logo of university of south carolina
SOUTH CAROLINIANA LIBRARY
UNIVERSITY SOUTH CAROLINIANA SOCIETY
MODERN POLITICAL COLLECTIONS

William D Workman Papers

Journalist William Douglas Workman (1914-1990) is best remembered for his pivotal role in the emergence of the Republican Party as a viable alternative to the Democratic Party in South Carolina. In 1962, when the Democrats were the dominant political power in the state, he made a serious bid for the U.S. Senate as a Republican. Although unsuccessful, Workman received enough votes to signal to others of like mind that a Republican could win a state-wide race. Workman's long and distinguished career as a journalist was spent chiefly with the News & Courier (Charleston) and The State (Columbia).

W.D. Workman, Jr., son of William Douglas and Vivian Watkins Workman, was born in Greenwood on 10 August 1914. After graduating from Greenville High School in 1931, Workman entered The Citadel, where he majored in English and History. Upon his graduation in 1935, he moved to Washington, D.C., to attend George Washington University Law School. Law school proved not to his liking, and he returned to South Carolina where he began his career in journalism as a reporter for the News & Courier. In addition to reporting for the News & Courier, Workman managed local radio station WTMA.

Workman was called to active duty by the U.S. Army in 1940. His wartime service as an intelligence officer included tours in the United States, England, North Africa and the Pacific. He was demobilized in 1945 and returned to South Carolina to resume his career as a journalist. Workman remained active in the reserves and eventually retired from the military in 1965 with the rank of colonel.

Upon his return to the News & Courier, Workman became capital correspondent in Columbia. In addition to his position with the News & Courier, between 1945 and 1962, Workman wrote columns and articles for numerous other publications. These included several newspapers around the state, Newsweek magazine, the Hall Syndicate, and South Carolina Magazine. He also appeared regularly on WIS radio and TV in Columbia.

Workman's skills as a researcher and writer were not limited to newspapers and broadcast journalism. A strong believer in state's rights and the virtues of Southern culture, Workman wrote The Case for the South (1960), one Southerner's statement of the region's position on integration, and The Bishop from Barnwell (1963), which examines twentieth-century South Carolina politics and the key role played therein by state senator Edgar A. Brown. Workman utilized his firsthand experience as a reporter of the 1950s segregation battles when he assisted in the writing of three additional books on the South and its way of life. This Is the South (1959), edited by Robert West Howard, contains Workman's essay "The Trailmakers." With All Deliberate Speed (1957) and Southern Schools: Progress and Problems (1959), which were supported by the Southern Education Reporting Service, examine the issues of segregation and desegregation in Southern schools.

Workman's bold challenge to incumbent senator Olin D. Johnston in 1962 ended the first phase of his journalism career. A longtime conservative, the Republican Workman believed Johnston was too closely aligned with the National Democratic Party and decided the people of South Carolina deserved a Senator more in line with the conservative traditions of the state. In a speech accepting the Republican nomination, Workman said—"It is the Republican Party which offers the best hope, and perhaps the last hope, of stemming the liberal tide which has been sweeping the United States toward the murky depths of socialism....We must stop floating along the stream of least resistance and get our feet back down on the firm ground of sound, conservative, responsible government." His campaign was the first significant Republican challenge in an important statewide race since Reconstruction. Workman made a strong showing, earning forty-three percent of the vote. His effort, though unsuccessful, is credited with establishing the structure for a viable Republican party in South Carolina.

Following the election, Workman accepted the position of assistant editor with The State paper in Columbia. After attaining the post of editor in May 1966, Workman grew increasingly restless with the administrative duties that required so much of his time. He relinquished the editorship and its bureaucratic demands in 1972 to spend more time in research and writing. Workman remained with the paper as an editorial analyst until his retirement in 1979. From 1980 to 1982, he wrote occasional articles under the title of editorial consultant. In 1981 he co-authored, with Claude R. Canup, Charles E. Daniel: His Philosophy and Legacy, a biography of the founder of Greenville's Daniel Construction Company.

Workman's activities and pursuits outside of journalism were often reflected in the subjects of his articles. With his deep commitment to South Carolina and its people, the state's history, politics, and quality of life were of great interest to Workman.

In 1966 Workman agreed to Governor Robert McNair's request that he assist the state's Constitutional Revision Committee. He served as the group's secretary for the next three years. The committee's 1969 report led to significant changes in the operation of local and county government, which previously had been under the centralized control of the county legislative delegations.

In keeping with his commitment to the people, especially the young people, of South Carolina, Workman was active as a director of the James F. Byrnes Foundation. Established by the late James F. Byrnes and his wife, Maude, in 1948, this organization provides college scholarship funds and guidance counseling for qualified South Carolina orphans. Workman served as the Foundation's president from 1972 to 1985.

His retirement from The State in 1979 did not end Workman's interest in politics or the well-being of his fellow South Carolinians. In 1982, despite the onset of a mild form of Parkinson's disease, Workman ran as a gubernatorial candidate against popular incumbent Dick Riley. Although close associates, including his 1962 campaign manager, J. Drake Edens, Jr., tried to dissuade him, Workman was determined to offer the people of South Carolina an alternative. He believed that he and Riley had the same goals for South Carolina, but differed on the means of achieving them. In spite of lukewarm financial support from the state and national Republican parties, Workman gained thirty-one percent of the vote in the loss to Riley. In a speech after the election, he said—"I'm glad I made the fight. I've opened South Carolina to a lot of truisms. One is the need for a two-party system. It would have been a fluke if I had won. All the cards were stacked against me, financial and name recognition."

After the 1982 election Workman quietly faded from public life. The Parkinson's disease gradually worsened, and on 23 November 1990 William D. Workman, Jr., passed away, survived by his two children—son Bill Workman, a 1961 Citadel graduate and mayor of Greenville, and daughter Dorrill "Dee" Workman—and four grandchildren.

The collection consists of forty-seven and one-half linear feet of material, 1915-1985, arranged in seven major series: General Papers, Personal Papers, Campaigns, Journalism, Topical Files, Audio-Visual Materials, and Clippings. When possible, Workman's original arrangement and file headings have been retained. Other files have been rearranged, retitled, or combined for clarity and ease of use.

General papers, 1933-1985, consist primarily of Workman's correspondence with friends, colleagues, Citadel classmates, wartime associates, and admirers from around the country. Among his regular correspondents were Citadel classmate and Charleston Evening Post editor Robert M. Hitt, Jr., 1935-1968, and longtime friend and Nixon biographer Earl Mazo, 1952-1976. Mazo, a fellow newspaperman, moved to the New York Herald Tribune after working at the News & Courier with Workman. Letters pertaining primarily to politics, journalism, or specific persons or topics are found in the appropriate series or subseries.

Personal papers contain family papers of Workman and his wife, Rhea, including biographical data, correspondence, 1915-1971, and records of Workman's military career, 1931-1965, civic activities, and financial affairs. Although the records are not comprehensive, Workman's financial affairs, 1956-1981, are documented by correspondence, tax returns and ledgers of earnings and expenditures. Additional family members represented in the correspondence include Workman's parents, sister Virginia, and Rhea's parents, Ruth and Heber Thomas.

Of particular interest is an extensive series of letters from Heber Thomas (1889-1959), a native of Crocketville and a longtime resident of Walterboro, to Thomas' fiancee, later wife, Ruth Dorrill. A private in the army during World War I, Thomas received his military training at Clemson during May and June of 1918, and at Camp Meade, Md. His unit was sent overseas in August 1918. Thomas served chiefly in France with a field artillery unit of the 79th Division of the American Expeditionary Force and later with the Army of Occupation. His wartime letters reflect his loneliness and concern with duty. Shortly after his arrival in France, Thomas wrote—"Our officers seem to think the war will not last long, but oh God I wish it was all over so I could come back home" (15 August 1918). A week later, still awaiting his first taste of action, he wrote—"From what little news I can gather...the Americans are giving the Germans Hell and you can bet that we will keep it up. I presume it will be some time before we go to the front. But when the word is said I will be up and ready to do my duty" (23 August 1918).

Heber and Ruth married in 1918. Their daughter, Heber Rhea (1918-1988), known to her family and friends as "Dimples" and to Workman as "Tommy," graduated from Winthrop College and in June 1939 married Workman. Eager to keep busy during Workman's absence in World War II, Rhea accepted an offer to be the supervisor of recreation for the Walterboro WPA serviceman's club. After the war, she returned to school, and earned her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in English at the University of South Carolina. From 1957 to 1977, she taught English at Columbia College.

Personal papers also contain Rhea's frequent letters to her parents while she was attending Winthrop in the mid-1930s, plus considerable correspondence with Workman before and after their marriage. Of special interest are Workman's World War II letters from England, 1942; North Africa, 1942-1943; Hawaii, 1945; and stateside posts including Fort Bragg, N.C., 1941; Norfolk, Va., 1941-1942; Camp Davis, N.C., 1943; Fort Leavenworth, Kan., 1944; and Fort Bliss, Tx., 1944-1945. Although limited in what he could say due to censorship regulations, Workman described for Rhea his impressions of the people and places he was stationed. Her letters provide insight into the difficulties of life on the home front—"There have been two more cases of polio this week...None of us are going to the movies or anywhere," and its lighter moments— "Tonight was a big night at the club...jittering, doing the double `Lindy Hop' no less!"

The post-war years were busy ones personally as well as professionally. In the mid-1950s Workman and his wife became founding members of Columbia's Trenholm Road Methodist Church. Correspondence reveals his growing disenchantment with the policies of the Methodist church, particularly in the areas of social and political affairs. In a 1972 letter to the Methodist Advocate explaining his resignation as a delegate to the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference of the Methodist Church, Workman stated—"the actions and pronouncements at the 1972 General Conference make it impossible for me to profess adherence to the prevailing course of present-day Methodism....The church so blatantly repudiated United States policy in national and international affairs as to grievously offend my sense of loyalty to country...." In a related letter, Workman further expressed his disenchantment with the church—"I fear that the magnitude and the momentum of liberal extremism in the United Methodist Church have reached the point of no return."

Workman, an articulate speaker, spoke to groups throughout the state on a wide variety of topics. His speech files include texts of remarks and "charts" on which he recorded the date, place, group, attendance, topic, amount of honorarium and the person who invited him to speak.

Personal papers also document Workman's thirty years of military service as an intelligence officer during World War II and as a Reservist. Among the files is a series of sixty-one World War II aircraft recognition cards from London's Valentine & Sons and a bound volume of America's Alertmen, 1942, a weekly newspaper for the Antiaircraft Artillery Command, Eastern Theater of Operations.

Campaign files, 1939-1982, are significant for their breadth. Extensive records document Workman's 1962 Senate campaign. The series also contains newsletters and material regarding other elections, conventions, and general coverage of the state and national Democratic and Republican parties. Several files concern the State's Rights party and its campaigns in 1948 and 1956. Also present is an unusual example of campaign literature from the 1956 Presidential race—a cartoon book titled "Forward with Eisenhower-Nixon: Let's Continue Peace...Prosperity...Progress."

Journalism records chronicle Workman's career from his days as a reporter on the News & Courier to his term as editor of The State. There are extensive files documenting Workman's efforts to produce three special historical editions of this paper, those commemorating South Carolina's Tricentennial, the U.S. Bicentennial, and the centennial of the burning of Columbia during the Civil War. His last special edition, in 1978, was a survey of the South Carolina state government titled South Carolina Digest.

Also present are original and revised versions of the manuscript for The Case for the South, correspondence with the publisher, and letters of response from readers across the country. Newspaper coverage, including book reviews, are located here and in the clippings files.

Topical files is a broad series containing correspondence and background information on subjects of personal and professional interest to Workman. These include Integration/Civil Rights, Constitutional Reform, Education, and Energy. The Thomas Family file consists of stories compiled by Ruth Thomas about her youth and family. Persons files provide information on thirty-seven individuals with whom Workman corresponded or in whom he had some special interest. Local, state, and national figures include William F. Buckley, Jr., Strom Thurmond, Judge J. Waties Waring, Lester Bates, J.K. Breedin, and generals Mark Clark and William Westmoreland.

The Ernest F. Hollings files contain Workman's notes from Hollings' gubernatorial press conferences, 1959-1961; gubernatorial campaign of 1958; and primary campaign for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in 1962, including transcripts of television appearances. The George Bell Timmerman and Donald Russell files also contain gubernatorial press conference notes and speeches.

Audio-visual materials are primarily composed of photographs and photographic negatives by Workman. Numerous photos document the 1962 Senate campaign. Workman was an accomplished photographer whose work was featured in a 1984 retrospective mounted at the Columbia Museum of Art. An assortment of prints selected for the exhibit, sponsored by Springs Industries, is present.

Sixty-five audio recordings, chiefly political in nature, provide a chance to hear key figures in modern Southern political history, among them Herman E. Talmadge, Edgar A. Brown, and George Wallace. The earliest tape in the collection is a 1938 recording of a campaign speech by Ellison D. "Cotton Ed" Smith. There are several tapes from rallies and other events held during Workman's 1962 Senate campaign. The recordings also include interviews with Workman by Mike Wallace and by Dave Garroway of NBC's "Today Show" following the publication of his book The Case for The South.

Clippings are arranged topically and parallel the other series to a certain extent. This series is a rich source of contemporary information on a wide range of subjects. Included are Workman's editorials from The State, coverage of political campaigns and parties and state government, and files on a large number of individuals. The series concludes with a set of twelve scrapbooks titled "South Carolina By-Lines, 1946-1963," in which Workman preserved copies of his articles.

| 1995 Modern Political Collections | 1995 USCS Program Menu | South Caroliniana Library |

This page copyright © 1996-97, The Board of Trustees of the University of South Carolina.
URL http://www.sc.edu/library/socar/uscs/1995/workma95.html