Walter Edgar


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

"W" is for Whitten, Benjamin Otis [1886-1970]. A Pendleton native, Whitten graduated from the Atlanta College of Physicians and Surgeons. He then joined the staff of the South Carolina State Hospital for the Insane. In 1918 Governor Manning got the legislature to differentiate between individuals classified as "feeble-minded" and those who were "insane." Whitten became the first director of a new facility, the South Carolina State Training School for the Feeble-Minded in Clinton.

"T" is for Trott, Nicholas [1663-1740]. Jurist. Scholar. In 1699, after completing his legal studies at the Inner Temple in London, Trott was appointed attorney general of South Carolina. In 1703 he became chief justice. Trott was both a scholar and a political power and during his time in South Carolina held numerous public offices. While chief justice he began to compile a codification of the laws of South Carolina that eventually were printed in 1736—the first book actually printed in the colony.

"S" is for Sayle, William [d. 1671]. Governor. In 1641 Sayle was appointed governor of Bermuda—a postion he held off and on for the next twenty years. In 1648 he and a group of adventurers failed in an attempt to establish a new colony in the Bahamas. In 1670 he was named governor of the new colony of Carolina and was on the first ship of settlers. Arriving at Port Royal, he and the settlers originally chose to settle on the western side of the Ashley River. As in Bermuda political strife plagued Sayle’s administration.

"R" is for Richardson, Robert Clinton [b. 1935]. Baseball Player. Born in Sumter, Richardson played sandlot, high school, and American Legion baseball before signing a pro contract with the New York Yankees. He made his major league debut in 1955 and from 1957-1966 was the Yankees’ regular second baseman. He earned national attention when he hit a grand slam in Game Six of the 1960 World Series and was voted Series MVP. In his major league career, he was a seven-time All-Star and winner of five Golden Glove Awards.

Dr. Chester DePratter

(Originally broadcast 02/03/17) - Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, the founder and first governor of La Florida, established several outposts in what is now the southeastern United States. One was at St. Augustine in 1565 and another in 1566 at the former French outpost of Charlesfort, now known as Santa Elena, on Parris Island, SC. This marked the first Spanish occupation of the locale that would become Spain's capital in the region. In total, the colony of Santa Elena lasted for little more than two decades, as the Spanish abandoned the town in 1587.

"P" is for Patterson, Gladys Elizabeth Johnston [b. 1939]. Legislator. Congresswoman. After graduating from Columbia College, Patterson served as a public affairs officer with the Peace Corps and with VISTA in Washington, D.C. –and as an administrator with the Head Start Program in Columbia. After a brief stint on the Spartanburg County Council, she was elected to the South Carolina Senate, serving from 1979 to 1986. In 1986, Patterson ran for Congress as a Democrat in the solidly Republican Fourth Congressional District--and won.

"O" is for Orr, James Lawrence [1822-1873]. Congressman. Governor. Orr’s public career began in the General Assembly. In 1849 he was elected to the U.S. Congress and served five terms. By sentiment a Unionist, he believed that a strong national Democratic Party would best protect the state’s interests. In 1857 he was elected Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. With Lincoln’s election, he supported secession and was a delegate to the Secession Convention. He served in the Confederate Senate from 1861 until 1865.

"N is for Nielsen, Barbara Stock [b. 1942]. State Superintendent of Education. Born in Ohio, Nielsen, in 1984,  became the curriculum specialist and director of business-community partnerships in the Beaufort County Schools. In 1990 she was elected state Superintendent of Education on the Republican ticket—becoming the first woman to hold that position and only the second woman elected to a constitutional office. Her accomplishments included the development of frameworks for all subjects and grades and new performance-based assessments for statewide tests.

Dr. Lacy Ford
University of South Carolina

(Originally broadcast 02/24/17) - Join us for the third public conversation in a four-part series of Conversations on South Carolina: The State and the New Nation, 1783-1828. Dr. Lacy Ford, Dean, College of Arts & Sciences University of South Carolina, and author of Origins of Southern Radicalism: The South Carolina Upcountry, 1800-1860 and Deliver Us From Evil: The Slavery Question in the Old South, will discuss the ideology and public policy of slavery in the American republic.

"M" is for Marion County [489 square miles; population 35,466]. Named for Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion, the county is located in northeastern South Carolina. It is shaped like a knobby sweet potato, with its skinny southern end only fifteen miles from the Atlantic Ocean. Horry County lies to the east, Williamsburg and Georgetown Counties to the west. The Great Pee Dee and the Little Pee Dee Rivers flow the length of the county and merge at its southernmost tip. The land is generally level and the soil is well suited for agriculture.

"L" is for Lebby, Nathaniel H. [1816-1880]. Inventor. In 1852 Lebby, received a patent for a "water-raising apparatus"—a steam-driven pump frequently used in the lowcountry's rice fields. It was also used to deepen a channel in Charleston Harbor. When in operation, the pump discharged sizable amounts of mud, sand, and even rocks. He then made a working model of a dredge that impressed the U.S. Corps of Engineers. Lebby's dredge boat went into service in 1857 and the results were spectacular—moving tens of thousands of cubic yards of material from Charleston Harbor.

"W" is for Whittaker, Miller Fulton [1892-1949]. Architect. College president. Born in Sumter, he moved with his family to Oklahoma City. After graduating from Kansas State College with a degree in architecture, he returned to South Carolina as a faculty member of the Colored Normal, Industrial, Agricultural, and Mechanical College. During World War I he was an officer in the all-black 92nd Division. In 1925 he became a dean at South Carolina State College and, in 1932, the college's third president.

"T" is for Trescott, William Henry [1822-1898]. Writer. Diplomat. Historian. After graduating from the College of Charleston, Trescott studied law. A prolific writer, he produced a series of essays and pamphlets that essentially made the conservative case for southern nationalism. His writings on American diplomatic history resulted in his posting to the American embassy in London and as assistant secretary of state under President Buchanan.

"R" is for Richardson, Richard [ca. 1705-1780]. Legislator. Soldier. In the 1730s, Richardson settled on the upper Santee River. In the decades before the Revolution, he emerged as a leading figure in the backcountry. He was instrumental in negotiating an end to the violent Regulator movement. He was a member of the First and Second Provincial Congresses and a well-respected militia officer. In November 1775 Richardson and William Thompson were given command of 2,500 patriots to disperse the large number of Tory militia units in the backcountry. The mission was an unqualified success.

(Originally broadcast 02/17/17) - For the second lecture in this four-part series of Conversations on South Carolina: The State and the New Nation, 1783-1828. Dr. Larry Watson discusses slavery in South Carolina. Professor Watson is Associate Professor of History & Adjunct Professor of History South Carolina State University and the University of South Carolina. He is author of numerous articles on African American life in the American South.

"P" is for petroglyphs. Petroglyphs [rock carvings] and pictographs [drawings or paintings on rocks] are collectively referred to as “rock art.” The first example of rock art in South Carolina was a petroglyph discovered in Greenville County in 1979. In 1996, the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of South Carolina began an extensive survey of possible sites. The survey discovered forty-four additional petroglyph sites, thirty-three probable carvings, and three pictographs.

"M" is for Magrath, Andrew Gordon [1813-1893]. Governor, jurist. After graduating from the South Carolina College, Magrath (pronounced like McGraw) studied law at Harvard and with James L. Petigru. In 1856 he was appointed a federal district judge and, in the cases surrounding two ships seized for as slave traders—the Echo and the Wanderer—declared that the federal statues on piracy did not apply to the slave trade. His decision was hailed in the South and condemned in the North.

"L" is for Lamar Riot

Aug 3, 2017

"L" is for Lamar Riot. The Lamar Riot, on March 3, 1970, was the most violent reaction against court-ordered school desegregation in South Carolina. A planned boycott to resist the court order failed. The riots occurred when a mob of 150-200 white men and women, armed with ax handles, bricks, and chains overturned two school buses that had delivered black students to Lamar elementary and high schools in Darlington County. They clashed with about 150 South Carolina highway patrolmen and SLED agents.

  "Z" is for Zubly, the Reverend John Joachim (1724-1781), Minister. Zubly was born in Switzerland. After being ordained a clergyman in London's German Reformed Church, he immigrated to Georgia. Although the Reformed Congregation in Georgia requested that the Trustees of the Colony appoint Zubly as their pastor, another was selected instead.

"S" is for Sayers, Valerie [b. 1952]. Author. Sayers grew up in Beaufort. She earned her MFA at Columbia University. In 1993 she joined the faculty at the University of Notre Dame where she became directors of the masters in fine arts program. Sayers is the author of five novels and several short stories. Her first novel, Due East serves as an anchor for her other four novels. Due East is the name Sayers gives to the thinly disguised Beaufort of her youth and adolescence.

 "A" is for Abbeville County [508 square miles, population 26,167]. Abbeville was one of six counties created out of the old Ninety Six District. Its northern border is the colonial Indian territory.

  "B" is for Babcock, James Woods (1856-1922). Psychiatrist, mental hospital superintendent. After graduating from Harvard Medical School in 1886, Babcock returned to South Carolina as the Superintendent of what was then called the South Carolina State Lunatic Asylum. In 1895 Babcock persuaded the General Assembly to change the name of the institution to the South Carolina State Hospital for the Insane. But, he could get little else from the legislature.

Peter Coclanis
University of North Carolina

(Originally broadcast 02/10/17) - Dr. Peter Coclanis, the Albert Ray Newsome Distinguished Professor & Director of the Global Research Institute at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, joins Dr. Edgar for the first of a series of Conversations on South Carolina: The State and the New Nation, 1783-1828. Professor Coclanis, author of The Shadow of a Dream: Economic Life and Death in the South Carolina Low Country, 1670-1920, will discuss the historical importance of cotton to the state's economy.

"C" is for Caesar (ca. 1682-ca. 1754), Slave, medical practitioner. In 1749, a member of the Commons House of Assembly informed his fellow members that “a Negro Man named Caesar belonging to Mr. John Norman of Beach Hill” had reportedly cured several persons “who had been poisoned by Slaves.” A legislative investigation secured testimony from prominent white planters and physicians that praised the effectiveness of Caesar's treatments and vouched for his abilities. The Assembly reached a bargain with Caesar.

  "M" is for Memminger School. Founded in 1858 in Charleston, Memminger was patterned after normal schools in the North. Its mission was to train female teachers for the state at large as a department of a new city high school for girls. Admission depended upon entrance tests and was usually free. Eventually the curriculum was expanded beyond education and teaching to include domestic science and business. In 1932, the normal department was closed, but by that date the school had educated thousands of teachers, business and professional women, and housewives.

"P" is for Pines

Jul 26, 2017

"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.

West Fraser

(Originally Broadcast 04/07/17) - Painting the Southern Coast: The Art of West Fraser (2016, USC Press) is a collection of the works of one of the nation's most respected painters of representational art. A mastery of his medium and the scope of work ensure his place in Southern art history. A true son of the Lowcountry, Fraser has dedicated much of his career to capturing the lush, primordial beauty of the Southeast's coastal regions that have been altered by man and time.

  "U" is for the Union Daily Times, a daily evening newspaper with a circulation of 6,355, published in the city of Union. The paper claims to be the county's oldest enterprise as the successor to the weekly Unionville Journal that began publishing in 1850. The Journal later became the Times, It was a radical states' rights publication with the masthead notice: "The Constitution as our fathers gave it, or separate independence." The newspaper survived the Civil War and several name changes. In 1906 the Reverend Lewis Malone Rice purchased it and turned the weekly paper into a daily.

" “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.

Cassandra King
Courtesy of the Author

(Originally broadcast 03/17/17) - In the Fall of 2016, the Newberry Opera House, in partnership with the Pat Conroy Literary Center, presented a special night in honor of the late author, Pat Conroy. The evening featured Conroy's widow and fellow novelist Cassandra King interviewed by Walter Edgar, and was presented in benefit of the Pat Conroy Literary Center.