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Donald Stuart Russell Papers, 1929-1998

Few individuals achieve the success that Donald S. Russell (1906-1998) enjoyed in life; fewer still achieve success in such a wide range of arenas; and even fewer have active careers of the duration of Russell's. Donald Russell held important positions in the Roosevelt administration during World War II.

Following the war, he returned to the private practice of law. In 1952 Russell was named president of the University of South Carolina, taking no salary and using his personal funds to establish important endowments and to refurbish the president's house. In 1957 he resigned as president to run for governor. Although unsuccessful in his first attempt, in 1962 he was elected. Russell will forever be remembered for opening his inaugural reception and barbecue to all South Carolinians and personally greeting many black and white well-wishers who attended the event. Upon the death of Olin D. Johnston, South Carolina's senior senator, Russell stepped down as governor and was succeeded by his lieutenant governor, Robert McNair, who appointed him to serve as South Carolina's senator until a special election could be held. Russell was praised for his acumen and accomplishments as senator, but was defeated by Fritz Hollings in the 1966 special election. President Lyndon Johnson appointed Russell a U.S. District Court judge in 1967. In 1971 he was appointed to the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. He served as an appellate court judge with great distinction until his death, in 1998, on his ninety-second birthday.

Read more about Russell's career and accomplishments:
  • as Governor of South Carolina, 1963-1965.

  • as President of University of South Carolina, 1951-1957.

  • and as remembered in this tribute, In Memorium by John C. Moylan.

Donald Stuart Russell was born in Lafayette Springs, Miss., in 1906. When he was four, his father died, and, unable to maintain the family farm, Lula Russell moved with her children to Chester, S.C., to be nearer her own parents. Finishing high school early, he began attending the University of South Carolina at fifteen and graduated in 1925. After completing law school in 1928, Russell was admitted to the bar and began practicing in Union. In 1930, he joined the prestigious law practice of Nichols, Wyche and Byrnes of Spartanburg. He had impressed the firm by winning a case in which he was opposed by partner Charles Cecil Wyche. Russell was running the practice alone by 1937, following the death of George Nichols and the appointments of James F. Byrnes to the U.S. Supreme Court and of Wyche to the Federal District Court.

Russell's relationship with Byrnes became very important during the following years, particularly as Byrnes took on increasingly prominent positions in the Roosevelt administration. Russell went to Washington as Byrnes' assistant when Byrnes was appointed director of the Office of Economic Stabilization in October 1942. In May 1943 he then followed Byrnes to the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion, which Byrnes had been appointed to direct. In October 1944 Russell went on active duty as an officer attached to the Army's Supreme Allied Headquarters in Europe. He was present at Yalta with President Franklin Roosevelt and Byrnes. Major Russell was discharged later that year. In early 1945 he served as Deputy Director of the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion, then as Assistant Secretary of State for Administration, under Byrnes, from August 1945 to January 1947. Russell implemented plans for the reorganization of the Foreign Service and developed the first series of continual regional foreign policy statements, a procedure which would later become standard practice. Russell's interest in the foreign service later led to his involvement on several federal committees. As the assistant to Byrnes, he was at Potsdam with President Harry Truman and Byrnes and took part in the decision to drop the first atomic bomb. Byrnes and Russell left the administration shortly after the war ended and joined Hogan & Hartson, a Washington, D.C., law firm.

Returning to Spartanburg, Russell practiced law until 1952, when he was named president of the University of South Carolina. As president, he led the school from regional significance toward national prominence. He instigated the creation of the international studies program and encouraged the improvement of the school's facilities. Russell resigned in 1957 to run for governor, but was defeated in the Democratic primary by Ernest F. Hollings.

Russell again returned to Spartanburg to practice law and renewed his involvement in a variety of community organizations. He served as chairman of the Spartanburg General Hospital board of trustees and as a member of the boards of the Spartanburg County Foundation and of Converse College. In 1957 Russell served as State Easter Seals Chairman for the Crippled Children Society and belonged to the Executive Committee from 1958 to 1961. In 1959 he served as the Advanced Gifts Chairman for the United Way Community Campaign of which he had been State Chairman in 1953.

The 1961 Democratic gubernatorial primary featured Russell and Lieutenant Governor Burnet Maybank, Jr. Russell won the primary and was unopposed in the general election. To celebrate his election, he held a barbecue which included both white and black guests. This was the first integrated political event held in South Carolina since Reconstruction. As governor, Russell stressed the importance of improving the state's educational programs. He also established an open-door policy at the Governor's Mansion, inviting all citizens to come and see him at any time. These innovations led both Time and Life magazines to feature Russell as an example of a model leader of the New South.

One of the first challenges Russell faced as governor was the court-ordered integration of Clemson College. He received high praise when he refused the offer of federal troops from U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy. As reported in The State newspaper, Russell assured Kennedy that "South Carolina was `perfectly capable' itself of maintaining law and order `and we are not going to have any violence'" (25 January 1963). South Carolina was distinguished among the southern states for the peaceful integration of its schools. Russell also promoted the technical education system and worked to continue the dramatic expansion of industry within the state.

U.S. Senator Olin D. Johnston died unexpectedly in April 1965. In such a situation, the governor appoints a successor to serve until a special election can be held. Russell said that he felt South Carolina needed a strong and able leader in Washington to deal with the important issues, and he believed that he had the best record of experience in Washington. He stepped down as governor and was appointed senator by Robert E. McNair, who became governor upon Russell's resignation. By all accounts, he was an effective senator who quickly won the respect of his fellow senators. However, he was defeated in the special election by Ernest F. Hollings. Voters appeared critical of the manner of Russell's appointment. During his gubernatorial campaign, Russell had promised to serve his full term as governor and not to use the position for further political advancement. Russell served in the Senate from 22 April 1965 to 8 November 1966.

President Lyndon Johnson appointed Russell U.S. District Judge for the Western District of South Carolina in 1967 to fill the vacancy created by the death of former law partner Charles Cecil Wyche. Russell had campaigned for Johnson during the 1964 election and had attended his inauguration, even though their opinions on the Voting Rights Bill differed significantly. In 1971 President Richard Nixon assigned Russell to the Appellate Court bench. Russell and his wife, Virginia, continued to reside in Spartanburg, though in his capacity as Appellate Judge Russell traveled to Richmond, Va., one week a month for nine months of the year. Known for having a thorough knowledge of the law, Russell served until his death in February 1998. He never took senior status or lightened his case load.

The collection consists of twenty-three and three-quarters linear feet of papers, 1929-1998, arranged in five major series: Public Papers, Personal Papers, Speeches, Audio-Visual Materials, and Clippings. Public Papers document Russell's service at the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion and as Assistant Secretary of State, Governor of South Carolina, and U.S. Senator. The bulk of the public materials traces his Senate service and demonstrates Russell's commitment to constituent service as well as significant work on the Post Office and Civil Service Committee and the Agriculture and Forestry Committee. Personal Papers document Russell's interests in business, finance, philanthropy, education, and foreign service. Russell's personal activities rival his public work in importance to the state; he labored diligently to promote education and the welfare of children and the disabled.

Public Papers, eleven and one-quarter linear feet, document Russell's service as Secretary and later Deputy Director of the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion, 1943 to July 1945; as Assistant Secretary of State, July 1945 to January 1947; as Governor of South Carolina, January 1963 to April 1965; and as U.S. Senator, April 1965 to January 1967. The War Mobilization and Assistant Secretary of State records consist of six folders and are arranged chronologically. Gubernatorial papers are divided into general and topical files. The materials chiefly document Russell's activities as governor, such as hearings on Trotter's Shoals Dam, education programs, and political appointments. Documents relating to Russell's appointment to the Senate are included.

Senate papers are arranged in the following sub-series: General, Grants and Projects, Newsletters, Press Releases, Schedules, and Topical Files. General papers contain constituent correspondence which addresses multiple subjects or does not fall under a specific topical heading. Grants and Projects files relate to everything from agricultural grants to postal construction projects and are organized topically. Community Development files include projects to improve the economic and social aspects of municipalities as well as their infrastructures. Materials are arranged according to the funding agency or the name given a specific project. Energy files relate to the building of federal dams and nuclear facilities. Correspondence regarding energy issues of a political nature is found in Topical Files. Water files relate to water and sewage projects for local communities and the maintenance of public waterways.

Newsletters and Press Releases chiefly relate to national issues and legislation sponsored by Russell, ranging from agriculture to Vietnam. On the latter, Russell stated?"our action in Vietnam is a responsible, necessary, and restrained use of the minimal force required to deter present levels of aggression in Vietnam."

Topical files have to do with issues and legislation before the Senate. Particularly rich are the files relating to Russell's committees: Agriculture and Forestry; Post Office and Civil Service; and Labor and Public Welfare. Agriculture, Civil Service, Labor, Postal Affairs, and Welfare have been maintained as separate headings as they were in the Russell office. Agriculture files concern topics such as cotton, dairy farming, tobacco, and special legislation like the "Food for Freedom" Bill, the Rural Electrification Act, and the Special Milk-School Lunch Program. Civil Service files relate to issues such as the Federal Pay Bill and Retirement Benefits. Labor files focus chiefly upon legislation regulating the compensation of workers and restriction of protest rights and Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act, regarding compulsory union membership. Materials relating to federal postal employees are located in the Postal Affairs files, which are mainly concerned with proposed parcel post rate increases, size and weight standards, and local postal appointments.

Personal Papers, ten and a half linear feet, are divided into General Papers, Campaign Files, Financial Records, Topical Files, and Schedules. General Papers chiefly consist of correspondence with family and friends and document Russell's personal interests and concerns. Campaign Files, 1947-1966, chiefly relate to Russell's 1962 gubernatorial campaign against Burnet R. Maybank, Jr., and some material documenting his 1966 Senate race. Financial Records concern stock, bond, and real estate investments. Subjects of topical files include Board Memberships, Education, Foreign Affairs, and Persons with whom Russell was associated. Russell served on a variety of business and charitable boards. For years he was associated with the Auto Finance Company, which owned several newspapers, Southeast Fire Insurance and other subsidiaries. Russell was chairman of the board in 1949 and president from 1951 to 1953. He also served as chairman of the American Discount Company, a related company, from 1952 to 1953. Russell was a member of the board of the Spartanburg County Foundation from 1955 to 1961, raising money for several charitable funds. As chairman of the board of Spartanburg General Hospital, 1958-1961, he worked to improve the Radiology Department at the Nursing School and helped to fight two lawsuits brought against the board. Russell also served on the boards of Bran-Don, Inc., and Palmetto Transmission. His interest and expertise regarding foreign affairs resulted in service on the Council of Foreign Relations, 1957-1958; the Federal Task Force on Intellectual Activities, 1954-1956; and the Secretary of State's Public Committee on Personnel (the Hoover Commission), 1952-1958.

Audio-Visual Material consists of artwork, audio recordings, films, photographs, and slides. Two pencil drawings of Virginia Russell and Donald Russell, Jr., are included. Two audio recordings contain some of Russell's gubernatorial speeches and his opponent's stump meeting in the 1962 primary campaign, and two films record Russell's 1963 inauguration. Photographs include portraits and family and group shots.

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