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Caroline Dick McKissick Belser Dial Papers

Identifier: SCL-MS-12694
"Don't say anything about the University unless it is good. It is such a wonderful University." These words spoken by Caroline Dick McKissick Belser Dial in a 1990 interview for Columbia Metropolitan magazine characterize her devotion to the University of South Carolina--a devotion that made her one of the most beloved of Carolina's first ladies. The papers of Caroline Dick McKissick Belser Dial consist of 5 linear feet of correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, publications, and miscellaneous printed items documenting the life and interests of this former school teacher, USC first lady, and lifelong Gamecock supporter.

Caroline Virginia Dick was born in Sumter, S.C. on 15 July 1900, the daughter of Caroline Hutchinson and George William Dick. After graduating from Winthrop College, Rock Hill, S.C., in 1921, Caroline taught in several North and South Carolina schools before marrying J. Rion McKissick in 1927. She first came to the University of South Carolina that same year when her husband was named Dean of the School of Journalism.

When Dr. McKissick became the president of USC in 1936, Caroline stepped into the role of Carolina's first lady and filled it with her unique sense of style, warmth, and graciousness. She was the first president's wife to open the president's house and make it a place for entertaining and welcoming all Carolina atudents, faculty, alumni, and friends. She also added the president's rose garden to the Horseshoe grounds and began an extensive collection of gamecock memorabilia which ranged from gamecocks of fine European porcelain to those of papier-mache made by her grandchildren. Even her car's hood ornament was a silver gamecock. After J. Rion McKissick's death in 1944, Caroline continued her role as a tireless advocate of USC. She is credited with revitalizing support of the Alumni Association and the University South Caroliniana Society and served on many University boards throughout the remainder of her life. Upon marrying attorney Irvine F. Besler in 1947, she became stepmother to two sons and six daughters. Belser died in 1969, and Caroline married to George L. Dial in 1976. Caroline McKissick Dial died on 6 July 1994.

Although the University of South Carolina was her first love, Caroline served her state and community by funding Palmetto Girls State in 1947 and through charter membership on the Board of Associates of Converse College. She also chaired the South Carolina Garden Symposium and from 1960 to 1964 was vice-chair of the Democratic Party of South Carolina.

The Carolina Dick McKissick Belser Dial papers consist principally of correspondence, personal papers, and photographs relating to members of her immediate family. The bulk of correspondence dates from 1930 to 1960 and includes love letters from her first husband, J. Rion McKissick. In 1927 he wrote to her from Furman University: "Goodnight, my lovely sweetheart. I love you, adore you. I always will. No one else ever had as sweet and fine a sweetheart, as charming and admirable a wife as I have. Over the distance I send you a thousand kisses and all my love." Most of the photographs are from Caroline's childhood and life with McKissick. There is also an ambrotype of J. Rion McKissick's grandfather, Barham Bobo Foster. One of the more interesting persona items is a poem written about Caroline after her marriage to George L. Dial. It begins: "With an angel on her shoulder / And a Gamecock by her side / Our Miss Caroline surprised us / As our three time bride" and concludes" "Is it vitamins or tonic / Men or majic tell us do / While we bask in all your sunshine / and send forth our love to you." Caroline loved to attend social functions, particularly those related to the University, as evidenced by the many programs and invitations included among her papers. Her support of the University was not limited to social appearances, however, for her generous financial support of Carolina's programs is amply documented. In recognition of her role as benefactor, the University bestowed an honorary degree of Doctor in Laws on her in 1969.


  • 1913-1993

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

All rights reside with creator. For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact The South Caroliniana Library.


5 Linear Feet

Repository Details

Part of the South Caroliniana Library Repository

910 Sumter St.
University of South Carolina
Columbia SC 29208 USA
(803) 777-5747 (Fax)

James Edge
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