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William Jennings Bryan Dorn Papers

The William Jennings Bryan Dorn collection is the largest manuscript collection received by the South Caroliniana Library to date. Dorn, who represented South Carolina's Third Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives for thirteen terms between 1948 and 1974, did not seek reelection in 1974. Instead, he ran and lost in a bid for governor. Over the past year, division staff have completed processing the collection and are in the process of preparing a finding aid listing the collection's contents at the folder level for most series.

The collection now consists of one hundred fifty-five linear feet of material arranged in two main series: public and personal Papers. Public papers are subdivided into case files, correspondence, military academy recommendations, office files, post office records, speeches and press releases, topical files, voting record, and audio-visual materials. Personal papers include general papers, campaign records, 1940-1986, records regarding the South Carolina Democratic Party, and topical files.

In the public papers series, the general papers are of great importance and chiefly include correspondence to and from people throughout government, South Carolina, and the nation discussing affairs of the day. Typical of the quality of the correspondence is a letter of 22 January 1948 in response to H. Klugh Purdy's query about the possibility of Dorn bolting the Democratic Party--"...for years the Democratic Party has ignored our section of the country in favor of radicals and people like Henry Wallace. Even now they are trying to steal Henry Wallace's platform, which is that of the radical elements of the country. I do not believe the Democratic National Party, as it now stands, will seriously push this segregation issue, so I would not want to inaugurate a movement myself in South Carolina at the present time to lead the state out of the Democratic Party because of my position here in Washington. I have to get along with some of these fellows in order to get things done, but I think the people down there should start a movement along this line. I would be delighted to come to Jasper County and make a speech any time soon on the principles of real Southern democracy. In fact, I am very anxious to speak to the real Democrats in your county." Also included is a copy, 2 April 1968, of a report to Mayor Lester Bates of Columbia and the Community Relations Council on "The Cause of Racial Unrest in Columbia by The Negro Students of The University of South Carolina."

Speeches and press releases, 1948-1974, consist of news releases from Dorn's office and excerpts, drafts, and texts of speeches delivered by Dorn. These valuable records allow the reconstruction of Dorn's activities in Congress and his views on important subjects of the day.

Topical files comprise by far the largest series in the collection. Files contain legislative matter, reference material, and correspondence from other members of Congress, constituents and other interested citizens, and persons in state and local government. Topics reflect Dorn's committee assignments--Agriculture, Public Works, and Veterans Affairs; subjects of prime interest to South Carolina and the upcountry, such as textiles; as well as more prescribed subjects, including the Watergate Hearings.

Of particular interest are files, 1959-1974, on the development of power plants along the Savannah River and the construction of Hartwell Dam and the dam at Trotters Shoals. Dorn led the opposition to the latter project, championed by South Carolina's senior senator Olin D. Johnston. Dorn believed that proposed industrial development of the area and the resulting increase in the tax base outweighed any benefit in building the dam and losing valuable land under water. Two major corporations, Duke Power and Mead, were considering major developments in the proposed dam site--a steam plant and paper mill respectively. Related files are found under such headings as Duke Power Company, Keowee-Toxaway, Mead Corporation, and Trotters Shoals. Topical files also contain material, 1948-1949, on civil rights, including a pamphlet, Another Step To Socialism, labeled "Excerpts from a chapter of a forthcoming book by Wm. Jennings Bryan Dorn," which attacks Truman's proposed Fair Employment Practices Act.

Personal papers document Dorn's life outside Congress. General papers in this series primarily contain personal correspondence regarding family matters, management of the Dorn farm, and Dorn's life after leaving public office.

Campaign files, 1940-1985, are particularly rich and contain valuable information on Dorn's races and other local, statewide, and national campaigns. One-half foot of material documents Dorn's 1948 Senate campaign against Burnet Maybank. This file documents Dorn's attacks upon Judge J. Waties Waring and his belief that Maybank's deep pockets were the prime cause of the election defeat. Material from 1954 includes numerous mailings from the Democratic National Committee and a folder of Dorn's correspondence documenting his decision not to initiate a write-in campaign for the Senate. Dorn felt such a campaign would further confuse the race and weaken the Democratic party in South Carolina.

Dorn's great popularity is attested to by the fact that he was unopposed for reelection in four successive elections beginning in 1956. 1956 campaign records chiefly document the presidential campaign of Adlai Stevenson on whose behalf Dorn stumped in Florida. 1960 files include correspondence revealing Dorn's interest in nominating South Carolina's young and popular governor, Ernest F. Hollings, for the presidency and his belief that a candidate who would represent the South's ideals should be nominated. Also included is a transcript of the famous television debate between Kennedy and Nixon broadcast 9 September 1960. 1962 campaign files include correspondence resulting from press speculation that Dorn might challenge Olin Johnston for the United States Senate, possibly as a Republican.

Extensive files document Dorn's gubernatorial campaigns of 1974 and 1978. Among the material documenting the 1974 campaign is regular correspondence with Sol Blatt, H.P. Stephenson, and Julius Wolfe. Dorn polled his supporters before announcing for governor, and the responses to his query signal the ambiguity felt by his friends and associates over his desire to run for statewide office. Many wanted to endorse Dorn's bid yet were reluctant to lose such a powerful voice in the House. Papers relating to the Democratic Party, 1980-1985 and undated, chiefly document Dorn's tenure as chairman of the state party and are comprised of correspondence, minutes, and financial data. This sub-series also includes significant material documenting activities of the Democratic National Committee and the presidential primaries and campaigns.

Topical Files within the personal series include a file on Dorn's namesake, William Jennings Bryan, with Bryan autograph items. Other files include genealogical data and records relating to Dorn's association with the American Legion, former members of Congress, 1974-1985, Furman University, 1979-1982, Lander College, 1976-1985, Leadership South Carolina, 1979-1986, Piedmont Technical Education Center, 1975-1984, Russell Dam, 1975-1985, South Carolina Farm Bureau, 1976-1978, South Carolina Forestry Association, 1977-1981, speeches and press releases, 1975-1984, the University of South Carolina, and veterans affairs, 1975-1983.

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