logo of university of south carolina
| 2001 Gifts to MPC | Front Page | Previous Issues | Modern Political Collections | Newsletters |
| USCAN | South Caroliniana Library | USC | Search USC web |
P. Bradley Morrah, Jr., Papers, 1931-1990
"He gives the impression of being stranded in the wrong century, transparently honest, and kind, and dutiful." Writing more than fifty years ago in The New Yorker, British author Rebecca West thus described Greenville legislator P. Bradley Morrah, Jr. (1915-1992), noting that "he was very likable, obviously courageous, and there was nothing unlikable in his oratory." By all accounts, Morrah brought these qualities to his many years of service, as a member of the armed forces in World War II; the South Carolina House of Representatives, 1941, 1947-1948; the state Senate, 1953-1966; the State Parks, Recreation and Tourism Commission, 1976-1983; and, in retirement, as chairman of the U.S. Constitutional Bicentennial Commission, 1971-1977.

Morrah was born in Lancaster on 13 June 1915 to Patrick Bradley Morrah and Hessie Thomson Morrah. In 1922 the family moved to Greenville where the younger Morrah attended public schools. After letter-ing in basketball and track at The Citadel, he graduated in the class of 1936 and enrolled in Duke University Law School. Morrah received his law degree in 1939, was admitted to the South Carolina Bar on 31 August 1939, and practiced in Greenville until 1941.

In 1940 Morrah was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives where he was appointed to the powerful Ways and Means Committee. He resigned from the legislature two days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor to enter active military duty and rose to the rank of major while serving as an intelligence officer in the Fourteenth Antiaircraft Artillery in Australia and the Pacific. While stationed in Australia, he met and married Edna D. Burgess of Melbourne. The Morrahs' first child, Irene, was born in 1945 in Australia. In 1946 Morrah was discharged from the Army and returned to Greenville, and within several months he was able to arrange transportation to the United States for his wife and daughter. Voters immediately reelected Morrah to the South Carolina House of Representatives, where he represented Greenville from 1947 to 1948. Morrah's son Bradley was born in 1948.

His defense pleadings in the trial of one of thirty-one men accused of lynching Willie Earle in 1947 revealed his talents, both as an attorney and as an orator. According to Rebecca West, who witnessed the trial, Morrah warned the jurors that if they convicted his client, their verdict "would rankle in the hearts of men throughout the state, from the rock-ribbed brow of Caesar's Head to the marshes of Fort Sumter" and that "the ghosts of Hampton's men would rise to haunt you."

In the 1952 Democratic primary Morrah won a seat in the state Senate. He served in that body from 1953 to 1966. In the late 1950s Morrah and several others among the more progressive senators banded together to pursue their legislative goals in an informal group they called "the left field boys." The group challenged the old-line establishment represented by Edgar Brown and Marion Gressette. It included John West of Kershaw, Earle Morris of Pickens, and Marshall Parker of Oconee. Senator W. Bruce Williams of Lancaster wrote Morrah, 15 December 1958-"The only purpose for wanting to see the Club in existence is so that we Senators who have mutual interests and belong to more or less the middle aged and the middle of years of service might get together and benefit some by discussing our problems."

As head of the Greenville delegation and a member of the committees on the Judiciary, 1953-1966, Commerce and Manufacturing, 1957-1966, and Highways, 1957-1966, Morrah struggled against the entrenched powers in the Senate. In 1957 he campaigned to limit the powers of the Free Conference Committee, which dictated state appropriations every year, boldly challenging the authority of Edgar Brown, the Senate's senior member. Morrah took the lead in instituting electoral reform in Greenville by directing a purge of the voter registration lists, backing reduced residency requirements for voters, and introducing IBM voting machines. He advocated legislative control of the Santee Cooper Dam and equitable educational opportunities for all of South Carolina's schoolchildren. Com-menting in 1966 upon his role as a legislator, he declared-"I have never taken an extreme left or [an extreme] right position on any measure. I have been willing to fight when necessary and compromise when necessary in order to achieve good legislative results."

From 1961 to 1962 Morrah campaigned unsuccessfully for election by members of the South Carolina House of Representatives to a circuit judgeship. The race required three runoff votes, and after his disappointing defeat he wrote to many of his long time colleagues-"It is never pleasant to choose between friends, and I want you to know that I value your friendship now and will continue to do so." Columbia mayor Lester Bates responded to this letter by quoting Tennyson-"'Men may rise on stepping stones of their dead selves to higher things,' and I am sure you will go on to greater successes in your profession and in public service" (3 February 1962).

In 1966 Morrah ran simultaneously for his state Senate seat and the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Strom Thurmond. He lost to Thurmond and his Senate seat went to Republican write-in candidate Thomas A. Wofford, a fellow defense attorney from the 1947 Willie Earle trial.

As a legislator in the 1950s and 1960s, P. Bradley Morrah possessed unusual foresight. He recognized the expanding role of the federal govern-ment and the way in which it would increasingly affect the lives of South Carolinians well before many of his colleagues were ready to acknowledge the rapid changes occurring in post-War II America. He best described his political philosophy as he campaigned for the U.S. Senate in 1966-"An expanding government is here to stay and will not go away. Extreme views have no place in the passage of legislation. My own seventeen years in the legislature have taught me that you cannot com-promise, you cannot delay, you cannot take off the sharp edges of anything-unless you command the respect of your fellow legislators. [T]he solutions to the knotty problems confronting a nation which is bulging at the population seams require a calm, forceful, intelligent, and persuasive approach."

Unlike many of his colleagues who advocated States' Rights and social conservatism, Morrah adopted positions that were closer to the political center. He argued in 1966-"the complexities of government never lessen. These federal programs are established and they are not going to be abolished. It's up to us to make them work more efficiently and save tax money. We should screen each of these programs carefully, but a little state like South Carolina can't stop them. This is the time for action, not reaction."

The Morrah papers are comprised of three and three-quarters linear feet of material, ca. 1931-1990, arranged in four series: public papers, personal papers, clippings, and audiovisual materials. The majority of the collection consists of public papers dating from 1953 through 1966 when Morrah served in the state Senate. Personal papers chiefly document Morrah's political campaigns, notably his pursuit of a circuit judgeship, 1961-1962, and his 1966 bid for the U. S. Senate. Clippings touch upon his World War II years and cover his 1966 Senate race in detail.

Of particular interest are materials concerning one of Morrah's earliest successes-the financing and development of the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport, one of the state's first regional facilities serving commercial and corporate jet aircraft. Included are planning documents and correspondence, 1957-1966, documenting the fight between the airport's backers and foes. A Greenville newspaper editor wrote Morrah-"Those who have criticized what you and the other members of the Delegation did will be in the forefront of the distinguished guests at the dedication and they won't be far behind when the development gravy bowl is taken off the back burner" (1961). The establishment of the Greenville Municipal Auditorium is similarly documented.

Morrah continued his pursuit of economic development for Greenville by spearheading the enormous task of purchasing Donaldson Air Force Base from the United States government and converting it into an industrial park occupied by private businesses and industrial plants. Correspondence and management committee reports from 1960 to 1966 illustrate the process of turning the base into a viable commercial center.

Other topical files document issues with which citizens and legislators struggled, ranging from local option (whether voters should determine the sale of alcohol on a county-by-county basis), to election law, education, and voting reform. Morrah's letters articulate his positions on a broad range of topics and demonstrate his patience, respect, and empathy for citizens and colleagues alike.

Morrah's constituents express in their letters a poignant and literate concern for their world, which began to change rapidly after World War II. Issues relating to the expanding role of the federal government in the social structure appear with increasing frequency in correspondence. In the final years of his Senate career, files reflect the growing influence of the civil rights movement and the fledgling activities of the federal Office of Economic Opportunity in Greenville County. Although these records are not comprehensive, they illustrate the beginnings of important social forces in the early 1960s.

The correctional facilities file provides insight into the links between Greenville County's system of prison camps and chain gangs and the local highway department. Letters in the file also document citizens' concerns with the conditions under which the prisoners lived.

Personal papers are chiefly comprised of campaign records from 1952, 1960, 1962, 1966, and 1968. The 1952 file contains campaign speeches in draft and finished forms, a large amount of opposition research, clippings, and visual materials. The elections of 1962 and 1966 are the most exten-sively documented campaigns. Files reflect Morrah's efforts to be elected to two very different positions-the first, election by his fellow senators to a circuit judgeship in 1962, and the second, election by South Carolina's citizens to the U.S. Senate. Both efforts ultimately failed. The 1962 file contains running counts of the votes committed to him, evidence of how carefully he measured his chance of victory. Files include dozens of requests to other legislators and citizens for support and many of their replies, some positive and others noncommittal-"This race has posed an unusual problem for me since I know and like both candidates, you and Frank, very much. You and Marshall Williams of Orangeburg are my favorites of forty-six Senators [but] to make my decision tougher, Frank and I went to Carolina together and were fraternity brothers. I am now serving on the committee in the House of which he is Chairman. I hope that my decision in the end will merit your confidence" (1961).

The 1966 campaign file contains documentation of campaign strategy, fund-raising tactics, and stump schedules. Of particular interest is exten-sive opposition research on Strom Thurmond's Senate voting record and lively speculation as to how short-lived Thurmond's career in the Senate was likely to be. Clippings from newspapers across the state also docu-ment this race.

Personal papers also contain notes relating to a trip to Antarctica made by Morrah and other public figures in 1960 plus a limited quantity of family and Citadel correspondence.

| Top | 2001 Gifts to MPC | Front Page | Modern Political Collections | Newsletters |
| USCAN | South Caroliniana Library | USC | Search USC web |
This page copyright © 2001, The Board of Trustees of the University of South Carolina.
URL http://www.sc.edu/library/socar/uscs/2001/morrah.html