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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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, or if you’d like to learn more about John Carl West, you can see the full contents of his collection at

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 Once you’ve finished reading about Chadwick and Johnston, check out the rest of our oral histories at

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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