This collection reflects the multi-faceted life of Thomas Harrington Pope, Jr. (1913-1999), and has a particular focus on his birthplace, Newberry County, S.C. A respected lawyer, judge, legislator, and historian, this tall, outspoken gentleman left a legacy of personal integrity and over sixty years of dedicated service to South Carolina.
Thomas Harrington Pope, Jr., was born on 28 July 1913 in Kinards, a small Newberry County town. His father was Dr. Thomas Harrington Pope and his mother Marie Gary, of Abbeville, S.C. When he was seven the family moved to Newberry, where Tom attended public schools. After graduation from Newberry High in 1931 he enrolled in The Citadel. He graduated with the class of 1935 and gave the commencement speech. He then began law school at the University of South Carolina. There he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Omicron Delta Kappa and Wig and Robe. He married Mary Waties Lumpkin, and they had three children.
Pope became a leader of the Democratic Party in South Carolina before he was even out of law school. Elected to the S.C. House in 1936 at the age of twenty-three, he immediately gained state-wide attention for his outspoken integrity. Pope was admitted to the bar in 1938 and opened a general practice in Newberry that he maintained for nearly sixty years. He was a Special Circuit Judge for Richland and Lexington counties in 1955 and 1956. He served as president of the South Carolina and the Newberry County Bar Associations, as a member of the South Carolina Judicial Council, and as a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. In 1983 he received the DuRant Distinguished Public Service Award from the South Carolina Bar Foundation.
Pope put his political career on hold to serve in World War II. As a “distinguished graduate” of The Citadel, he served in the Officers Reserve Corps until September 1939. He was then commissioned a captain in the South Carolina National Guard and placed in command of a regiment he helped organize in Newberry, which later became the 107th Separate Coast Artillery Battalion (Antiaircraft). He saw duty in North Africa and in Sicily, where in 1943 he received a battlefield promotion to lieutenant colonel from Gen. George Patton. Pope helped reorganize the 107th at the start of the Korean War. He graduated from the Command and General Staff College in 1951 and was promoted to colonel, commanding the 208th AAA Group. He then served as president of the South Carolina National Guard Association. In 1957 he was promoted to brigadier general, retired. In 1983 the new National Guard Armory in Newberry was dedicated in his honor.
In 1945, before he returned to civilian life, the people of Newberry elected him without opposition to a vacant seat in the House of Representatives, where he served for two more terms and fought for increased government efficiency, against extra pay for legislators, for secret ballots in the general elections, and for the establishment of a probation system for first offenders. He became Speaker of the House by acclamation in 1949 and was an unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate in 1950.
Tom Pope took pride in being a man of his word. In an interview for the South Carolina Bar Association in 1997 he recalled — “I campaigned against extra pay and also campaigned against elected members of the General Assembly taking jobs that were filled by the General Assembly. That didn’t work out very well because I found out that I didn’t think my county was getting fair treatment if I couldn’t vote for somebody in the legislature. So, two years later, I went back and told them that I had made a mistake. I still thought we shouldn’t elect people in the legislature, but I was going to vote for the one that I thought was best fitted.”
The improvement of South Carolina’s education system was a cause Pope worked for throughout his life. In the legislature he lobbied for the formation of a Commission on Higher Education, and education was an important platform in his bid for governor. Later he served on boards for his alma maters, The Citadel and USC Law School, and for Newberry College and the University of the South (Sewanee, Tenn.). He served as a member of the Governor’s Task Force to study public education in 1955 and as a member of the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Higher Education in 1961.
With over thirty-five linear feet of material, the Pope collection spans the years 1811 to 1999, with the bulk of the items dating from 1935 to 1995. It contains correspondence and professional papers, research for his books, photographs, scrapbooks, and newspaper clippings. There is a blending of papers from Pope’s legal and political career, his service to organizations, and his study of regional and family history. Many of Pope’s professional letters contain personal notes and exchanges of genealogical or historical information, and family history files on several dozen surnames are also present.
Tom Pope came from a long line of respected lawyers, judges, doctors, and politicians who shaped the history of Newberry County and South Carolina. His paternal grandfather was Dr. Sampson Pope (1837-1906), who served in the House and as clerk of the Senate. His maternal grandfather was Eugene Blackburn Gary (1854-1926), lieutenant governor and chief justice. His great-grandfather, lawyer Thomas Herbert Pope, served in the South Carolina House of Representatives and as Commissioner of Equity. The colorful Confederate general Martin Witherspoon Gary (1831-1881) was his great-uncle. Gary became legendary for his refusal to surrender at the end of the war, and he escorted Jefferson Davis and his cabinet to South Carolina after the fall of Richmond. Later he led the Red Shirts in South Carolina against the “Radical regime.” Other great-uncles included Young John Pope (1841-1911, wounded seven times in the Civil War, served five terms as mayor of Newberry, and a state senator, attorney general, and chief justice) and circuit judges Ernest Gary and Frank B. Gary.
Pope was the great-grandson of John Belton O’Neall (1793-1863), chief justice of the state’s Supreme Court, and a revered politician in Newberry County in spite of his Unionist views. O’Neall wrote a history of the area, The Annals of Newberry. After 1950, while still maintaining a very active legal practice, Tom Pope began serious research into his family and region’s history. He had served as executive chairman for the Newberry County Sesquicentennial Committee in 1939, and this had sparked his desire to learn more about his family and their role in the region. Perhaps he also felt an obligation and an honor to carry on the work of O’Neall. Pope’s tireless pursuit of genealogical and historical details became well known and admired by his family, neighbors, and colleagues. Decades of research produced two respected books, The History of Newberry County, Volume I, 1749-1860, and Volume II, 1860-1990, published in 1975 and 1993, respectively.
His devotion to history did not end at the county line. Pope served as a member of the South Carolina Tricentennial Commission and at different times throughout his career was active on the governing boards of the South Carolina Historical Society, the University South Caroliniana Society, the Newberry County Historical Society, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
This collection contains many documents connected to Pope’s relatives, mostly from the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. Among these is a biographical sketch of Martin Witherspoon Gary written by “a member of his staff” that is undated but refers to Gary as “still a vibrant man.” One passage describes his style— “On the 27 of Aug. 1862 about sundown, in one of the fights that preceded the great battle of second Manassas, the 22nd New York Regiment finding itself about fifty yards in front of Col. Gary’s command, its Col. came forward and demanded a surrender. ‘These are South Carolinians who never surrender,’ said Col. Gary. ‘Surrender yourself or I will blow your brains out,’ and leveled his pistol. The astonished New Yorker, at once, surrendered his entire command.”
On his eighty-third birthday Newberry named the clock tower of their newly-renovated opera house for Pope and held a dedication ceremony in his honor. Characteristically, he and his family had led fund-raising efforts to preserve the local landmark. Accolades poured in from throughout the state, with Charleston mayor Joseph Riley proclaiming 28 July 1996 “Thomas Harrington Pope, Jr. Day.”
Thomas Pope died on 23 August 1999 at the age of eighty-six. In an article in The State newspaper about his memorial service, Newberry attorney James Verner was quoted as saying—“Tom has been a leader for the last 50 years. He was always known for his integrity and honesty and knowledge of the law....He was somebody that people could look up to as an example of how people ought to conduct themselves.”