George Calvin Rogers Jr., Papers, 1847-1997
| Manuscripts Gifts 2007 | Front Page 2007 | Previous Issues | Friends of the Library |
A gift to SCL Manuscripts Division announced in 2007
“Perhaps the preeminent South Carolina historian of his generation, Dr. Rogers is certainly one of the most prolific.” These words appeared in a Salute From the Georgetown County Historical Society and the Confederation of South Carolina Local Historical Societies for Commitment to South Carolina History on 25 March 1995. The sixty-five linear feet of papers, 1847-1997, held by the South Caroliniana Library document the prolific work and life of George Calvin Rogers, Jr. (1922-1997). The collection is divided into two distinct series: academic papers and personal papers. The academic papers are those relating to Rogers’ work at the University of South Carolina and to research for his publications. The personal papers relate to George Rogers’ family, interests, and other activities not directly concerned with his position at the University. Rogers’ father and his mother’s family (the Bean, Cannon, and Cleveland families of Tennessee) are both represented in the collection. | Manuscripts Gifts 2007 | Previous Issues | Endowments | Friends of the Library |
George C. Rogers, Jr., was born 15 June 1922 in Charleston, South Carolina, the second of three children of educator George Calvin and Helen Josephine Bean Rogers. He had his heart set on Princeton, but when he finished high school in 1939, the university suggested that he was too young and should “mature” for a year before enrolling. He enrolled instead in the College of Charleston, hoping to make it to Princeton in 1940. However, his family lacked the necessary funds, even with Princeton’s offer of a $200 scholarship and $250 loan for the first year. Rogers remained at the College of Charleston, receiving his B.A. in History and English in 1943. Shortly thereafter he enlisted in the United States Air Force. He studied meteorology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and at the University of Chicago and served as meteorologist with the rank of first lieutenant in England and occupied Germany. He wrote frequent letters home to his parents during this period. Using G.I. Bill funds to further his education, Rogers received his M.A. in American History in 1948 and his Ph.D. in English and American History in 1953, both from the University of Chicago. The title of his dissertation was “Sir Henry Vane, Jr., Spirit, Mystic, and Fanatic Democrat.” Rogers’ interest in English history had been piqued during the war and during his time at the University of Edinburgh in 1949-1950 as a Rotary International Foundation Fellow.
From 1953 to 1956, George C. Rogers, Jr., served as an Instructor at the University of Pennsylvania. He worked for a year each at Hunter College in New York City and at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, before returning to his home state to join the history department faculty at the University of South Carolina. He was the Caroline McKissick Dial Professor of History from 1972 until his retirement in 1986. He also served as chair of the history department from 1983 until his retirement. As evidenced in his academic papers, during this time his numerous scholarly works focused on South Carolina history. In September 1984, an article in Carolinian claimed that “Rogers is an eminent historian who has devoted his life’s work to extracting and explaining past events through teaching and writing.” The article continued, “Since he is a devoted South Carolinian, all of his research and writing deal exclusively with the Palmetto State. Rogers’ love of history evolved from childhood. ‘I grew up in Charleston,’ he explains; ‘it does something to you.’” He had once lamented, in the 27 July 1980 edition of the News and Courier, the fact that historians too often wrote for a limited audience. “As a result,” he said, “the historical field has been fragmented and journalists rather than historians are writing the history that most people read.”
Rogers had a rich professional life outside of his duties with the university history department. He served as editor of the South Carolina Historical Magazine from 1964 to 1969. He was president of the South Carolina Historical Society from 1978 to 1980. He served as chairman of the Scholarly Activities Committee of the South Carolina Tricentennial Commission, which is amply represented in the collection. He was a member of the Archives and History Commission from 1981 to 1994, serving as chair from 1984 to 1990. He was a member of the American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, South Carolina Historical Association, South Carolina Historical Society, and other organizations. Rogers also had a full social life, demonstrated in his correspondence and many appointment books. His hobbies, documented in several scrapbooks, included golf, travel, dancing, and gardening. He was the author of numerous books and articles on South Carolina history, including Evolution of a Federalist, William Loughton Smith of Charleston, 1758-1817 (University of South Carolina Press, 1962); Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys (University of Oklahoma Press, 1969); and his award-winning The History of Georgetown County, South Carolina (University of South Carolina Press, 1970). For thirteen years, he edited The Papers of Henry Laurens (University of South Carolina Press, 1968-1981, 9 volumes). In addition, he directed twenty-two master’s theses and eleven doctoral dissertations. George Calvin Rogers, Jr., died 7 October 1997.
George Calvin Rogers, Sr., also represented in the collection, was born 9 October 1889 in South Carolina, the first of five children born to interior designer John Ellsworth and Anna L. Simmons Rogers. Two brothers, Claude and St. John Eugene, died in infancy. Throughout his life, Rogers remained close to his two surviving brothers, Francis Raymond (b. 1897), and John Ellsworth “Jack” (b. 1900). In December 1913, George Rogers, Sr., married Helen Josephine Bean, born 21 May 1892 in Tennessee to printer Joseph Hansford and Mary Alice Cannon Bean. Together they had three children: Alice Cannon Rogers (b. 1919), George Calvin Rogers, Jr. (b. 1922), and Joseph Bean Rogers (b. 1925). Joseph Bean Rogers was mentally disabled and resided at the State Training School in Clinton, South Carolina, where he died 24 April 1954.
Rogers attended The Citadel on a city scholarship and received his B.S. in 1910. While there, he wrote and performed in some of the first Citadel minstrel shows. A manuscript of “The Isle of Prunes. Being a One Act Burlesque on the Modern Musical Comedy Purloined from Sundry Sources” appears among his papers, as does a photograph from the show. Rogers briefly taught history and was assistant coach of the football team at Georgia Military Academy. From 1912 to 1936, he was principal of Courtenay Elementary School in Charleston, South Carolina. During this time he pursued his M.A. in Education from Columbia University, which he received in 1928.
In 1934, Rogers served as Acting Superintendent of City Public Schools in Charleston when Superintendent A.B. Rhett, took a sabbatical. From 1936 to 1946, he was principal of Memminger High School for Girls and Assistant Superintendent. From 1946 to 1955, Rogers was Superintendent of Charleston schools. According to his obituary, during his tenure in this capacity, “the Charleston school system underwent many changes, primarily as the result of a decreasing enrollment of white students and a steady increase in Negro pupils. He was a strong advocate of upgrading the city’s Negro schools and took many steps in this direction.” After retirement, Rogers served for a time as Administrative Director at Coastal Carolina Junior College in Conway, South Carolina. Many speeches that Rogers gave as part of his duties appear in the collection and document his strong feelings on the topic of education and equality. In one undated speech, Rogers claimed that “were one to set down the five or six major contributions of America to human progress, one would include at the head of the list the development of universal free education.”
Rogers was involved with Citadel sporting events for much of his life, one of the reasons he was given an honorary LL.D. by the college in 1955. He was head football and baseball coach for The Citadel from 1913 to 1915 and again in 1919. There also appears in the collection information on an amateur baseball league in Charleston that Rogers was instrumental in founding. He was football line coach for The Citadel from 1921 to 1934. Rogers was keenly interested in the line theory of football and corresponded often with Herbert “Right Wing” Reed, the sports columnist for the New York Herald, the New York Post, and The Sun. Reed’s observations to Rogers on foreign politics leading up to the Second World War offer some intriguing insights as well as many disparaging comments about Great Britain and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in particular. He declared in a letter on 26 September 1939 that Chamberlain and Britain would “sell out,” either to Germany or to Russia and Japan. “As to our own country,” he wrote, “it is simple cold fact that we are now at war, and have been for more than a year - call it anything you like. No country is at peace with two nations against which it has effective and highly popu[l]ar boycotts.” He goes on to say that “in the long run you can be sure of one thing - that Germany will have to be licked on its own soil, and peace made in Berlin. Nothing less will be of any permanent value.”
A life-long Democrat, Rogers often wrote letters to the editor lauding his party’s candidates. He once received a letter from a distant relative, Ralph B. Simmons, to which his letter to the editor supporting John F. Kennedy was attached. Rogers had warned readers to “watch carefully Nixon on television. He is getting dirtier and more desperate. He shows all of this in his tone of voice and the smirk on his face.” Simmons’ letter, dated 28 October 1960, said simply: “Dear George, I am ashamed for you. Ralph.”
Rogers served as president of the Association of Citadel Men. He was also involved in a number of other organizations. He was a member of the Citadel Alumni Association, Rotary International, St. Andrews Society, National Education Association, American Association of School Administrators, and the Progressive Education Association. He was an Episcopalian who served on the vestry at St. Luke’s Protestant Episcopal Church in Charleston, and as Senior Warden at St. Luke’s and St. Paul’s Protestant Episcopal Church in Charleston. George Calvin Rogers, Sr., died 22 October 1964.