Walter Edgar

Host

Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his A.B. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens. In 1972 he joined the faculty of the History Department and in 1980 was named director of the Institute for Southern Studies. Dr. Edgar is the Claude Henry Neuffer Professor of Southern Studies and the George Washington Distinguished Professor of History. He retired from USC in 2012. He has written or edited numerous books about South Carolina and the American South, including South Carolina: A History, the first new history of the state in more than 60 years. With more than 37,000 copies in print and an audio edition, it has been a publishing phenomenon. Partisans & Redcoats: The Southern Conflict that Turned the Tide of the American Revolution is in its fourth printing. He is also the editor of the South Carolina Encyclopedia.

Ways to Connect

South Carolina From A to Z
SC Public Radio

"W" is for Wannamaker, John Edward [1851-1935]. Agriculturalist. Civic Leader. Educated at home by private tutors, Wannamaker graduated from Wofford in 1872. After college, he assumed management of his father's farming interests. Keenly interested in agricultural improvement, he applied his considerable resources to agrarian research and innovation. In the 1930s he experimented with soybeans, seeking to develop a seed stock suitable to South Carolina soils and climate.

South Carolina From A to Z
SC Public Radio

"U" is for the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. The denomination was formed in 1958 with the union of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America and the United Presbyterian Church in North America. Long-established lowcountry black congregations were part of the United Presbyterian Church. In 1861 when the South seceded from the union, the denomination had divided into northern and southern branches. After the war, black Presbyterians withdrew from white churches.

"T" is for Television

Mar 14, 2018
South Carolina From A to Z
SC Public Radio

"T" is for Television. The first snowy black and white images on South Carolina television screens were broadcast by a Charlotte, North Carolina station. It was not until 1952 that six South Carolina stations received their FCC television broadcast licenses. WIS, Columbia went on the air in April 1953 and WCSC, Charleston, followed a month later. WNOK-TV, one of the oldest UHF channels in the country, is now WLTX, Columbia. Many early stations bought their television cameras developed by Columbia native Thomas T. Goldsmith.

South Carolina From A to Z
SC Public Radio

"S" is for St. John's Berkeley Parish. One of the ten original parishes created in 1706, the parish of St. John's Berkeley stretched northwestward from the upper reaches of the Cooper River to the Santee River through modern Berkeley and Orangeburg counties. The first Europeans settled in the area in the 1690s and by 1705 included Huguenots, English, Irish, and Barbadians. By 1720, enslaved Africans outnumbered whites three to one as the production of rice in freshwater inland swamps replaced the earlier dry cultivation. The parish church, called Biggin Church, was erected in 1712.

South Carolina From A to Z
SC Public Radio

"R" is for Ravenel, Beatrice [1870-1956]. Poet. Journalist. Born in Charleston, she entered Harvard Annex [later Radcliffe College] as a special student in 1889. Twice left a widow, Ravenel turned to poetry (some of it splendid) and short stories (mostly derivative and plot-heavy) to support her family. She is probably one of the best examples of the influence of the Poetry Society of South Carolina on local writers. Through the Society she met Amy Lowell who championed her work. Ravenel's poetry in the 1920s championed the outsiders and the dispossessed.

"R" is for Ravenel, Henry William [1814-1887]. Botanist, diarist. After graduating from the South Carolina College, Ravenel acquired Northampton plantation in Berkeley County. He settled into the life of a lowcountry planter and began a life-long collaboration with the country's leading botanists. He was fascinated with mycology—the study of fungi--and published two works: Fungi Caroliniani Exsiccati  [in five parts, 1852-1860] and Fungi Americani Exsiccati [in eight parts, 1878-1882].

"P" is for Pardo, Juan. Spanish soldier, explorer. In 1565, Pardo travelled to Spanish Florida as the captain of one of six military companies sent to reinforce the colony. His company was posted to Santa Elena, located on present-day Parris Island. He was ordered to explore for an overland route to the silver mines of Mexico—thought to be just several hundred miles inland. He never reached Mexico, but his two expeditions provided a valuable look at mid sixteenth century southeastern Indians. On his second expedition he built six forts, garrisoned with Spanish soldiers.

"O" is for Opportunity Schools. Dr. Wil Lou Gray, the state supervisor in adult education, created a boarding school for young people who could not attend public school or who had not gone further than the fifth grade. The school opened in August 1921 at the Tamassee DAR School in Oconee County to offer educational opportunities for undereducated young white women. For a decade the school operated during August on the campuses of Anderson, Erskine, Clemson, and Lander colleges. By 1931 it was co-educational and in 1936 the Opportunity School for Negroes opened at Vorhees.

"N" is for the New Era Club. Founded in Spartanburg in 1912, the New Era Club existed for only a short while, but served as the nucleus of South Carolina's first statewide women's suffrage organization. White and middle class in its make-up, the club began disguised as a study group.

Spinners and doffers in Lancaster Cotton Mills. Lancaster, S.C., circa 1912.
National Archives/Hine, Lewis Wickes

South Carolina in 1918 was still struggling with the changes to its economic and social systems brought about by the Civil War and Reconstruction. The United States’ entry into World War I affected the daily work life of South Carolinians and the state’s economy in a way that was unique to our state.

"W" is for World War II (1941-1945). Prior to the entry of the US into World War II, the federal government constructed or expanded military installations, including Camp Jackson (Columbia), Camp Croft (Spartanburg), the Navy Yard (Charleston), and several smaller bases. At least 900,000 men received military training in South Carolina. More than 180,000 Carolinians (including 2,500 women) served in the armed forces. Thousands more wanted to serve, but 41% of those examined were rejected for mental or physical problems.

"W" is for World War I (1917-1918). When Congress declared war on Germany in April 1917, part of South Carolina was already on a war footing. More than 65,000 South Carolinians served in the armed forces. Eight men from the state were awarded the Medal of Honor. At home civilians supported the war effort through liberty bond drives, home gardens, and meatless and wheatless days. Patriotism cut across racial boundaries in broad support for bond drives and the Red Cross.

South Carolina From A to Z
SC Public Radio

"B" is for Bennett, Thomas, Jr.


South Carolina From A to Z
SC Public Radio

"A" is for Asian religions. In 1965, the US Congress passed laws liberalizing existing statutes regarding the entry of Asian immigrants. This had a significant effect on the religious landscape of South Carolina. By the 1980s the state had become home to emergent communities of Asian immigrants—East Indians, Cambodians, Vietnamese, and Laotians from Southeast Asia.  Prior to the 1960s the most notable Hindu presence in the state was the Meher Baba Spiritual Center in Myrtle Beach.

Written on print: Spartanburg, S.C. Saxon Mills; "Girl workers in the half-time mill school."
Library of Congress/Goldsberry Collection of open-air school photographs.

There were progressives in South Carolina in 1918. And the progressive movement in this state was different from the movement in the Northeast. However, the United States’ entrance into World War I provided an extra momentum to the movement that led to some fundamental changes the interaction between state and federal authority that lasted through the 20th century. 

" “W" is for Wofford College. A four-year liberal arts college in Spartanburg, Wofford was founded with a bequest from the Methodist minister and Spartanburg native Benjamin Wofford. The General Assembly granted a charter in 1851 and the then all-male college opened in 1854. In the late 19th century Wofford played Furman in the first intercollegiate football game in South Carolina, allowed fraternities on campus, and its faculty participated in the founding of the Association of Southern Colleges and Secondary Schools.

  "S" is for Shaw Air Force Base. Established in 1941 on the outskirts of Sumter to train pilots for World War II, Shaw Air Force Base later evolved into a home for U.S. Air Force tactical units. The facility was named after Sumter native Ervin Shaw, a pilot shot down over France in July 1918. In 1948 the base became part of the Tactical Air Command and in 1950 home to the Ninth Air Force. Its planes played an active role in the cold war, including reconnaissance patrols over Cuba during the 1962 Missile Crisis. In 1993 Shaw became the permanent home of the Twentieth Fighter Wing.

"R" is for Rock Hill

Feb 21, 2018

  "R" is for Rock Hill [York County; population 41,643*]. Rock Hill began in 1852 as a depot and watering station on the Charlotte and South Carolina Railroad. The name came from a notation on a construction supervisor’s map marking a spot where the road encountered a small flinty knoll. In the years after the Civil War, Rock Hill developed into a major cotton market and by the 1880s into a major textile center. In 1915, it adopted the city-manager form of government. In the early 20th century it began a century-long effort of economic and industrialization.

"P" is for Pines

Feb 20, 2018

"P" is for Pines. Nine native pine species are found within South Carolina. Three species are restricted to the upper Piedmont and mountain regions, three are found nearly throughout the state, and three are found primarily within the coastal plain. South Carolina pines are divided into white and yellow. Yellow pines have needles in groups of two or three, while white pines have needles in groups of five. The only white pine in the state is the eastern white pine. Among the yellow pines are loblolly, slash, longleaf, Virginia, pitch, pond, table mountain, and spruce.

Unidentified African American soldier in uniform with marksmanship qualification badge and campaign hat, with cigarette holder in front of painted backdrop.
Library of Congress

Upon the United States' entrance into World War I, President Woodrow Wilson told the nation that the war was being fought to "make the world safe for democracy." For many African-American South Carolinians, the chance to fight in this war was a way to prove their citizenship, in hopes of changing things for the better at home.

South Carolina From A to Z
SC Public Radio

"E" is for England, John [1786-1842]. Catholic Bishop. Educator. Born in Ireland, England was ordained in 1808. In 1820 Pope Pius VII appointed him the first bishop of the Diocese of Charleston—encompassing the states of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. He traveled repeatedly to all corners of his huge diocese, established parishes and recruited priests. He was one of the first Irish-American bishops and became an important leader of the Irish community nationwide.

"D" is for Divorce

Feb 15, 2018
South Carolina From A to Z
SC Public Radio

"D" is for Divorce. Except for a brief period from 1872 to 1878, South Carolina was the only state in the union that prohibited divorce. The opposition to divorce stemmed from the citizenry’s strong disapproval of government interference in any “domestic institution.” Although divorce was forbidden, South Carolinians were not exempt from desertions, bigamy, abusive marriages, adulterous relationships, and illegitimate children. Desertion functioned as a de facto divorce.

South Carolina From A to Z
SC Public Radio

"C" is for Catesby, Mark [1682-1749]. Naturalist. Artist. With the financial backing of influential Englishmen, Catesby came to Charleston in 1722 to gather specimens and notes for an illustrated work on the natural history of the Carolina region. In 1725 he left Charleston and journeyed to Florida and the Bahamas. Back in England, he began preparing the plates and text for publication—teaching himself engraving.

"B" is for Belton

Feb 13, 2018
South Carolina From A to Z
SC Public Radio

"B" is for Belton [Anderson County; population 4,161]. Belton began as a proposed railroad junction of the Greenville and Columbia Railroad and a spur line of the Blue Ridge Railroad. The town was named in honor of Judge John Belton O’Neall, president of the Greenville and Columbia. The town was incorporated in 1855 and the Rice family can be credited with much of the town’s post-Civil War development. Among the family enterprises were a brick mill, a cottonseed oil mill, a grist and flour mill and a traveling cotton gin.

Celebrating graduation at a recent Morgan State University commencement.
Fire Light Media

Film maker Stanley Nelson and Dr. Bobby Donaldson of the University of South Carolina talk with Walter Edgar about the story of historically black colleges and universities in the U. S., and about Mr. Nelson’s film Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities which airs on SCETV Monday, February 19, at 9:00 pm, as part of the PBS series Independent Lens.

All Stations: Fri, Feb 16, 12 pm | News & Talk Stations: Sun, Feb 18, 4 pm

"A" is for Art

Feb 12, 2018
South Carolina From A to Z
SC Public Radio

"A" is for Art. Throughout the history of South Carolina, art has reflected the tastes and aspirations of its citizenry. In general, South Carolinians’ taste has been conservative. With few exceptions, painting dominated sculpture in the history of art in South Carolina. With the advent of the 20th century, art slowly gained more prominence. The South Carolina and West Indian Exposition featured local as well as imported art. The Charleston Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s brought national acclaim to local artists.

South Carolina From A to Z
SC Public Radio

"W" is for the White-tailed deer. State Animal. Found throughout North America, the white-tailed deer was adopted as South Carolina’s State Animal in 1972. The trade and exportation of deerskins was vital to the economy of colonial South Carolina, and the species remains one of the state’s most popular game animals.  The underside of the deer’s body and tail are completely white, a color particularly noticeable as the animal “flags” its tail when alarmed. Since natural predators no longer present a threat, recreational hunting provides a check for overpopulation and disease.

South Carolina From A to Z
SC Public Radio

"T" is for Travis, William Barret [1809-1836]. Soldier. Travis was born in Edgefield District, but in 1818 his family moved to Alabama. He studied law, and published a small newspaper, the Claiborne Herald. In debt, he abandoned his pregnant wife and infant son and fled to Texas. Travis set up a law practice and began a life of drinking, gambling, and womanizing—all of which he carefully recorded in his diary. When the Texas Revolution broke out in 1835, he was commissioned a major and later promoted to lieutenant colonel.

South Carolina From A to Z
SC Public Radio

"S" is for Sawyer, Benjamin Mack [1890-1940]. Public Official. After serving in World War I, Sawyer became the first secretary of the State Budget Commission and, in 1925, the secretary-treasurer of the Highway Commission. The following year he became chief highway commissioner. He lobbied for funding to construct a statewide network of highways, survived the ensuing controversy, resisted the efforts of Governor Olin D. Johnston to deprive him and his commissioners of their offices, and defended the highway department fund from diversion by Governor Burnett Maybank.

South Carolina From A to Z
SC Public Radio

"R" is for Richardson, James Burchell [1770-1836]. Governor. Richardson was in his early twenties when the upland cotton boom hit South Carolina. Capitalizing on his family’s resources, he soon became one of the wealthiest planters in the state. Eventually he owned 12,000 acres and 395 slaves. In 1792 he was elected to the South Carolina House where he remained until he was elected governor in 1802. He was the first backcountry resident—indeed the first non-Charlestonian—to serve as governor.

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