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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Outreach at SCPC


Gwen Mellinger was our 2016 Dorn Award recipient for conducting research this summer; one of numerous researchers who spend time with the collections at SCPC

Congressional repositories like SCPC serve a broad audience ranging from younger students, perhaps working on a History Day project, to senior scholars researching their next book.

Years ago, to help excite people about the potential of our collections, we began a web initiative titled In Their Own Words (ITOW) which presents selected materials from our most important collections.  These currently present documents, photographs, audio clips and other materials from the papers of Sol Blatt, Butler Derrick, Bryan Dorn, Fritz Hollings, Bob McNair, Modjeska Simkins, Dixie Walker, and John West.  The labor-intensive nature of this process limits us to a goal of producing one ITOW annually.  We are currently working on an ITOW for Olin Johnston.  When the University received Senator Johnston’s papers after his death in 1965, it became our first major congressional collection.


Civil Rights leader Modjeska Simkins, subject of one of our editions of In Their Own Words

At least one other congressional repository has adopted our ITOW initiative.  When speaking to the public and to my fellow congressional archivists about ITOW, I always note that one of our goals is to provide original source materials that can be used in the classrooms of South Carolina’s public schools.  Whether or not this is actually happening, ITOW certainly makes such use possible.

The Digital Public Library of America does something that is similar but much more focused.  Its Primary Resource Sets typically provide 16 to 20 documents, editorial cartoons, photographs, and audio and film clips related to a specific issue.  On a recent visit to their web site I was drawn to their selections relating to the Equal Rights Amendment, the labor movement among West Virginia coal miners, and the Scopes Monkey Trial.  South Carolina is well-represented in the ERA set with two wonderful cartoons by our own Kate Salley Palmer which we provided for that purpose.

We are currently debating the best use of our limited resources to generate greater use of SCPC holdings.  We recently mounted a major exhibit looking at the evolution of congressional collecting since the creation of SCPC in 1991 and plan to renew an active exhibit schedule with two major exhibits annually.  And we will continue mounting smaller exhibits in the Hollings Library’s Brittain Gallery and will soon add a second exhibit case to provide us more space for these popular and often more topical exhibits.


Zach Johnson

Zach Johnson joined our staff this summer and will divide his attention between processing collections, planning and implementing our exhibit schedule, and outreach to undergraduate and graduate students and teaching faculty across the state.

As any regular reader of this blog knows, we are excited by our work.  It seems almost every day we discover treasures among our materials and we want to share our excitement about the issues, events, and people documented in our collections with the broadest possible public.  I’ll be interested to see what the next year brings in terms of outreach for SCPC.

By Herb Hartsook

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25 Years of South Carolina Political Collections

exhibit signTo celebrate the 25th anniversary of SCPC’s founding, we have mounted an exhibit tracing the development of congressional collecting in general and our department in particular.

The University of South Carolina received its first congressional collection in 1965 and acquired papers from other political figures and organizations in the decades that followed, but the announcement of Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings’ donation in 1989 to the library proved to be a milestone. Realizing the potential this collection and others had, the University created Modern Political Collections (MPC) – now called South Carolina Political Collections (SCPC) – as a department of the South Caroliniana Library in 1991. The department immediately set about securing more collections from political figures all over the state. Of our donors, Senator Hollings has been instrumental in the growth of SCPC. Since giving his collection, he has visited the library for numerous events and convinced many other political figures to donate their papers as well.

Senator Hollings and his wife Peatsy viewed a political exhibit at U of SC's McKissick Museum in 1996

Senator Hollings and his wife Peatsy viewed a political exhibit at U of SC’s McKissick Museum in 1996

Though SCPC’s collections and development were thriving in this time, the department’s physical space was not. The Pearle building (“The Warehouse”) where SCPC was located had terrible climate control, limited office and exhibit space, and generally poor conditions for archival materials. It was clear a new building was necessary, and Senator Hollings wanted to make sure that happened. He successfully got $14 million in funding for the Hollings library, which has proved to be a magnificent space for SCPC and the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. His work on behalf of the library will have a huge impact for decades to come.

The Pearle building, aka "The Warehouse"

The Pearle building, aka “The Warehouse”

The department has changed over the years. In 2005, Modern Political Collections was renamed South Carolina Political Collections and became an autonomous department of the Library. A year later, groundbreaking for the new building began, and four years later, in May of 2010, SCPC moved into the new space.

The size of the department has increased and now includes five staff members and numerous student assistants. In its 25 year history, SCPC has gained a national reputation for the quality of its collections and staff. With over 125 discrete collections, SCPC is one of the largest repositories for political papers in the United States.

The Hollings Library

The Hollings Library

As congressional offices move more and more to electronic records, it is our job to make sure historians and other researchers always have access to our materials, no matter the form they take. To that end, we always keep an eye towards the future when processing papers, developing institutional standards, and maintaining our collections.

By Zach Johnson

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Anita Hill Party 2016

Anita Hill

The SCPC exhibit at the venue

Last night, SCPC attended the 25th Annual “I Believe Anita Hill” Party and presented a parallel exhibit.

The Anita Hill Party is an annual reminder of the outrage resulting from Anita Hill’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee during the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. The event also serves to highlight “the effect of the different perspectives of men and women, of the need for more women in politics and other policy-making positions, and of the need to get involved, to stay involved, and to stay in contact with other strong women of all ages and backgrounds.”

Moxon vote dress

The “Vote” dress from the Barbara Moxon collection

SCPC is the repository of the Anita Hill Party Collection, documenting the history of the organization and its annual events.

For the event last night, SCPC brought items from the collection and some from related collections to display for attendees, and to highlight our role in documenting the organization. One of the most popular items on display last night was the “Vote” dress worn by former League of Women Voters President Barbara Moxon on Election Days and other important events. Also on display were images and memorabilia from previous Anita Hill Parties through the years.

Contributed by Zach Johnson

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In Memoriam: John Drummond (1919-2016)

John Drummond

State Senator John Drummond

Former state senator John Drummond of Ninety Six, S.C., passed away on September 3rd.

A World War II Air Force fighter pilot and successful businessman, Drummond represented Greenwood County in the Senate for over forty years and led the Senate as President Pro Tempore from 1996 to 2001.  During his tenure, he witnessed the transformation of South Carolina from a solidly Democratic legislature to one dominated by Republicans.

A true maverick, Drummond enjoyed a good filibuster over issues on which he was passionate.  In later years, he stood out among his Democratic peers for his willingness and ability to work across party lines for the good of the people of South Carolina.

John Drummond

Senator Drummond

Former governor Jim Hodges noted, “I wish we had more people like John Drummond in service across our country.  He believed that once elections were over, you still work together to accomplish things and not work for your political party.”

Senator Drummond’s papers, some five linear feet of material, are available for research at SCPC.

A memorial exhibit has been mounted in the Brittain Gallery of the Hollings Library (the main lobby).  Please stop by and learn more about this great South Carolinian.

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