Judge Matthew J. Perry: In His Own Words

Picture of Matthew J. Perry, Jr.As a lawyer, Judge Matthew J. Perry was heavily involved in many important, precedent-setting civil rights cases.  He argued before the United States Supreme Court multiple times, and lost only one case there.  He became the first African American federal judge from South Carolina, and is remembered for his civility and respectful nature both in the courtroom and out, even while pursuing divisive and conflict-ridden issues.  In his extensive, 184 page oral history he discusses his early life, education, and career as a lawyer.  Dr. Robert J. Moore conducted the interview; he is a historian, contributor to Judge Perry’s biography, and was a personal friend of the judge and his wife, Hallie.  Perry was a part of the second graduating class of 1951 at the South Carolina State Law School, which was established to comply with the “separate but equal” law as it was at the time, after South Carolina was given the choice of establishing a law school for African Americans, admitting them to USC Law, or closing USC Law.  While in law school the law required him to sit in the balcony at the courthouse; the federal courthouse in Columbia is now named for him.

There were few African American lawyers in South Carolina at the time, and Perry tells a particularly moving story about starting out as the only African American lawyer in Spartanburg in the early 50’s.  There was a general practice of lawyers gathering at the front of the courtroom on the first day of a new session of court, and one morning they were gathered and were all socializing and chatting amongst themselves, and with the judge, before court started.  When Perry arrived, no one spoke to him, the only acknowledgement he received was being looked at “as if [he] was some kind of fool” for going up to the front of the courtroom.  He describes how badly it made him feel to be ignored and left out, but that he had vowed never to let that show.  When the then mayor of Spartanburg, Tom Whiteside arrived, Judge Perry says that it was “as if one of the major stars had walked into the courtroom,” and right away he came over to Perry and shook his hand, in what is described as a very kind and reassuring gesture.

Another anecdote from his days as a young lawyer involves meeting a judge for the first time after having communicated about a case via mail and telephone.  They had arranged a meeting, and the judge said he would take Perry to lunch afterwards.  This judge evidently was not aware of Perry’s race, and when they met he was so surprised that he inhaled his partially smoked cigar, and it became temporarily lodged in his throat.  The lunch was not mentioned.  Judge Perry tells this story in an amusing way; it is a testament to his character that he is able to look back with humor on certain incidents in a more lighthearted way, even while these same incidents serve to highlight the racial injustices he endured.  He looks back on even some of the cruelest incidents with a huge degree of reason, logic, and awareness; and with a complete lack of bitterness or hatred.

Judge Perry discusses in detail his various United States Supreme Court appearances.  His first Supreme Court case was a death penalty case, and it was the only case he lost there.  This took place in 1960, when he was still a relatively new lawyer, and appealing a case to the U.S. Supreme Court was an unfamiliar and daunting prospect.  After the Court took the case, Perry asked Thurgood Marshall to argue the case for him, but he responded “You filed it and they granted it, now you argue it.”  Perry describes his extensive preparations for the case:  packing a hundred volumes of books on Supreme Court practice in the trunk of the car to take to Washington, reading every Supreme Court death penalty case he could find, virtually memorizing the trial transcript, and staying up all night before the argument reading and studying, unable to sleep from excitement or nervousness.  It is intriguing to know that even someone so accomplished, and with such a long and illustrious legal career, was nervous going before the Supreme Court the first time, and to hear him reminisce about the experience first-hand.

Judge Perry represented Harvey Gantt in the case to integrate Clemson in 1963, and he accompanied Gantt to campus to enroll and remained friends with him; this case as well as the actual process of integrating Clemson are both discussed in detail in the interview.  When asked what he considers to have been his biggest case, in terms of social impact, Perry points to several cases.  Stevenson v. West was a United States Supreme Court case which reapportioned the South Carolina House of Representatives into single-member districts, making the process fairer, and making it possible for African Americans gain more representation in the state legislature.  In another case, Brown v. South Carolina Board of Education, Perry blocked a plan to give parents state money to send their children to private schools, which would have resulted in continued segregation.  Perry said “we think we saved the public schools of South Carolina through that lawsuit.”  In State v. Edwards, 187 protesters were arrested for disturbing the peace while marching at the South Carolina State House.  They were not being rowdy, and were in a location where they were lawfully allowed to be, and were not blocking traffic or interfering with any government function.  Perry argued this case before the United States Supreme Court, where the convictions were reversed on First Amendment grounds.  The precedent set in that case and other cases he pursued resulted in the reversals of convictions of thousands of people around the country.  Eventually, Perry built up a reputation such that sometimes merely writing a letter or threatening to sue would get the opposition to go ahead and change its discriminatory policy.

Judge Perry faced opposition from many South Carolina lawmakers, as well as citizens, on the issue of civil rights.  However, he fostered what he describes as a good working relationship and gained the respect of many people whose job descriptions included enforcing segregation, as it was the law at the time.  Perry does not speak ill of anyone, even those who were ardently opposed to and actively fighting against civil rights and integration.  A federal judge wrote in an essay for Perry’s biography, “he is the only militant civil rights figure I know who seems to be loved by both racial groups while still engaged in the struggle.”  When Perry was nominated for federal judgeships, first at the United States Court of Military Appeals, and then to the United States District Court, he mentions that many of the people he had opposed through the years wrote letters, presumably to the Senate, praising him professionally.  This is mentioned simply in passing, but seems to speak a great deal to his professionalism, civility, and integrity.

To learn more about Judge Matthew J. Perry, check out his oral history here.

Contributed by graduate student assistant Mary Kennington Steele

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Women’s History Month: Women in Power in South Carolina

With the changing months also comes the changing of South Carolina Political Collections’ small exhibit in the Britain Gallery of Hollings Library.  Women’s History Month is celebrated worldwide every March, and this year is no different.  This month’s theme is “Women in Power” featuring two former representatives from South Carolina’s House of Representatives.  Harriet H. Keyserling and Candy Yaghjian Waites were both adamant advocates of women in politics and the South Carolina education system, just to name two.


State Representative Harriet Keyserling

Mrs. Keyserling began her political career later in life, but made a lasting imprint on South Carolina politics in her eighteen years of public service.  Education was her passion. She “saw that the County Council was not doing enough for education,” and determined she would help bring about change.  In 1974, Mrs. Keyserling became the first woman elected to the Beaufort County Council.  Among her initiatives, she went on to create a library consortium with other Low Country libraries, eliminating duplication and enhancing availability of resources for the citizens of Beaufort County. 

In 1976, Mrs. Keyserling was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives.  It wasn’t long before Keyserling and other legislators, known as the “Crazy Caucus,” joined forces to advocate for such causes as rules reform, education, the environment, the arts, ethics, and campaign reform.  Mrs. Keyserling was a member of the Joint Legislative Committee on Cultural Affairs; instrumental in the passage of the Education Improvement Act; served on the Ways and Means Committee, the Public Works Committee, the Rules Committee, the Judiciary Committee, and the Joint Legislative Committee on Energy.  In 1992, Mrs. Keyserling announced her decision to retire from the House of Representatives, but she continued her work in the community until her death in 2010.


Candy Waites campaign card

Candy Yaghjian Waites’ mother was active in the League of Women Voters, which helped to cultivate her interest in public service.  While a student at Wheaton College in Massachusetts in 1964, Waites and her friends held a fundraiser to help get her home to South Carolina to vote in the presidential election.  At this time South Carolina was one of only a few states that did not extend absentee ballots to out of state college students.  While $100 seems like a small amount to pay for a plane ticket, at that time it was expensive.  Not only did she get help from her fellow students, the story was picked up nationally and donations from around the country poured in to help in her plight.  The following spring, Waites addressed the South Carolina Senate concerning amending the absentee ballot law to open it to college students. 

In 1976, Waites was the first woman elected to the Richland County Council.  As a Council member for twelve years, she sat on such boards as the Central Midlands Regional Planning Council Board and the Richland County Coordinating Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect.  In 1988, Waites was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives.  She served for six years.  During her tenure, she was involved in many issues, including child care, education, women in politics, and ethics reform.  Last week, WIS Investigative Reporter Jody Barr visited the Hollings Library to interview Ms. Waites on ethics-related issues.  The piece aired on February 27, 2014. 

waites 2

Candy Waites speaks with reporter Jody Barr

Please come by and check out the exhibit featuring Harriet Keyserling and Candy Yaghjian Waites, as well as the Olin D. Johnston and Elizabeth Johnston Patterson exhibit featured in SCPC’s main gallery.  For more information regarding these two great women, or any of our other holdings, check our website.

By: Sara Norman

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The Inspirational Sarah Leverette


Sarah Leverette

The donor of our 109th collection is a fascinating individual who has several connections to our Library’s namesake.  Like Fritz Hollings, Sarah Leverette is in her early nineties.  Like Fritz Hollings, Leverette is an inspirational lifelong learner.  Like Fritz Hollings, Leverette doesn’t believe in retirement and goes to work every day.  Like Fritz Hollings, Leverette believes government should work to help all its citizens. 

And Leverette shares some history with Senator Hollings.  She was the librarian at the USC School of Law when Sen. Hollings was in school and he holds her in great esteem.  Leverette routinely opened the Library over the Christmas holiday so students like Hollings could study.  Hollings was just one of a number of World War II veterans trying to get through school as quickly as possible to catch up for the years missed in service.  Leverette’s devotion to the students is legendary.

Leverette was born in 1919 and graduated from Anderson Junior College in 1938.  She graduated from the USC School of Law and was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in 1943.  Her first job was with the state Department of Labor, where she worked chiefly as a statistician.  Encouraged by Law School Dean Samuel Prince, she attended Columbia University for post-graduate studies in legal research and law library administration.  In 1947, she returned to USC as Law Librarian.  In addition to her work at the Library, Leverette taught legal writing for twenty-five years.  During her career, she served with distinction in the American Association of Law Librarians.  Upon her retirement from the University in 1972, Governor John West appointed her to the Workman’s Compensation Commission, which she eventually chaired.


Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings listens to his constituents at a town meeting.

She served as Law Librarian from 1947 to 1972.  Her papers will mainly document her leadership in the League of Women Voters.  Leverette joined the League in 1957 and almost immediately became one of its most active leaders promoting good government at the local and state levels.  She presided as President of the Columbia League in 1958, and has long been active on the League’s board.  She is still, today, a staunch voice for good government.

The Sarah Leverette Papers will add greatly to our rich holdings documenting the League of Women Voters in their work to encourage informed and active participation in government, to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and to influence public policy through education and advocacy.  It has been a great privilege and joy to get to know Sarah as we have worked together to build her collection.

By Herb Hartsook

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Annual Meeting of the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress, May 14-16, 2014

South Carolina Political Collections is proud to host this year’s annual meeting of the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress (ACSC). It will be held May 14-16th at the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library on the campus of the University of South Carolina (registration information here; program out in March). We hope you find this information useful as you plan your trip.

Hollings Special Collections Library

Hollings Library:
The Hollings Library opened in 2010 with South Carolina Political Collections, Rare Books and Special Collections, and Digital Collections. Visitors enter the Hollings Library via Thomas Cooper, USC’s main library. You’ll know you’ve found Thomas Cooper when you see the big reflecting pool out front. If you plan to drive to Thomas Cooper, the Bull Street Parking Garage next door has hourly parking. Save some time to look at the exhibits of Rare Books and Political Collections while you’re here.  We hope to have some new interactive elements in place by then.

The Inn at USCA block of rooms is set aside at The Inn at USC at a rate of $120/night for Wed. and Thurs. nights (breakfast & parking included). The block will be available until April 14th or until the rooms are all claimed. In order to receive the rate, you must call The Inn (803-779-7779) and refer to the block Association of Centers for Study Congress Convention–USC Libraries. If you plan to arrive Tuesday, there should be rooms available if you book sooner rather than later.

The Inn sits on the northeast side of campus and is .5 miles from the Hollings Library and a lovely 10-minute walk across USC’s Historic Horseshoe. See map below. We hope to arrange breakfast so that we will all be able to eat together at The Inn (even those not staying there) so stay tuned for more information.

The Columbia Metropolitan Airport is 7 miles (15-20 mins.) from campus. Cabs from the airport to campus are generally around $30-35 and available outside baggage claim on the lower level (not at the main entrance upstairs). If you’re interested in sharing rides, we suggest using the ACSC message board to coordinate.

Meals, except Thursday dinner, are part of your registration. Lunch will be served at the Hollings Library. On Wednesday, our group dinner will be at the renovated, historic Spigner House on the east side of campus, a short walk from The Inn and the Hollings Library. Thursday, SCPC staff members will lead groups to local, favorite dining spots (dutch treat). We’ll put out sign-up sheets at the meeting. If you head out on your own, you’ll find numerous restaurants in nearby Five Pointsthe Congaree Vista, on campus along Main and Sumter streets, or downtown along Main.

Sites within walking distance:
The meeting doesn’t start until noon on Wednesday, so why not seek out the charm and history of the South Carolina State House or the University of South Carolina campus?

SC State House from above

The State House is adjacent to campus and only 4 blocks from The Inn. Take a stroll around its grounds and you’ll come across an eclectic mix (of odd, somber, entertaining, and otherwise) old and new monuments. Make sure to head inside to grab a brochure about the grounds and take in the ornate foyers (upstairs and downstairs). The visitor’s entrance isn’t obvious but you’ll find it on the east side near the African-American History monument.

Historic Horseshoe at USC

The jewel of campus (est. 1801) is the Historic Horseshoe, the oldest section of USC and home to the South Caroliniana Library and McKissick Museum. At McKissick you’ll find the USC Visitor’s Center and an excellent exhibit, Bull Street: Forgotten Past and Uncertain Future (Bull Street is the former home of the State Mental Hospital). The Caroliniana Library is the oldest free-standing academic library (1840) in the U.S.  Worth a look is the interior of the 2nd floor reading room–it’s a replica of the original Library of Congress reading room–and the exhibit, David R. Coker and the Campaign to Modernize Southern Agriculture.

The University of South Carolina is designated a “Tree Campus USA” so if trees are your passion, take a tour.  FYI, our entire campus is also tobacco-free.

Places of interest:

Google map of ACSC meeting points of interest

Questions? Please ask your Host Committee members (i.e. Herb, Dorothy, and Lori!).

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Edward P. “Ted” Riley: In His Own Words

photo of RileyEdward P. “Ted” Riley was a lawyer, Family Court Judge, United States Attorney, South Carolina state chairman of the Democratic Party, and was active in Democratic politics for many years.  Among his many positions in community leadership, he served as counsel to the Greenville County School Board from 1958-1978, a critical time for school integration; and as chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party from 1960-1964, which was a critical time for the Democratic Party in South Carolina.  In Mr. Riley’s lengthy oral history, he discusses public and personal aspects of his life in detail, including his childhood; his educational background; his time in the Navy; his legal career; and his experiences in politics.

Ted Riley’s involvement in Democratic politics in South Carolina spanned a very active few decades, and he had close associations with many prominent South Carolina politicians. Recognizable names appear throughout the interview, including detailed accounts of his relationships and professional dealings with Speaker Sol Blatt, who was a friend of Mr. Riley’s from the time they were young; as was James Byrnes, with whom Mr. Riley had a falling out and then later a reconciliation; Judge Matthew Perry, whom he describes as “one of the greatest men I’ve ever known;” as well as Fritz Hollings, Charles Cecil Wyche, Bryan Dorn, Cole Blease, among others.

Ted Riley’s time working as a lawyer in private practice, as a Family Court Judge, and as an Assistant United States Attorney in Greenville provide for some interesting anecdotes, and shed light on just how much the practice of law differs between then and now.  In one story he describes a trial he was prosecuting involving liquor, presumably in the midst of Prohibition; during which the defendant died on the stand while Mr. Riley was cross -examining him.  The defendant’s last words before he collapsed on the stand were “I’ll see you in hell.”

Ted Riley was born in 1900, and was active and involved in politics and law up into the 1990’s.  He observed countless changes and controversies over these years; from the violent and dangerous Jim Crow period, to the school integration cases of the 1950’s, and the conflicts that accompanied integration in the 1960’s; and he discusses details about all of these in his interview.  He provides interesting insights into the changes in race relations over the years.  The 60’s was also a time when many southern Democratic politicians, as well as voters, were switching parties.  Mr. Riley, however, remained devoted to the Democratic Party throughout his life, despite many of his friends’ and colleagues’ attempts to get him to follow them to the Republican Party.

The Presidential election of 1960 was taking place in the midst of this mass-switch in party ideology, and many loyal Democrats were actively against John F. Kennedy for President.  Ted Riley was the chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party at the time.  He was a Kennedy supporter, and heavily involved in Kennedy’s presidential campaign in South Carolina, which was expected to go Republican for the first time.  Riley discusses the campaign and the election, particularly in relation to South Carolina, including Kennedy’s visit to South Carolina, Fritz Hollings’ involvement and support for Kennedy, and the eventual surprise win for Kennedy in South Carolina.

Ted Riley’s son, Dick Riley ran successfully for two terms as Governor of South Carolina, in 1978 and 1982, becoming South Carolina’s first two-term governor.  Ted Riley discusses his son’s decision to run; and his own involvement in the campaign; and some of Dick’s accomplishments during his time as governor.  He also discusses the dynamic among the major political players in the state during that time.  More on Governor Dick Riley’s family life and governorship can be found in two other oral history transcripts; that of his wife, Ann “Tunky” Yarborough Riley, and the oral history with Governor and Mrs. Riley and their son Ted Riley about their time spent in the Governor’s mansion.

To learn more about Ted Riley, check out his oral history here; or view his full collection here.

Contributed by graduate student assistant Mary Kennington Steele

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Research at SCPC Growing

The Dorothy B. Smith Reading Room

The Dorothy B. Smith Reading Room

SCPC recently compiled a report on scholarly research conducted in our holdings since we moved into the Hollings Library during the summer of 2010.  We ended up identifying over fifty researchers who we felt merited this designation.

These ranged from scholars who visited many times over a period of more than a year, such as the Cambridge University doctoral student studying the early career of Senator Fritz Hollings and a senior professor writing a biography of Congressman Bryan Dorn, both of whom presented on their work at our “Art of Political Biography” event, to more limited studies, such as the visit for just a few days by a German scholar studying the early women’s movement or the Citadel professor studying voter turnout in the 1970s.

Almost half of the scholars on this list are USC students, faculty, or staff, and four are affiliated with other South Carolina schools.  We strive to reach out to the teachers and students here, so that is a rewarding statistic.  Others traveled quite a distance, having first learned of SCPC through our website.  In addition to England and Germany, we had researchers come from places as far away as La Trobe University in Australia; the University of California, Berkeley; Princeton; and Yale.  See previous blog posts from December and January by recent visitors about their research.


Jack Roper doing research for his book on Dorn

Almost all of the people represented in this report made excellent use of our website before visiting–analyzing the finding aids we produce for our collections to identify exactly what they wanted to see, and sometimes reading our “In Their Own Words” publications and/or oral history transcripts in the comfort of their homes before coming to the Smith Reading Room.

Dorn Research Awards are available to underwrite research visits.  Three to four awards of up to $1,000 are available to reimburse scholars for travel, lodging, copying, etc.  These awards are becoming ever more popular and we take great pride in the work of our Dorn Scholars.

Over the next months, our exhibit gallery will undergo a significant change as we add new graphics and video touchscreens and displays, allowing visitors to see and hear video, audio, and images relating to our physical exhibits.  While we hope our scholarly users will enjoy the new exhibits, we hope even more that they will help explain why USC devotes the resources it does to SCPC.  It will be interesting to see if these changes will attract even more people to come and study our recent past.

–Contributed by Herb Hartsook

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Sol Blatt: In His Own Words

Sol Blatt: In His Own Words is now available online.

Born in 1895 to Russian Jewish immigrants, Blatt rose to prominence representing Barnwell, Allendale, and Bamburg Counties in the South Carolina House of Representatives. As Speaker from 1937 until 1947, and again from 1951 until 1973, Blatt set the state’s legislative agenda for much of the mid-20th century. He also identified and mentored numerous future leaders.

The “In His Own Words” collection contains personal and public letters as well as speeches and some photographs. As a small-town lawyer, local representative, and Speaker of the House, Blatt dealt with a remarkable range of issues. He wrote hundreds letters of recommendation for job applicants. He wrote letters to the state’s college football coaches asking them to recommend candidates for a vacancy at Barnwell High School. He wrote letters to the Highway Department asking them to grant his friends low license plate numbers. He even wrote letters asking the Department of Natural Resources to put fish in constituents’ ponds. All the while, he campaigned for office every two years, consulted with governors, represented defendants at trial, and raised a family.


Sol and Ethel Blatt attending the 1963 inauguration of Governor Donald Russell

Other highlights of the collection include Blatt’s correspondence related to the University of South Carolina. As a 1917 graduate of the University, Blatt kept a close watch over the school’s affairs. He frequently chided university presidents for not lobbying more forcefully for the school’s interests. He also wrote letters to recruits on behalf of Gamecock coaches.

Blatt’s papers also detail a rocky relationship with the state and national Democratic Party. Although he supported John West in the 1970 gubernatorial election, he had earlier encouraged Republican candidate Albert Watson when Watson defected from the Democratic Party in 1965. The 1960s also witnessed the rise of the so-called Young Turks among South Carolina Democrats. These Young Turks, including future leaders Dick Riley, Nick Theodore, and Tom Turnipseed, opposed what they saw as Blatt’s undemocratic control over South Carolina’s political processes. Blatt also vehemently opposed Jimmy Carter because he believed the President’s environmental policies adversely affected the nuclear waste industry in Barnwell.

This digital collection, as well as Sol Blatt’s complete personal papers housed at South Carolina Political Collections, are a rich resource for anyone who wants to know more about life and politics in South Carolina from the 1930s until the 1980s.

Contributed by Nathan Saunders

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Investing in the Future: Gov. Robert McNair, the Moody Report, and Funding Change

A guest post by Elizabeth Pearson

The decades between the end of World War II and the early 1970s comprised a period of incredible change for state governments all over the country, including South Carolina. My doctoral research focuses on one aspect of that change: how states generated new revenue to support public investment programs and meet the costs associated with growing populations.


Governor Robert McNair in his office

I came to the South Carolina Political Collections in early December to go through Governor Robert McNair’s gubernatorial papers and research McNair’s pursuit of higher taxes to fund the ambitious policies outlined in the “Moody Report.” This report, a 400-plus-page analysis prepared for the state by Moody’s Investor Services and a consulting group named Campus Facilities Associates, outlined a suite of programs that the consultants argued would help the state make a “quantum leap” forward in a range of areas. The report particularly focused on public education, including the need for a statewide public kindergarten program and higher teacher salaries.

Much of my analysis will continue over the coming months as I re-read, organize, and annotate the 2,000-plus photos that I took at SCPC and the South Carolina Archives and History Center during my visit! However, I wanted to share some preliminary insights from my research that give a sense of the rich material available at SCPC to investigate these topics.


House Speaker Sol Blatt presiding

First, one of the things I was most curious about when I came to South Carolina was how policymakers had weighed increases in the sales tax against other methods of generating new revenue. In a memo to the governor around the same time the Moody Report was released, the consultants who prepared the report stressed that tax changes should improve tax equity, or “taxation according to the ability to pay” (1). Comparing this August memo to the final version of the Moody Report and McNair’s state of the state message to the legislature in January 1969 suggests that the governor’s office debated how to balance the sales tax increase — generally regarded as a “regressive” mode of financing since it costs people at all income levels the same — with more progressive sources of revenue.

The consultants suggested raising a portion of the new revenue through increases in both corporate and individual income taxes, but the final Moody Report did not mention corporate income taxes. Instead, it advised changes to the individual income tax that would raise more revenue (2). Then, in his state-of-the-state address to the legislature in early 1969, McNair announced that he would not ask for any changes to the individual income tax — but would recommend increases in the corporate income tax, the sales tax, and taxes on alcohol and cigarettes. As I continue my research, I’ll be looking for more evidence of how policymakers thought about the pros and cons of these various taxes, as well as how those views may have shifted during the debate over improving public education in South Carolina.

Moody Report

The Moody Report debate in an editorial cartoon by Walt Lardner

Second, some of the more colorful material that I came across in the collections is an exchange of letters between Governor McNair and longtime House Speaker Sol Blatt (whose papers are available at the SCPC). Blatt wrote McNair just before the Moody Report was released, noting that he had “never had much faith in reports by outside firms coming into this State to make recommendations to tell us how our State should be operated” (3). McNair sent his personal copy of the Moody Report to Blatt and urged him to read it carefully (4), but Blatt promptly wrote back to say that the length of the report, at almost 450 pages, would prove an obstacle to reading it. “I am tied up practically all day at the office and must read it at night and to be perfectly frank, when I get home at night, I am a little tired and I do not feel like doing much serious reading and studying” (5).

When the report was released, Blatt was quoted extensively in the press criticizing the report’s overall cost and the kindergarten program in particular. An internal memo between McNair and one of his advisers about a month later reveals that the governor’s office debated how to respond to Blatt’s attacks and decided to do nothing for the time being. At the bottom of the memo, McNair scrawled, “I agree also — always good to sleep on something over night. Maybe I am letting the Speaker get to me unduly of late.” Although Blatt eventually came around to a compromise proposal authorizing a limited kindergarten program, he still delivered a “passionate, hour-long speech” on the House floor (against his doctor’s orders) outlining his concerns about other elements of the Moody Report (Page 1969a; 1969b).

As I continue to analyze the material I collected in South Carolina, I’ll be comparing my findings to research I’ve conducted in other states (New York and Texas) to better understand how states across the country responded to the financing challenges of the postwar period.


Materials from Robert E. McNair Papers:

(1) Memo from Benjamin Galos to Governor McNair, August 9, 1968, Box 52, “Moody Report, General, 1968, August” folder.

(2) “Opportunity and Growth in South Carolina: 1968-1985 [the Moody Report], Box 52.

(3) Letter from Sol Blatt to Robert McNair, July 27, 1968, Box 52, “Moody Report, General, 1968, June, cont-July” folder.

(4) Letter from Robert McNair to Sol Blatt, August 2, 1968, Box 52, “Moody Report, General, 1968, August” folder.

(5) Letter from Sol Blatt to Robert McNair, August 5, 1968, Box 52, “Moody Report, General, 1968, August” folder.

Newspaper articles:

Page, Levona.  1969a.  “Blatt Drops Kindergarten Plan Opposition.”  The State.  April 9, p. 1A. ———  1969b.  “Blatt Tells Why He Compromised.”  The State.  April 10, p. 1B.

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Christmas at the Governor’s Mansion

Living Room decorated for Christmas at the mansion in 1992.

Christmas at the Mansion in 1992

The semester is drawing to a close, and the USC community is preparing for a well-deserved break. Of course, for many, the holiday season is no time for relaxing. It is full of decorating, cooking, shopping, family visits, and a host of other activities. If that describes your schedule, you may already be feeling drained and discouraged. Well, how about taking a break, having a cup of hot cocoa, and spending time with some of our oral histories?

As part of the SCPC oral history collection, we have interviews from the Governor’s Mansion Oral History Project. Former governors and family members graciously sat with interviewers and told stories about personal life in the mansion. These reminiscences provide a wonderful glimpse into the everyday lives of the First Families, including their Christmastime memories.

Although the Governor’s Mansion is always a busy place, it experiences a dizzying whirl of activity every December that makes your schedule look like a breeze. Hundreds of people come through the mansion during the busy holiday season. Gov. John C. West (1971-75) would joke about his bouts of “invititis.”

During the holidays and other busy times, Gov. David M. Beasley (1995-99) had a remedy for exhaustion. When feeling overwhelmed at events, he quietly left the crowd downstairs, changed from black tie attire into blue jeans, and watched TV with his children. Security alerted him when it was time to go back.

Each year, governors take time during the holidays to show their gratitude to state officials and employees. Gov. and Mrs. West recalled hosting dinners for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED). Chief Pete Strom always kidded the First Lady about interrupting police operations. His undercover agents had to shave and clean up for dinner with the governor. Afterward, it took a couple of weeks for them to regain the scruffy looks needed for work.

One Christmas, Gov. Beasley and his family gave the mansion’s butlers a unique present: dinner in the State Dining Room, served by the First Family. Since the butlers served meals year-round, the First Family decided to turn the tables as a gesture of thanks. They even mimicked the idiosyncratic manners of each butler, such as placing an item on the table and then moving it ever so slightly. The staff absolutely loved it.

Visit our oral history page for more stories from the Governor’s Mansion (http://library.sc.edu/scpc/oralhistlist.html). You can read about life in the mansion under the following governors: Robert E. McNair, John C. West, James B. Edwards, Richard W. RileyCarroll A. Campbell, David M. Beasley, and James H. Hodges.

Contributed by graduate student assistant Chris Fite

Read parts 1 and 2 in our oral history series:
Tales from the Governor’s Mansion: Anecdotes from the West Family Oral Histories
Whiskey and Watermelons: Anecdotes from the Johnston Years

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The Orangeburg Massacre: Experience & History

In the SCPC, a researcher can look at first hand responses to important events.  One of the most important and one of the least understood is the series of events in Orangeburg on 7 and 8 February 1968. 

On those two days, some 200 students at South Carolina State College, most prominently and famously Cleveland Sellers, protested the segregation of the local bowling alley near campus.  There was confrontation with local police at the bowling alley on 7 February, and an officer was injured; then protesters were chased back to campus and order was restored. 


National Guard troops in Orangeburg, SC, 1968
(photo by Bill Barley)

The next day, 8 February, a larger demonstration on campus, featuring a bonfire on a vacant lot, developed.  South Carolina Army National Guard (SCARNG) troops, State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) agents, and the highway patrol all came in force, armed with live ammunition, to ensure order on 8 February.   In that second day of demonstration, things “got ugly” as we southerners say, and three students were killed, and 27 were injured.  Generally, black people and a handful of liberals call the violence The Orangeburg Massacre.   Other people, especially white officials then in authority, usually called it The Orangeburg Riot.


Governor Robert McNair in 1967

William Jennings Bryan Dorn, then US Congressman from Third District, Robert E. McNair, then Governor, Strom Thurmond, then US Senator, and John Bolt Culbertson, attorney and reformist, all have papers at SCPC in which they discuss the events.  Of that group, only Culbertson initially called it a massacre, and the other people, especially Congressman Dorn (who of course was nowhere near Orangeburg that February) tended to blame the student demonstrators.  John Carl West, then Lieutenant Governor, oversaw an investigation into the actual events but also into root causes of the student demonstrations and possible overreaction by law enforcement officials, and West began to see the controversy as a Massacre.


Jack Bass with copies of The Orangeburg Massacre on the shelf behind him

Journalist nonpareil Jack Bass, whose autograph correspondence is scattered through SCPC collections, was quite sure that it was a massacre, and he and veteran journalist Jack Nelson published The Orangeburg Massacre, reissued with revisions in 2003 by Mercer University Press.  In that same year of reissuing his study, Jack Bass worked as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and produced “Documenting the Orangeburg Massacre” for Harvard’s educational serial, Nieman Reports.

For the record, I think it was a massacre, but looking at everyone’s papers reminds me of my own passage through those times, and my own participant/observer role in such things. 

In spring semester 1968, I was a journalism major at USC, and I took a class in which each scholar had a “beat” to cover for a “daily” newspaper that we wrote up—although this “daily” never went beyond the eyes of our instructors Professors Watson, Crutchfield, and McElveen.  My beat was the Office of the Governor, and each week I went in to interview Press Secretary Wayne Seal.  I never actually met Governor McNair, but read statements he had produced and then talked with Wayne.  The Governor often came to campus, and I heard and saw him often in what we now call simpler days (before the spring and summer 1968 assassinations and race riots). 

gov staff

Governor McNair with some of his staff, including press secretary Wayne Seal (standing second from left)
(photo by Bill Barley)

I had already formed the opinion that Jack Bass was the greatest journalist ever to work in my state.  I had also formed the opinion that he was close second to Greenwood’s Harry Watson for the title “bravest journalist in South Carolina.”  I admired Wayne Seal, and characterize him as one of the finest men I ever met and someone of unimpeachable honesty. 

In my interviews with Wayne Seal, he told me that students on the scene had gotten out of hand and threw rocks and bricks and suchlike at officials until one of the police, David Sheally (possibly some relation of my wife, a Bowers related to Shealy and  Sheally and Shealey) was injured.  Seal said that the officials present at the bowling alley off campus on 7 February gathered up Officer Sheally and chased demonstrators out of the business establishment and back to campus with minimal but appropriate threat of force. 

wounded student

Aftermath: tending to wounded students at the site of the bonfire
(photo by Bill Barley)

He also told me that the following day, 8 February, students gathered again, building a bonfire on a vacant lot and making quite a disturbance.   He said that an appropriate level of force was used, and that he and the Governor both regarded it as a “tragedy” (McNair’s word, repeated with sincere emphasis by Seal).  He also said that Lieutenant Governor West was developing an in-depth study of the root causes of the problems that led to a demonstration that led to violence.  In other words, McNair and West agreed that forces of racism were the indirect cause of whatever happened, regardless of how well law enforcement people behaved. 

In the Dorn papers, I see that over the ensuing months the Congressman read John West’s report and began to take a more nuanced approach to racism and the ensuing demonstrations.  He also began to direct Great Society funding toward Orangeburg’s black community and to direct funding toward the cash-starved SC State College.

Wayne Seal seemed genuinely upset and convinced me that he and all Governor McNair’s people were sincerely sorry that any students were injured.   The USC class featured constantly running “ticker tape” wire releases from the Associated Press and from United Press International, and these stories initially affirmed Wayne Seal’s version. 


SC National Guard Troops arrive in Orangeburg on the night of February 8, 1968
(photo by Bill Barley)

I wrote up the story that way, affirming my own belief in Governor McNair’s version; as I often did, I attempted historical background and spent so much time trying to explain socioeconomic roots of the demonstration (including an interview with economist John Kenneth Galbraith, then in town to give a speech at USC), that my story was too long, too unwieldy and actually did little to explain much about what had happened in Orangeburg or what the Governor was doing about it.  In fact, that story plus another longish interview feature with Professor Galbraith led Professor Crutchfield to command me (you could do that to students in those days at Carolina) to leave journalism and become a history major—certainly a career changing piece of advice and certainly brilliant counseling and effective advising.

Among things that troubled me then and still trouble me now was Governor McNair’s insistence, reinforced effectively person to person by Wayne Seal, that the shootings had all happened “off campus,” where my hero Jack Bass was insisting that the shootings happened in the middle of the State College campus.


The book by Jack Bass

Time passed, and the summer of 1969 came on.  The University was already officially integrated, but Lyndon Johnson arranged a special program in which transfer students who were black (in that day we still said Negro and would not adopt black or African American for another year or two—Martin Luther King Jr. seems to have gone to his grave still calling himself and his people Negro) could take summer courses while getting accustomed to the campus. 

A large number of these students, “large” at USC in 1969 being about 50, were scheduled to move into the old towers (H, J, K, L, M, and N, six ugly buildings that once stood where the handsome Honors College complex now stands).  We white students were given the option of staying or moving to different quarters.  My roommate David Ronald Lewis of Easley turned to me and asked if I was afraid of them (he did not say Negro and he did not say black and our mothers would have killed us if either of us had used a racial slur), but the way he said them was not fully Christian.  I said loudly, “they did not scare me.”   I spoke more from bravado than liberalism.  And so we stayed.  Soon we formed friendships with the new students.  Several of us arranged to live on the same dormitory floor in the towers the following fall semester, 1969.

Among my new friends was Charles Miller, a young man who had started academic life at SC State College, was drafted, and then came back with GI money to attend USC.  Charles had his own version of the events at Orangeburg, though he was in the army by the time of the events.  I was drawn to all of it, and talked and talked with everybody I could find. 

As a “newcomer” history major, I studied with Dr. Thomas E. Terrill, then brand new at USC, and he arranged a number of “rap sessions” to discuss race relations generally as well as giving us interesting assignments to read.  Soon, I concluded that Governor McNair was a good man who had misled us about where the violence happened—clearly it was on the campus—and who was mostly at fault—too many wounds were in the back or on feet to suggest that the demonstrators had made a frontal charge at police and SCARNG unit members.  The long prison term for Cleveland Sellers began to seem an incredible injustice.

My own life grew more complex.  I joined a SCARNG unit, in Lyman, the mill village where I spent the first three years of my life.  I waited to undergo boot camp, but was “trained” for riot control during my transitional status.  I heard the SCARNG version of the Orangeburg disturbances.  Some guardsmen bragged about what they had done.   Most insisted that they were badly prepared for such a demonstration, and inappropriately armed. 


The McKissick Library, now Museum, as it stands today

In spring of 1970, I was in the oddest position imaginable.  Antiwar demonstrations on campus attracted me as news events and “history in the present,” but I was a member of the Lyman SCARNG unit that might have to defend the campus.   One evening I threw a beer bottle at a wall of one of the towers, and I realized how I was part of the National Guard’s problem—as well as a guardsman.  I retreated to the McKissick Library (then our main library) and that night a SCARNG captain came in to tell us we had to leave at once or spend the night in the library.  I had a paper due, and liked to stay up all night, so I simply read books in McKissick and wrote feverishly.  They opened the doors at dawn, and I stepped onto a campus shrouded in drifting tear gas and covered in trash, with some broken windows and some vandalism.  My eyes stung, and I could have cried in any case to see my beloved USC in such a wreck. I felt bad for student demonstrators, and I felt worse for the guardsmen who had to defend property and protect lives.  I wondered then—and still today—what I would have done if called upon to protect the campus.  The Lyman unit was not called, and we all graduated that June without further incident.


Lt. Governor John Carl West, who oversaw an investigation into the shootings at Orangeburg

Now in looking at Congressman Dorn’s speeches immediately after the fact that February and March and reviewing Governor McNair’s statements and then reading the carefully measured words of the John West study, I realize my good fortune.  No one wrote down my own responses on February 8, 1968.  No one preserved my odd J-school story that started with socioeconomic conditions in colonial times and never quite got to the point of the demonstrations in Orangeburg.  No one knows that I threw a beer bottle at one of the towers buildings.  No demonstrators knew I was in the National Guard. 

All of us have changed much since those days.  Wayne Seal perished in a plane crash in Charlotte, ending a promising political career and costing me a friend and an “oral history source.”  Bryan Dorn remade himself, giving a particularly brave speech defending school busing—the only member of the SC Delegation to so speak and the only Deep South Congressman to so speak.  Robert McNair was certainly better than he sounded that February, and I suppose historians will reevaluate him accordingly.  Strom Thurmond spectacularly remade himself, becoming a highly dependable Senator for black as well as white “constituent services.”  And Thurmond voted for the 1982 extension of the Voting Rights Act—and apparently had something to do with President Reagan signing it after initial reluctance. 

Jack Bass gets better and better as a scholar, I suppose now regarding himself as historian more than journalist.  The towers are gone, and I have no idea where Charles Miller.  David Lewis, I have not seen in years, but I hear of him, and I know he was voted into the Easley High School Football Hall of Fame.  Professor Crutchfield moved to Syracuse University, and is now retired.  Professor Terrill gets better and better and also frequents the SCPC, currently working—of course—on a study of John Bolt Culbertson, a hero long dead.  Cleveland Sellers was pardoned and came here to USC as a good professor before taking over presidency of Voorhees College.  I saw him and shook his hand in Pawleys Island recently.

And all of you can use the resources of the SCPC to make up your own minds about the tragic events at SC State on 7 and 8 February and the months thereafter.

Contributed by John Herbert (Jack) Roper

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