South Carolina from A to Z

Mon-Fri, throughout the day

From Hilton Head to Caesars Head, and from the Lords Proprietors to Hootie and the Blowfish, historian Walter Edgar mines the riches of the South Carolina Encyclopedia to bring you South Carolina from A to Z. (A production of South Carolina ETV Radio.)

South Carolina from A to Z Archives (April 2011 to Sept 2014)

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  “C” is for Civil Rights Movement. During Reconstruction, South Carolina experimented briefly with interracial democracy. With the reestablishment of conservative rule in 1877, legislators spent the next three decades undermining the gains of Reconstruction. During the 1930s and 1940s the NAACP became an active, statewide organization. During the 1960s, segregation collapsed in the face of mass demonstrations across the state. Violence erupted in Orangeburg and Lamar. The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 dramatically changed the face of the civil rights movement in the state. As the civil rights movement shifted from protest to politics and litigation, the major changes in civil rights with an enfranchised black electorate have occurred in the legislature and the courtroom—not as dramatic as protests and demonstrations, but just as significant.

  “P” is for Pollitzer sisters. Educators, suffragists, reformers. The three sisters—Carrie Teller, Mabel Louise and Anita Lily—were born in Charleston. Carrie Teller Politzer was a charter member of the Charleston Equal Suffrage League and was active in the National Woman’s Party. She launched the petition drive that led to the admission of women to the College of Charleston. Mabel Louise Pollitzer was president of the Charleston County Teachers’ Association. She obtained the necessary legislation to establish the Charleston County Free Library. A charter member of the Charleston Equal Suffrage League, she was still an active member well into her nineties. As a student, Annie Lily Pollitzer became involved in the radical wing of the women’s movement. Beginning in 1918 she held numerous National Woman’s Party offices, including national chair from 1945 to 1949.

  “P” is for Poinsett Bridge. Named for Joel Roberts Poinsett, president of the state’s Board of Public Works [1819-1821], the bridge over Little Gap Creek was built in 1820 during the construction of the state highway from Columbia to Saluda Mountain. Located on Highway 42 just off old Highway 25 in northern Greenville County, it was one of forty-seven bridges spanning creeks and rivers along the ridge between the Tyger and Enoree Rivers. The bridge extends 130 feet across the shallow stream. The Gothic arch at its center is fifteen feet high and seven feet wide.

  “P” is for Poetry Society of South Carolina. This cultural organization helped revive the arts, not just in Charleston and South Carolina, but in the American South. During the 1920s it had a national audience and was credited with sparking the flowering of what was subsequently called the Charleston Renaissance. Among the key players in founding the society were John Bennett, DuBose Heyward, Hervey Allen, Laura Bragg, Helen von Kolnitz, and Josephine Pinckney. The impact of the society was greater than literary, however. As an umbrella organization, it fostered the cultural rebirth of the area and stimulated the growth and development of many other agencies such as the Preservation Society of Charleston and the Society for the Preservation of Spirituals. The Poetry Society of South Carolina declined in national prominence by the end of the 1920s.

  “S is for Simms, William Gilmore [1806-1870]. Poet, historian, novelist. Lacking much formal education Simms was a voracious reader and an acute observer. From his reading and his travel he absorbed history as well as local legends and acquired material for the volumes he would later write. After the death of his wife in1832, he travelled to New York where he became acquainted with the city’s literati. Returning to Charleston, he was determined to make his living as a writer. Simms believed that “to be national in literature, one must needs be sectional.” His principal contributions to a broader understanding of South Carolina may be found in his poetry, his history, his biographies, and perhaps most notable in his fiction. In fiction, William Gilmore Simms was a master of the “romance,” which he likened most to epic poetry.

  “S is for Simmons, Philip [1912-2009]. Blacksmith. Born on Daniel Island, Simmons was apprenticed to Peter Simmons, an elderly wheelwright. From Peter, the thirteen-year-old Philip was exposed to so many branches of ironworking that he referred to himself as “a general blacksmith.” He could shoe horses, repair wagons, fashion iron fittings for boats, make and mend tools, and fabricate iron structures. Shifting from pragmatic smithing to artistry, he soon established himself as one of Charleston’s premiere artists. Between 1938 and 1990 he produced more than two hundred commissions—including gates, balconies, fences, and railings. Among his most noted works are the gates for the Christopher Gadsden House on East Bay Street, which feature a pair of threatening rattlesnakes. In1982, Philip Simmons was among the first group of American folk artists honored as a National Heritage Fellow.

  “R” is for Rosenwald Schools. In the early 20th century, schooling for southern blacks was neither well planned nor well supported. Julius T. Rosenwald, a Chicago merchant and philanthropist, made significant contributions to the education of southern blacks of the times through construction of school buildings. From 1913 to 1937, some 5,357 schools, shops, and teachers’ homes in fifteen states were built through Rosenwald’s funding. His gifts required matching local funding from black parents and local and state governments. In South Carolina, 450 Rosenwald schools were built. More than 74,00 students were educated in these buildings. Rosenwald school still standing in the 21st century are Mt. Zion Rosenwald School in Florence, Liberty Colored High School in Pickens County, and Walhalla Graded School in Walhalla—and all are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

  “P” is for Poinsett, Joel Roberts [1779-1851]. Congressman, diplomat, U.S. secretary of war. A Charleston native, Poinsett was educated in England, Connecticut and Scotland. After serving in the General Assembly, he won a seat in Congress. In 1825, President Monroe appointed him the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico. His meddling in local politics made him unpopular and he was recalled in 1830. He brought back with him a red-leafed Mexican plant that was named the poinsettias in his honor. In the 1830s, he was a leading Unionist and staunch supporter of President Andrew Jackson. In 1837, he was named Secretary of War and presided over the removal of thousands of Indians from east of the Mississippi. In 1844 Joel Roberts Poinsett was elected president of the National Institute, a forerunner of the Smithsonian Institution.

  “P” is for Poets Laureate. The South Carolina General Assembly made the title of state poet laureate official in 1934, proclaiming, “the governor may name and appoint some outstanding and distinguished man of letters as poet laureate of the State of South Carolina.” That same year Archibald Rutledge was appointed as the first official poet laureate of South Carolina. Rutledge held the title until his death in 1973. Poets laureate do not have a strictly delineated job description beyond the expectation that they will present poetry at a few state occasions. Until it was stricken from the state budget in 2003, the position carried a small stipend. Altogether South Carolina has had six poets laureate since 1934: Archibald Rutledge, Helen von Kolnitz Hyer, Ennis Rees, Grace Beacham Freeman, Bonnie Lee Sinclair, and Marjory Wentworth.

  “M” is for Middleton Place [Dorchester County]. Middleton Place is an Ashley River Plantation located on Highway 61 [Ashley River Road], just outside Charleston. In the early 18th century, John Williams settled the site and his daughter married Henry Middleton. Middleton acquired additional acreage and began the elegant gardens that have made Middleton Place internationally famous. The gardens, thought to be the oldest surviving formal landscaped gardens in the country are renowned for their collection of Camellia japonicas which were first planted in 1786. 

  Today, in addition to the gardens, the property contains a house museum, a plantation chapel, a rice mill, an African American freedman’s cottage, and a reconstructed stable complex. Burned by Union soldiers in 1865, Middleton Place continued in the Middleton family until 1984, when ownership was vested in the nonprofit Middleton Place Foundation.

  “M” is for Middleton, Henry [1770-1846]. Legislator, governor, congressman, diplomat. In 1799, after studying in England, Middleton returned to South Carolina and took up the management of his family’s properties, including plantations on the Combahee River. In 1802 the Parishes of St. Philip’s and St. Michael’s elected him to the SC House of Representatives. By 1810 he had aligned himself with the Democratic-Republican Party and been elected to the SC Senate. Shortly thereafter he was elected governor. From 1815-1819 he represented Charleston District in the US House of Representatives where he supported federal funds for internal improvements, the tariff of 1816, and the Second Bank of the United State. In 1820, President Monroe appointed him Minister to Russia—a post he held for ten years. Returning home, Henry Middleton became a leader of the Unionists during South Carolina’s Nullification Crisis.

  “L” is for Ludvigson, Susan [b. 1942]. Poet. A native of Wisconsin, Ludvigson received an M.A. in English from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and, for two years studied at the University of South Carolina with James Dickey. She then joined the faculty at Winthrop University, but also spent six months of the year in southern France. In a 1986 interview, Ludvigson recalled that she wrote her first poems while still in her teens. As an adult she became committed to poetry. Her first volume, Step Carefully in Night Grass appeared in 1974. Her second, Northern Lights was published in 1981 and began her connection with Louisiana State University Press, which published the six collections of poems that followed. Since 1979, Susan Ludvigson’s work has earned many awards, including Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships.

  “C” is for Civil rights Act [1964]. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the most comprehensive federal civil rights legislation passed since Reconstruction. Addressing all spheres of public life—social, political, and economic—the act guaranteed all Americans access to public facilities, accommodations, and schools that received federal funds. It ensured the right of all Americans to vote in federal elections and be employed on a non-discriminatory basis. It also created the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and the Equal Employment opportunity Commission. Overall this comprehensive federal law was designed to challenge and overturn the overt segregation and discrimination that still confronted African Americans in South Carolina and the American South. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 proved to be important in ending segregation and discrimination in South Carolina’s public schools and public accommodations.

  “C” is for Citizens’ Councils. Founded in 1954, in Indianola, Mississippi, Citizens’ Councils quickly spread across the South. The organization promoted a membership as a “respectable” way for disgruntled segregationists to protest civil rights activism. The councils distributed pro-segregation propaganda and attempted to protect the legality of racial segregation. Although they denounced violence, they encouraged organized economic pressure against African Americans and whites that were sympathetic to desegregation. South Carolina’s first council appeared in Orangeburg County in August 1955. By October representatives of thirty-eight chapters met in Columbia to form the Association of Citizens’ Councils of South Carolina. Within a year they claimed forty thousand members in fifty-five councils. The driving force behind the state organization was S. Emory Rogers. Although Citizens’ Councils remained active into the 1960s, after 1958, membership never topped one thousand.

  “H” is for Hollywood [Charleston County; population 3,946]. A local automobile sticker declares “We are the real Hollywood,” but no tourist would confuse this crossroads village on the western edge of Charleston County with California’s Tinseltown. In the 1880s, truck farming commenced on land five miles west of the Stono River. Soon a village grew up along the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and later along two-lane S.C. Highway 162. The town was incorporated in 1949 where S.C. 162 crossed S.C. 165. As farming faded, residents attempted to attract industry. When this failed, the town turned into a bedroom community for Charleston with its small town center providing services to a growing population. By 2000, thanks to an aggressive annexation policy, Hollywood’s town limits extended sixteen miles along S.C. 162 and encompassed thirty-three square miles.

  “H” is for Hollis, Lawrence Peter [1883-1978]. Educator, social worker. From 1921 to 1951 Hollis served as the superintendent of the Parker School in Greenville, considered one of the most innovative progressive schools in the country. In 1911, while employed by the YMCA, Hollis became director of welfare activities for the Monaghan Mill and Parker Cotton Mills. He organized mill communities to create school districts of elementary and secondary schools. He merges his beliefs in progressive education with the vocational needs of the community. The Parker District established basic health, aesthetic, vocational, general education, leisure, and environmental programs for both students and adults. Lawrence Peter Hollis is widely recognized for bringing the sport of basketball to South Carolina, organizing the first troop of Boy Scouts in the state, and developing an adult “People’s College” for mill residents.

  “G” is for Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport. The Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport was the vision of upstate businessmen Charles Daniel of Greenville and Roger Milliken of Spartanburg. Believing a modern airport was necessary for the economic development of the upcountry, in the late 1950s they formed a committee to study the project and develop a design plan. In 1959 the General Assembly combined the counties of Greenville and Spartanburg into a single airport district. The airport opened in 1962. Expansions in 1989, 1995, and 1999 expanded the terminal, increased the number of gates and extended the runway to more than eleven thousand feet. Two federal inspection stations were added to attract international passengers and cargo. By the first decade of the 21st century, the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport handled more than 80 daily departures and 1.5 million passengers annually.

  “C” is for The Citadel. The Citadel originated in 1822 as an arsenal and guardhouse to defend white Charlestonians from possible slave uprisings. In 1842, the General Assembly combined the State Citadel with the Arsenal in Columbia to create the South Carolina Military Academy. When South Carolina seceded from the Union in December 1860, Citadel cadets helped shore up the defenses around Charleston harbor. One month later they assembled on Morris Island and fired cannon shots at the Star of the West which was trying to resupply Federal troops at Fort Sumter. Citadel alumni claim that these were the first shots fired in the Civil War. From 1865 until 1879 Federal troops occupied the Citadel. In 1882, led by former Confederate general Johnson Hagood, the institution’s supporters persuaded the legislature to reopen The Citadel.

  “C” is for Circular Congregational Church [Charleston]. The first meeting house for Dissenters [non-Anglicans] was built in 1681 and gave Meeting Street its name. A second church was erected in 1732. By 1802, the church’s membership had outgrown the building and a third edifice—this one designed by Robert Mills—was completed in 1806. It was noted for its circular design. The great fire of 1861 left only brick walls standing. For decades the congregation worshipped in borrowed space. The present Circular Congregational Church, dedicated in 1892 is the fourth house of worship on the site at 150 Meeting Street. Its Richardsonian Romanesque style reflects Charleston’s tradition of adopting architectural fashion for ecclesiastical buildings, despite the city’s famous conservatism in residential design. The Circular Congregational Church was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

  “C” is for Church of the Nativity [Union]. Located in Union, the Church of the Nativity is a remarkably effective example of the “Ecclesiological” architectural style favored by the Episcopal Church in America and the Anglican Communion throughout the world in the 1840s and 1850s. John D. McCullough, the rector served as the supervising architect—using plans of St. Anne’s, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. Ecclesiological designs emphasized pointed arches and windows, stone construction, flying buttresses, recessed chancels, and stained glass. The Church of the Nativity, the first stone Episcopal Church in South Carolina, had them all—and an unusual bellcote as well. When the church was consecrated in 1859, the Southern Episcopalian magazine termed it “an exquisite gem.” The Church of the Nativity was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.