An Evening of Prose, Refreshment, and Reminiscence
Governor Robert E. McNair was feted on July 13, 2006, at an event hosted by University Libraries, South Carolina Political Collections, The Institute for Southern Studies, and the USC Press. The event celebrated the publication of McNair's biography, South Carolina at the Brink: Robert E. McNair and the Politics of Civil Rights, by Philip Grose, and the opening of the McNair Papers to researchers by South Carolina Political Collections.
Over two hundred people packed the Mezzanine Level of Thomas Cooper Library to see an exhibit of the McNair Papers and buy and have inscribed copies of the biography.
Herb Hartsook, director of SCPC, greeted the gathering at six o'clock. He was followed by speakers Walter Edgar, Director of the Institute for Southern Studies, Mack Whittle, chairman of the South Group and a long-time member of the USC Board of Trustees, and Phil Grose. The evening's remarks concluded with comments by Governor McNair (right), and the last book was inscribed shortly before eight p.m.
Biographer Grose (left) drew laughter and applause when he began his remarks by saying, "This book is about politics, unashamedly so. We are living through times when this word has fallen from favor. Candidates for public office spend tens of thousands of dollars on television advertising to tell us in great and solemn terms that they are not politicians."
He noted that McNair provided leadership during a "period in which the entire values and way of life of the people of this state changed. The changes were hard-earned and painful." Grose characterized McNair himself as, "a remarkable South Carolinian who embodied all those values so critical to that era - moderation, pragmatism, political skills and the willingness to compromise."
Former first lady Josephine McNair accompanied her husband (right). Three of the McNairs' four children attended. Other guests included Herbert Adams, chairman of the University Board of Trustees, Board secretary Tommy Stepp, Chief Justice Jean Toal, Senator John Drummond, the Hon. and Mrs. Matthew Perry, Judge Joe Anderson, and photographer Bill Barley. Several of the photographs used to illustrate the biography were taken from Barley's work, which is collected at SCPC.
At left, Jean Toal, Chief Justice of the S.C. Supreme Court, Dr. Cleveland Sellers, professor of African-American Studies at USC, and Ike Williams, District Aide for Congressman Jim Clyburn, socialize at the reception.
Members of the local press flocked around McNair and Grose early in the evening, creating a procession of interviewers among whom they maneuvered efficiently. Below, McNair speaks with a correspondent from ABC Columbia.
The McNair collection is comprised of over 130 feet of papers, photographs, and other material dating from 1953 to the present. It will provide historians and other researchers with virtually a full record of McNair's important achievements over a long and distinguished career in public service. While at SCPC, these researchers will be able to work with allied collections including the papers of McNair's gubernatorial predecessors, Fritz Hollings and Donald Russell, and successors including John West, Jim Edwards and Dick Riley.
A detailed description of the McNair papers is available on this website, as is an electronic exhibit on McNair. The biography has received very positive reviews and is available on the internet and at leading book stores around the state.