SOUTH CAROLINIANA LIBRARY
UNIVERSITY SOUTH CAROLINIANA SOCIETY
MODERN POLITICAL COLLECTIONS 2002
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Thomas S. and Clara G. McMillan Papers, 1870-1980
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"Their selfless service to our state and nation has left a lasting mark on all of us, and their untiring work on our behalf helped pull our nation through some of its darkest days." Strom Thurmond's speech at the 1980 dedication of the McMillan Memorial Highway paid tribute to Thomas and Clara McMillan, a couple who dedicated their lives to public service. Between them, they served for more than forty years in South Carolina's General Assembly, in the United States Congress, and in various federal offices.
Thomas Sanders McMillan was born near Ulmer on 27 November 1888 to James C. and Mary K. McMillan. After graduating from the Orangeburg Collegiate Institute, he taught school at Perry in Aiken County. In 1908 McMillan won a scholarship to the University of South Carolina, where he distinguished himself as a scholar and as an athlete. He graduated in 1912 with a Bachelor of Arts degree and in 1913 with a Bachelor of Laws. McMillan played baseball for the University and, during the summer months and following graduation, for the Charlotte Hornets and the Charleston Sea Gulls. McMillan was admitted to the South Carolina Bar and entered the practice of law in 1913, forming with James Heyward the Charleston firm of McMillan & Heyward. On 14 December 1916 he married Clara Eloise Gooding, a teacher from Hampton County.
McMillan ran for the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1916 and was elected to represent Charleston County. He served as Speaker Pro Tem from 1921 to 1923 and Speaker from 1923 to 1924. In 1924 McMillan was elected to represent South Carolina's First Congressional District in the United States Congress. There he served on the House Appropriations Committee as well as the Committee on Rules and the Committee on Post Office and Post Roads. He gained recognition for his support of defense spending and his interest in international affairs. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the Interparliamentary Union, an international forum intended to promote multilateral negotiations, from 1937 to 1939, and was a delegate to its 1939 convention in Oslo, Norway. McMillan died in Charleston on 29 September 1939. In a special election held on November 7th of that year, Clara McMillan was elected to complete her husband's unexpired term.
Clara Eloise Gooding was born on 17 August 1894 near Brunson in Hampton County to William James and Mary Webb Gooding. Her childhood was spent largely in Savannah, Ga., and she graduated from Savannah High School. She continued her studies at Flora MacDonald College in Red Springs, N.C. Gooding completed a teacher training course at the Confederate Home College in Charleston in 1915. She taught school in Crocketville in Hampton County for one year before marrying McMillan. The couple had five sons, the youngest of whom was nine when Mrs. McMillan began her service in Congress.
Clara McMillan was the second woman from South Carolina to be elected to Congress. In reporting on her impressive 5,089 to 1,042 victory, Charleston's News and Courier on 8 November 1939 noted that she would be "the first South Carolinian of her sex to participate in a Congressional session." (Mrs. Elizabeth Gasque was elected to fill the remaining months of her late husband's Congressional term and served from 13 September 1938 to 3 January 1939. Congress was not in session at the time.)
She was on the Select Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds, as well as subcommittees for patents and elections, and sponsored a bill to reimburse the Beaufort County Public Library for books that were stolen and destroyed by Union occupiers during the Civil War. McMillan was known for her support of military appropriations and the Selective Service. Clara McMillan did not run for re?election in 1940, but stayed in Washington and served in the National Youth Administration and, later, the Office of Government Reports and Office of War Information. In 1946 she was appointed to be a Congressional Liaison Officer for the Department of State. She served in that capacity until 1957 or 1958 (Charleston Evening Post, 17 February 1956). McMillan retired to Ulmer and Barnwell and was selected as South Carolina's Mother of the Year in 1960. Clara McMillan remained active, traveling and corresponding with her family, until her death on 8 November 1976.
The McMillan papers consist of one-half linear foot of material, ca. 1870-1980, arranged as general papers, speeches, photographs, clippings, and ephemera. General papers consist largely of correspondence from Clara G. McMillan to her son Edward after her retirement. Speeches made by Thomas S. McMillan address topics such as Masonry and the armed services.
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