the Richland County Citizens’ Committee

The digital papers are searchable topically or by keyword, and are eminently browsable if you’d just like to have a look at the sort of activities with which Mrs. Simkins was involved.  We hope our researchers and the general public will benefit from having this rich and important collection accessible at their fingertips.

SCPC would like to thank everyone in the Digital Collections department who had a hand in this project, especially Kate Boyd and Ashley Knox, who orchestrated it.


Mrs. Simkins in 1986
(photo from the Nancy Moore Papers, SCPC)

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New Booklet Published – Sarah Leverette: South Carolina lawyer, teacher, mentor, ground breaker

leverette booklet

Sarah Leverette: South Carolina lawyer, teacher, mentor, ground breaker

Sarah Leverette is featured in a new booklet written by Becci Robbins, the communications director at the South Carolina Progressive Network.  Following up on her wonderful booklet on Civil Rights icon Modjeska Simkins, Robbins here looks at the life of SCPC donor Leverette – pioneer lady lawyer, former University of South Carolina law librarian, leader in the League of Women Voters, and at age 96, an active realtor and inspiration to all who know her.

The Leverette booklet may be read online here.

Readers who wish to learn more about Ms. Leverette are encouraged to visit SCPC and delve in her papers and those of the League of Women Voters of SC and the local League of Columbia/Richland County.

Sarah Leverette League of Women Voters Endowment Fund provides support for the archive of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina and the papers of League leaders, and encourages the study and use of these collections.

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