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MANUSCRIPTS DIVISION 2001
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John Henderson Lumpkin, Sr., Papers, 1928-1999
The business career of John Henderson Lumpkin, Sr. (1916-1999), which spanned the second half of the twentieth century, contributed to and, at the same time, reflected the development of a new economic outlook in post-World War II South Carolina. Lumpkin belonged to a generation of South Carolinians who abandoned the traditional business patterns that had stressed local development and control in favor of a national and international orientation that sought to move the state toward a more progressive business stance. Although he never held political office, Lumpkin was deeply interested in the political process, and through his public service, especially his interest in education, contributed to the betterment of the state.
This collection of his papers-six and one-quarter linear feet-focuses on the last twenty years of Lumpkin's life. Although a few items survive from his earlier years, most of the material present, files of correspondence in particular, was generated after Lumpkin retired from his banking career on 1 February 1981 upon reaching age sixty-five. At that time he was chairman, president, and CEO of South Carolina National Corporation, the successor to South Carolina National Bank. He resumed the practice of law, the career he had pursued before he became a banker in October 1964. As an attorney with the Columbia firm of Boyd, Knowlton, Tate & Finlay (1981-1983) and then with McNair, Glenn, Konduros, Corley, Singletary, Porter & Dibble (1983-1999), a law firm with offices in Columbia, Greenville, Hilton Head, and Washington, D.C., Lumpkin in his capacity "of counsel" practiced law but still had time to pursue his many other interests. He remained active in community affairs until his death on 4 December 1999.
John Henderson Lumpkin was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, 28 January 1916, the son of the Reverend Hope Henry Lumpkin, an Episcopal missionary, and his wife, Mary Henderson Lumpkin. The family moved to Madison, Wis., in 1920 where Hope Henry Lumpkin was rector of Grace Episcopal Church until his death in 1932. Mrs. Lumpkin then returned with her four sons to Columbia where the family had many relatives. John Lumpkin graduated from Columbia High School in 1933 and entered the University of South Carolina. There he was president of his freshman class, on the freshman basketball and track teams, in the German and Cotillion clubs, a member of the Euphradian Literary Society, vice-president of Kappa Sigma Kappa honorary service fraternity, and in Sigma Alpha Epsilon social fraternity. He worked for his uncle, attorney Alva Moore Lumpkin (LL.B., USC, 1908), during the summers to help pay his college expenses.
Lumpkin earned his B.A. in June 1937 and applied for admission to several law schools outside the state. He was accepted by Harvard and entered in September 1937. A cashbook in the collection records his expenses while at Harvard and also documents the way he borrowed money to finance his education. On 20 September 1938 Lumpkin signed a note for $675.00 and promised to pay at or before the end of four years to Mrs. S.W.C. Lumpkin, his aunt, the amount owed. In his cashbook he duly entered that sum as well as a check from "A.M.L," uncle Alva M. Lumpkin, for $100.00. Monthly checks for $75.00 from "A.M.L." were credited in the cashbook or reflected by deposit slips in the South Carolina National Bank through the spring of 1940. During the summer of 1939, Lumpkin worked for the New York law firm Cravath, deGersdorff, Swaine & Wood. His original Social Security Card, issued 20 June 1939, with the law firm's name typed on the reverse, is in the collection.
Lumpkin graduated from Harvard with an LL.B. in 1940, joined the firm of White & Case at 14 Wall Street in September, and worked there for a year. In the collection is a "Memorandum of Law," written by Lumpkin for White & Case in the matter of Electric Bond and Share Corporation re Northwestern Electric Co. Titled "Historical Development of Congres-sional Regulation of Commerce Under the Commerce Clause," the 158-page narrative ended with a quote from "Senator Haynes' great speech of April 20, 1824, where he said that if Congress 'may use a power granted for one purpose for the accomplishment of another and very different purpose, it is easy to show that a constitution on parchment is worth nothing.'"
Just after the United States entered World War II in December 1941, Lumpkin joined the armed services. He began active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve on 2 January 1942. He spent five weeks at the U.S. Navy West Coast Sound School, at San Diego, Ca., where he studied anti-submarine warfare. For two years he served aboard naval escort vessels in the Aleutian Islands area. From April 1944 until the end of the war, he worked in the Secretary of the Navy's Office and was involved in the formation of the Reserve Officers Naval Services, ultimately serving as national vice-president.
For a few months after the end of the war, Lumpkin worked in New York for his old firm, White & Case. Now with a wife and family (he married Caroline S. Dalton of High Point, N.C., on 8 April 1942), Lumpkin returned to Columbia to open his own law practice in 1946. A receipt book for the period September 1947-January 1949 shows fees received from individual clients. An appointment diary for 1950 illustrates Lumpkin's busy daily schedule. A printed card in the collection dated 1 September 1951 announced the formation of a new firm, Boyd, Bruton and Lumpkin, for the general practice of law. William C. Boyd, John C. Bruton and John H. Lumpkin were partners and J.B.S. Lyles served as counsel to the firm.
A small file of newspaper clippings documents Lumpkin's extensive involvement in community organizations. In 1947 he was elected post commander of Richland Post No. 6 of the American Legion, receiving 371 votes to his opponent's 138. In 1953 he was elected president of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce. During the early 1950s he was also active in the Community Chest and served on the United Community Services Board of Directors. A copy of the program for Gov. Ernest F. Hollings' inaugural on 20 January 1959 lists John H. Lumpkin as a member of the Reception Committee along with other prominent business leaders, including J. Willis Cantey, R. Roy Pearce, and Arthur M. Williams, Jr. In 1961 his alma mater, the University of South Carolina, enlisted his aid in reaching a goal of $2.25 million in its "first major private financial campaign in Carolina's 160 years…." Lumpkin was appointed general chairman of the Greater University Fund, more than $5 million was raised, and in May 1963 he was recognized by USC with the Algernon Sidney Sullivan Award.
Other clippings announce Lumpkin's entry into banking in 1964 when he became senior executive vice-president of South Carolina National Bank. Hired by W.W. McEachern, Lumpkin quickly assumed additional responsibilities as McEachern reduced his own involvement with the bank. Lumpkin was elected president in 1965 and on 1 July of the follow-ing year also became chief administrative officer. McEachern continued in office as chairman of the board of directors. In addition to his SCN duties, Lumpkin was extensively involved with other organizations. According to a story in The State newspaper, in 1966 he was a "member of the Governor's Commission on Higher Education, a trustee of Limestone College and of Benedict College, past president and several times a director of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, member of the University of South Carolina Development Council, former member of the of the State Educational Finance Commission and past president of the Columbia Kiwanis Club." He served "on the Board of Directors of Liberty Life Insurance Co., Consolidated American Insurance Co., S.C. Insurance Co., S.C. Electric & Gas Co., Seaboard Coast Line Railway; the American Association of Industrial Management and the S.C. State Chamber of Commerce." At the time of his election as a director of S.C. Electric & Gas Co. in May 1966, an article in the Charleston News and Courier noted that as an attorney "he was closely associated with banking, corporate and utility interests." During his banking career, Lumpkin maintained a very busy business, community and social life.
Beginning in late February 1981, copies of letters sent and scattered incoming correspondence can be found in this collection. Lumpkin wrote to one of his friends on 26 February about his life after retirement-"I did not take much time off, leaving the bank at 5:00 on a Friday afternoon, retiring as of midnight Saturday night, and reporting to my old law firm at 8:00 that Monday. I am reassociated with Boyd, Knowlton, Tate & Finlay, 12th Floor, SCN Center…." Even after retirement, Lumpkin continued to chair the Executive Committee of the bank and also served on both the bank and corporate boards. Lumpkin was one of the organizers of a dinner to honor Sen. L. Marion Gressette held on 26 March 1981 at the Carolina Inn in Columbia. He also served as master of ceremonies for the event. A typed copy of Lumpkin's remarks on that evening is preserved in the collection. While much of the correspondence from this period is routine, some items of unusual interest do exist. In a five-page letter, dated 28 April 1981, to long-time friend G. G. Dowling, who was scheduled for heart bypass surgery, Lumpkin detailed his own experience with heart surgery performed in 1979 in Houston by Dr. Cooley-"Now, my general impression of the operation and recuperation period. First, it is not bad….The twenty four hour stay in the recovery room is so vague that the only real discomfort that I can recollect is the breathing tube and they take it out shortly. The risk is minimal. I believe Cooley told me that [it]…is now around 2%. It has completely changed my life and outlook on life."
In a letter to a Columbia friend of long standing written 5 May 1981, Lumpkin remembered "so well when we moved back to Columbia in 1932 and I started working for Uncle Alva….I became the office boy, not only for his office but for all other lawyers in that building and as such came to South Carolina Bank at least daily. My salary at that time was $18.00 a month, but that money meant as much to me as any salary that I have earned since."
In a ten-page memorandum to his son, John H. Lumpkin, Jr., the elder Lumpkin "attempt[ed] to describe the banking environment of the 1980's as I apprise it….I shall also try to advise as to the best strategy in the acquisition of a bank in South Carolina." He concluded-"…I find that I am creating a rather negative future as it applies to the smaller, independent banks in this state and elsewhere. This is not my intent, although any banking operation in South Carolina must be prepared to compete in a changing environment where 'cost of funds' will have a direct influence on profits."
Lumpkin's long-term interest in and involvement with Brookgreen Gardens is illustrated in his correspondence from this period. As a trustee and member of the Finance Committee, he was diligent in his efforts to secure additional funding for Brookgreen. Writing Gurdon Tarbox, Brook-green's executive director, on 21 May 1981, Lumpkin suggested avenues for additional funding from foundations. He was equally dedicated to the South Carolina Foundation of Independent Colleges and, as Chairman of the Foundation's Corporate Support Program, frequently acknowledged donations made by businesses operating in the state. In another letter written on the same day, he thanked an official with South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. for "your great company's annual grant….[and] con-tinued strong support of this very great cause."
Letters of a political nature frequently appear in Lumpkin's files. On 11 June 1981 he wrote Gov. Richard W. Riley in support of a potential nominee to the South Carolina Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Board. The next day he wrote Sen. J. Strom Thurmond a personal letter with a recommendation for an appointment to the U.S. District Court bench. An appended "P.S." included an invitation to visit-"One of these days when you get caught up with all of your duties, Caroline and I would love to have Nancy and you visit us at DeBordieu. I am so involved in getting back into the practice of law that I have not been able to use it much…."
After retirement from the bank, Lumpkin decided to phase out some of his memberships and responsibilities. In a letter to the president of the Newcomen Society written 25 June 1981, he recalled "as of this fall, I will have served as South Carolina Chairman of the Newcomen Society for almost seventeen years. As I have indicated in the past, I think the time has come for someone else to assume my position."
Lumpkin, however, retained his strong interest in the political arena and often gave advice or opinions on political matters. On 8 February 1983 he wrote to a Florida friend who was a strong supporter of Gov. Reuben Askew's presidential aspirations in the 1984 election. Fritz Hollings was also interested in the race, and Lumpkin analyzed possible support for Hollings within the state. He also relayed the opinions of W.J. Bryan Dorn, then chairman of the State Democratic Party, about several candidates who had been mentioned as contenders in the 1984 race. "Bryan believes that Reagan will carry the west, split the Middle-West and East. The Southeast, with its increased electoral votes (particularly Florida and Texas) can swing the election. He further believes that Cranston is a fool, Dale Bumpers will not 'get out of the starting blocks' and the leading dark horse is not John Glenn but Gary Hart of Colorado."
Lumpkin offered his help to the newly appointed head of the State Development Board, Joseph D. Sapp, in a letter of congratulations written 1 June 1983-"One virtue I may have is that I do know a hell of a lot of people throughout this country and might be able to help you open some doors."
In 1983 Lumpkin decided to join the McNair Law Firm as "of counsel." He explained the decision to Andrew V. Peters of the Michelin Corporation in a letter dated 16 December 1983-"Bob [McNair] and I have been friends for years and prior to my retirement from the bank, we discussed the possibility of my joining his firm then. However, I did want to practice with my son, John Jr., who was with my old firm. This past July, John and another one of the young partners in my old firm, came over here and I started giving it some thought again. When Caroline and I returned from a delightful trip to Europe, I agreed to make the move and actually physically moved December 1, 1983."
Higher education concerns continued to be one of Lumpkin's major interests. In a letter of 24 September 1984 to Dr. Ralph Mirse, president of Columbia College, Lumpkin outlined the historical development of the South Carolina Foundation of Independent Colleges and the difficulty of securing public money. Even the state's Tuition Grants Program, originally intended to help private colleges, was no longer helpful "as a recruitment incentive." For Lumpkin the future was uncertain-"But until we can persuade the 'powers that be' that we must be considered as a vital and integral part of the higher education resources of South Carolina and can only be put to full use if the comparative tuitions are brought into parity by a realistically funded Tuition Grants Program, we will continue to plead and nibble at the crumbs and 'whistle Dixie.'" In a letter to Richard W. Riley written the next day, Lumpkin thanked the governor for his support of South Carolina's independent colleges and education in general. Lumpkin added-"As I think you know, I believe excellence in education at all levels is the ultimate answer to the majority of our problems- economic and otherwise."
Brookgreen Gardens also continued to absorb much of Lumpkin's time and energy. As a trustee, he was always focused on the needs, financial and otherwise, of the gardens; but as a champion of the state, he also believed the gardens an outstanding asset in promoting South Carolina. In a letter to Gov. Richard Riley, dated 23 January 1986, he announced the establishment of a Brookgreen Gardens Award. "The basic purpose of the award is really twofold," he wrote. "We want to recognize an outstanding national business leader who has evidenced great interest and support of the arts, both performing and visual; and, secondly, we feel this award can, over a period of time, focus attention not only on Brookgreen Gardens, but on the State of South Carolina and its growing sense of confidence and enthusiasm for the future." Lee Iacocca, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Chrysler Corporation, was selected for the first award, but declined because of a "hectic situation and schedule." The initial award, formally named the American Achievement Award, was presented to Donald Peterson, Chairman and C.E.O. of Ford Motor Company in April 1986. Lumpkin coordinated a campaign to interest Chief Justice Warren Burger of the U.S. Supreme Court to accept the award in1987 by asking a number of his influential friends-Clement Haynesworth, Dick Riley, "Bubba" Ness, South Carolina's Chief Justice, Strom Thurmond, and Sol Blatt, Jr., among others-to urge Burger to agree to come to Brookgreen Gardens to accept the honor. A photograph in the collection picturing Lumpkin and Burger together documents the success of his efforts.
In a 10 August 1989 letter to Peter T. Marshall, president of Columbia College, Lumpkin broached the subject of resigning from the college's Board of Visitors. "Little by little, this 'old goat' is approaching true retire-ment," he wrote. "I completed my duties as Chairman of the Independent College groups this year. I have been retired by all of the corporate boards upon which I have served (except one), and I am gradually resigning from honorary National Advisory Boards of various groups such as the Bretton Woods Committee and The White Burkett Miller Center of Public Affairs at Charlottesville, Virginia," he added. "I feel the time has arrived for me to leave," Lumpkin concluded. On the same day, he wrote to Charles H. Wickenberg, Jr., editor of The State, and enclosed "a proposed obit for old Dad. Please peruse and critique it; then file with the State Newspaper," he asked. He closed the letter with a quip about his funeral-"As for selecting who delivers my eulogy, since most Episcopalian ministers are out…, let's just settle on Mackey Quave [local radio personality]. He has such a deep resonant voice. I will be writing the eulogy in the near future."
On 20 December 1990 Lumpkin was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by the University of South Carolina. For "his enduring commitment to the advancement of higher education in South Carolina, for his exemplary professional career as a banker and a lawyer, and for his devoted attention to activities that promote the greater public good," the University recognized his many achievements. Soon after the USC ceremony Lumpkin was selected for induction into the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame. Letters of congratulations from friends and asso-ciates poured in, all with praise for his many accomplishments. Long-time friend Buck Mickel wrote on 30 January 1991-"Superb honor for a superb friend & great business man. South Carolina is a better place to live & work because of you."
Travel continued to be a part of Lumpkin's life. In a letter to his friend George Duff, written 11 December 1992, Lumpkin reported that he and Caroline had "slip[ped] away in late April, caught the QEII out of New York for Southampton and then had a week in London and flew home." "As of 1993," he continued, "I will have worked 60 years, started when I was 16 when dad died and I plan to semi-quit and set up my office at home. I continue as a Trustee of Brookgreen Gardens on the coast and am Chairman of the Executive Committee. This will keep me reasonably occupied, I hope."
Education was still one of Lumpkin's great interests, even though he was no longer active with the state's independent colleges. In a letter of congratulations written to Richard Riley on 20 January 1993, after Riley's nomination as Secretary of Education, Lumpkin wrote-"…I really wonder whether President Clinton or many of your real national leaders fully realize that within the successful accomplishment of your mission lies the future destiny of our Nation." The next year, on 16 March 1994, in reply to a letter from South Carolina's Commissioner of Higher Education Fred Sheheen, Lumpkin once again emphasized his view of education-"Also, although I am completely persuaded that the future prosperity of South Carolina hinges on our ability to produce high quality education, I have concluded that our primary efforts today must be directed first at 'boot-strapping' the quality of our K-12 schooling. In other words, quality begets quality."
On the occasion of Lumpkin's eightieth birthday, his children hosted a party at the Palmetto Club in Columbia on 27 January 1996. The collection includes an invitation to that event with a photograph of Lumpkin as a child in Alaska dressed in furs and the words "Hallelujah, Lumpkin made it!" on the cover.
On 24 April 1998 Lumpkin spoke at the dedication of the John and Caroline Lumpkin Overlook at Brookgreen Gardens. Bill Weeks, Brook-green vice president and chief operating officer, described the walkway in the Fall 1997 newsletter of Brookgreen Gardens-"Some 14 feet high and more than 250 feet long, the Lumpkin Overlook literally lets you walk up into the live oaks that front the old fields." Lumpkin, in his brief re-marks delivered at the dedication, remembered that his late wife "reveled in God's natural beauty and loved all of God's creatures. Yes, Caroline would have loved this Overlook-as will generations to come," he con-tinued. "There is no greater tribute than to have the Lumpkin name identified with the changing outreach of Brookgreen Gardens-a place so near and dear to my heart," Lumpkin concluded.
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