THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
1962: Lieutenant Governor
Robert McNair began his political career by serving ten years as representative for Allendale County in the General Assembly. In 1961 he set his sights on South Carolina's executive offices.
In the summer of 1961 McNair announced he would run for lieutenant governor in 1962. Two other Democratic hopefuls threw their hats into the ring: Oconee County Senator Marshall J. Parker and Greenville County Representative Rex Carter. Early in 1962 Carter withdrew from the campaign.
At an Allendale fund-raiser in April 1962, McNair declared, "It is my sincere desire to serve wherever I can in South Carolina. If I am given the opportunity to serve in a high office, I shall do everything I can to deserve that office." Explaining his interest in the office, Parker stated, "I believe this office affords one of the highest opportunities to be of service to our state. The decisions and appointments by the Lt. Governor, as presiding officer of the Senate, can very well determine the future course of South Carolina."
The race for lieutenant governor was particularly hard-fought that year, as both candidates were popular. According to the Anderson Daily Mail: "For the first time in the memory of political observers, the lieutenant governor's contest has been waged on a large scale — with billboards, pretty campaign girls, well-staffed offices and the other expensive devices usually reserved for well-financed governor and U.S. Senate races." Once the dust settled on primary night in June, McNair had won with 155,000 votes to Parker's 115,000. He was unopposed in the general election.
Following the sudden death of U.S. Senator Olin D. Johnston in 1965, Governor Donald Russell resigned as South Carolina's chief executive. McNair succeeded Russell to the office and appointed the former governor to the empty senatorial seat. In 1966, having served a partial term, McNair campaigned for a full term.
He was unopposed for the Democratic nomination, so he focused his attention on the general election and his opponent, Clarendon County Representative Joseph O. Rogers, Jr. (right), who switched to the Republican Party just before announcing his gubernatorial candidacy. At the announcement Rogers stated, "My political philosophy is close to Sen. [Strom] Thurmond's and has been for many years."
The campaign was tough, and many harsh accusations were hurled between Republicans and Democrats. At a press conference Rogers described the unusual circumstances of McNair's rise to the governorship as "arranging a double promotion" in collusion with Russell. According to an article in The State newspaper, McNair responded to the charge by saying "he has no apologies to anyone for appointing Russell to the U.S. Senate." He also "advised his Republican opponent and the GOP state chairman to take a lesson in constitutional government."
While parrying the verbal thrusts of his opponent, McNair continued to make appearances around the state, meeting his constituents and outlining his platform.
At left, he confers with a voter at the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company in North Charleston.
On election night, 1966, McNair's perseverance paid off with a decisive victory. He had been elected to a full term with 255,854 votes to Rogers' 184,088. In the pictures below, he celebrates the exciting results with his wife Josephine and eldest daughter Robin.
In the wake of McNair's election, an editorial in The Greenville News explained, "His 'low-key' method of of operation is deceptive to many, but those close to state government know he has handled both crises and routine problems...and has started revamping internal administrative operations in a most effective manner."
The editor continued by declaring McNair's victory "a personal one. He ran his own campaign in his own way and his sincerity and dedication came through to the voters."