Christian Action Council Records,

See other finding aids to collections available from SCL Manuscripts Division

The records of the Christian Action Council (1933-1996) document the social and religious activities and interests of South Carolina's first ecumenical organization. Information concerning copyright must be secured in writing from the Director of the South Caroliniana Library.

Extent: 17.75 linear ft. (15 cartons)
Location: Annex
Materials stored offsite; advance notification required.


Currently known as the "South Carolina Christian Action Council," this organization remains active today.
Browse the organization's own web site to learn more about recent activities in years following donation of these records to SCL.
See related links on these non-USC sites:(Use Back button to return to SCL pages.)

Chronology (1933-1990)


1933 South Carolina Federated Forces for Temperance and Law Enforcement organized to “fight the repeal” of the Eighteenth Amendment; Dr. John Roper, President, Dr. Charles E. Burts, Executive Secretary.
1938 A.D. Betts, Executive Secretary of Federated Forces, began editing a publication, South Carolina Temperance News.
Maxie Collins, Jr. became Executive Secretary in January. “Christian Citizenship” and “Knowledgeable Political Action” were given a stronger emphasis.
1950 At Annual Meeting in January, Betts was elected President; the name was changed to the Temperance League of South Carolina, and Howard G. McClain was elected Executive Secretary.

At spring meeting, new name (Christian Action Council), new constitution, and enlarged purpose were adopted.

1952 Christian Action Council (CAC) merged with the South Carolina Association for Alcohol Education, becoming South Carolina's first racially integrated organization.

CAC took first public action related to race relations in releasing a widely publicized statement supporting a state constitutional mandate that required public education be available to students of all races.

1953 Created statewide Citizen's Committee for Local Option to combat the legality of alcohol sales in South Carolina.
1960 A decade of “Social Concerns Conferences” was begun. Topics included Communism, television, desegregation of public schools, Anti-Semitism, Vietnam, poverty, etc.

Council moves offices from Methodist Center into new Baptist Building in Columbia.

1964 The Council sponsored its first annual “Churchmen's Legislative Seminar” at Trinity Episcopal Church in Columbia. The event was the first public program including a meal for a non-segregated audience in South Carolina.
1969 Dr. Joseph Stukes installed as President, becoming the first layperson to serve in that capacity. Future presidents included Christians of all denominations, races, and genders.
1970 First Christian Action Council Award was awarded to James Rogers of Florence, South Carolina.

CAC initiated “Good News for South Carolina” program, distributing Good News for Modern Man Bibles to South Carolinians.

1972 Internal Revenue Service ruled against CAC's tax-exempt status. Council raised $9914.84 to pay assessment. CAC then brought suit to recover funds and succeeded.
1973 CAC underwent thorough self-evaluation study Dr. Robert Wilson of Duke University and Dr. Robert Ackerman of Erskine University, resulting in stronger commitments from member-denominations.
1975 Helped to form the Congress of Christians and Jews in South Carolina, initiated by the CAC and President Ralph Cannon.

Moved offices from the Baptist Building to the campus of the Lutheran Seminary in Columbia.

1978 Sponsored first “Women in Church in the Future” conference in cooperation with cooperation with over twenty denominations, both mainline and pentecostal.
1985 Howard G. McClain resigned after thirty-five years of service. Dr. Russell B. Norris was chosen as new Executive Minister.
1990 Dr. L. Wayne Bryan becomes new Executive Minister.

Historical Sketch

The Christian Action Council was formed in 1933 as an ecumenical organization devoted to fighting the repeal of Prohibition. Comprised mostly of Methodists and Baptists, the group, then known as the South Carolina Federated Forces for Temperance and Law Enforcement, included members of several Christian denominations. Under the executive leadership of Rev. C.E. Burts (1933-1938), Rev. A.M. Betts (1938-1948), and Rev. Maxie Collins (1948-1950), the group strove to make the sale of alcohol in South Carolina illegal. Following World War II, the Federated Forces changed their goal from absolute temperance to “Local Option.” This system would have allowed citizens to locally vote on the legality of alcohol in their individual county.

In 1950, Rev. Howard G. McClain assumed leadership of the group, providing them with not only a new Executive Secretary, but also a new Executive Minister. On January 23, 1951, the Federated Forces officially changed their name to the Christian Action Council (CAC). This change represented the new perspective McClain would bring to the organization. Rather than focus solely on temperance, as the group had traditionally done, McClain broadened the CAC's mission to include “the promotion of relevant social, educational, and action programs of cooperating denominations [and] serve as a liaison between churches and important movements for moral and social welfare in the state.”

As the CAC's mission grew, so did its membership. The group grew to include virtually every major Protestant denomination in the state. In 1952, the CAC merged with the South Carolina Association for Alcohol Education, becoming South Carolina's first integrated organization, receiving support from both white and African-American congregations. Following the merger, the promotion of racial integration became a major focus of the CAC. In 1964, they held the first Churchmen's Legislative Seminar. This annual program brought religious and political leaders of all races together in a forum-style meeting to discuss race relations and other current social problems in South Carolina. The 1964 meeting became the first public program in South Carolina including a meal for a non-segregated audience.

The 1960s also witnessed the beginning of a decade of “Social Concerns Conferences.” These conferences displayed the CAC's expanded interest in all issues of social and moral concern. Under Rev. Howard G. McClain's guiding hand, the organization sought to educate Christian members about all social problems affecting the state through these conferences and seminars. In addition to alcohol and race issues, the group's causes included care for the elderly, drugs, education, gambling, gun control, highway safety, marriage and divorce laws, housing, poverty, women's rights and others. Because the organization included numerous denominations, some with slightly differing beliefs, the CAC avoided taking sides on more controversial issues, such as abortion.

The CAC continued these seminars and conferences throughout the 1970s. The three biggest and most successful of these were the “Good News for South Carolina” program, the “Women in the Church” seminar, and the inception of the Christian Action Award. Sponsored in 1970, the first was an effort to distribute recently published Good News for Modern Man Bibles to every South Carolinian, since scriptures in the new Bibles had been paraphrased into a vernacular language that could be easily understood. The second program addressed the prejudices and stereotypes of women and their role in church leadership. Finally, in 1970, the group awarded its first Christian Action Award. Given for outstanding achievement in Christian service, the award eventually became an annual one.

The CAC possessed a very dedicated following throughout the 1980s. The group suffered a loss, however, in 1985, with the retirement of McClain. His leadership for thirty-five years in the capacity of Executive Secretary had guided the CAC through both prosperous and troubled years. McClain had overseen the CAC from its inception, and many doubted its future success after his retirement. The CAC, however, quickly recovered and continued to advocate social and moral change in South Carolina during the 1990s. Although the group did not retain the visibility it once enjoyed, the legacy of its achievements will always remain.


McClain, Howard G. “South Carolina Beginnings and Becomings,” 1993.

Spears, R. Wright. Journey Toward Unity: the Christian Action Council in South Carolina, 1933- 1983. Columbia, SC: Crowson-Stone Printing Co., 1983.

Scope and Content Notes

The collection consists of approximately 17.75 linear feet that document the activities and concerns of the Christian Action Council (CAC) of South Carolina. The dates of the collection range from 1923 to 1996, with the bulk of materials dating from 1942 to 1985. The collection is comprised of correspondence, memos, meeting minutes, program itineraries, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, and photographs relating to the ecumenical organization. The collection is divided into seven series: administrative, programs, publications, religion, subject files, outside organizations, and photographs.

Series I, Administrative

Series I, Administrative, reflects the daily workings of the CAC and is the largest of the collection. Although the series dates from 1923-1996, the bulk of materials range from 1945-1985. The series is divided into the following twelve subseries: Annual Meeting / Christian Action Award, Committees, Correspondence, Finance, Governance, Information, McClain Family, Membership, Minutes, Miscellaneous, Officers, and Self-Study. The Annual Meeting / Christian Action Award subseries includes memos, correspondence, and itineraries for the planning of the Council's annual planning session. Minutes, reports, and memos can be found in the Committees subseries. The Correspondence subseries contains the letters and memos of CAC leaders. Correspondence is broken into general, letters to Howard G. McClain, letters from Howard G. McClain, and the Rev. Clyde Helms letters. Howard G. McClain maintained contact with many prominent South Carolinians, including Arthur Clement, Jr. and James T. McLawhorn. Financial statements, budgets, and audit materials comprise the Finance subseries. Governance contains statements of purpose, governance documents, and the organization's constitution and by-laws. The Information subseries provides general data about the CAC and the McClain Family includes family records and personal records of Howard G. McClain and his family. The Membership subseries consists of mailings and membership lists. The Minutes subseries contains minutes of administrative meetings. The Miscellaneous subseries is comprised of materials that did not fit easily into another category and includes daily schedules, notes, and general office information. Installation programs and personal information can be found in Officers and Self-Study documents the self-analysis the CAC conducted in the early 1970s.

Series II, Programs

Series II, Programs, contains materials pertaining to the programs sponsored by the CAC. The series ranges in date from 1948-1985 and is arranged alphabetically. Included in the series are agendas, memos, correspondence, registration and evaluation forms, and information materials for the planning and execution of the many seminars and conferences the CAC conducted addressing a wide range of social and religious issues. Also included in the series is a reel to reel audio recording of the 1964 Consultation on Civil Rights.

Series III, Publications

Series III, Publications, consists of CAC publications and newsletters. These publications have been removed from the collection and can be found in the Books Division of the South Caroliniana Library.
Christian Action Council News (1981- )
Comments (1957- )
Witness (1965- )
Your State House (1957- )

Series IV, Religion

The CAC possessed a firm belief in witnessing their Christian faith to others and maintained extensive files on numerous Christian denominations and other world religions. These can be found in Series IV, Religion. The series is arranged alphabetically. Dating from 1942-1992, the series contains brochures, pamphlets, informational sheets, and church bulletins.

Series V, Subject Files

Series V, Subject Files, reflects the varied interests of the CAC. Although the CAC did not have the resources to conduct seminars and conferences on all of these topics, many of these areas were the basis for some of the Council's most successful programs. Ranging in date from 1949-1989, this series is arranged alphabetically, and contains brochures, pamphlets, news clippings, and other materials pertaining to the many social causes and problems in which the CAC took an interest. The organization maintained larger files on alcohol, blue laws, education, local option, desegregation, and race relations.

Series VI, Outside Organizations

Series VI, Outside Organization is comprised of information on other social and political organizations active in South Carolina. The series is arranged alphabetically. The CAC co-sponsored programs with many of these groups. Included in the series are brochures, pamphlets, news clippings, and informational sheets on these organizations and their purposes.

Series VII, Photographs

Series VII, Photographs, contains negatives and photographs of CAC members, leaders, and events. The photographs range in date from 1960-1979, but a majority of the photographs are neither dated nor identified. The series is arranged chronologically

Series List
Description of Series

Administrative, 1923-1996 (bulk 1945-1985), undated (Boxes 1-6, 15)

Arranged by subseries. Arranged alphabetically within each subseries. Includes correspondence, financial records, minutes, pamphlets, informational sheets, family Records, bound ledger volumes.

Programs, 1948-1985, undated (Boxes 6-9, 15)

Arranged alphabetically. Includes program agendas, minutes, pamphlets, correspondence, and reel to reel audio recording.


Books Division, South Caroliniana Library Includes Christian Action Council newsletters and publications.

Religion, 1942-1992, undated (Boxes 10-11, 15)

Arranged alphabetically. Includes brochures, pamphlets, informational sheets, and church bulletins.

Subject Files, 1948-1989, undated (Boxes 11-13, 15)

Arranged alphabetically. Includes brochures, pamphlets, news clippings, informational sheets.

Outside Organizations, 1942-1986, undated (Boxes 13-14)

Arranged alphabetically. Includes brochures, pamphlets, news clippings, informational sheets.

Photographs, 1960-1979, undated (Box 14)

Arranged chronologically. Includes photographs and negatives.

Container List

The container list for the Christian Action Council Records consists of a 27-page file available in

Adobe Acrobat PDF formatPDF Version (To update software visit Adobe Acrobat homepage.)

Microsoft Word formatMS Word

Columbia Departments Campus Libraries
Columbia Libraries and Collections