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Christian Action Council records

Identifier: SCL-MS-CAC

The collection consists of approximately 18.75 linear feet that document the activities and concerns of the Christian Action Council (CAC) of South Carolina. The dates of the collection range from 1923 to 1996, with the bulk of materials dating from 1942 to 1985. The collection comprises correspondence, memos, meeting minutes, program itineraries, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, and photographs relating to the ecumenical organization. The collection is divided into seven series: administrative, programs, publications, religion, subject files, outside organizations, and photographs.


  • 1933-1996


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.


18.75 Linear Feet (15 cartons)

Chronology (1933-1990)

1933: South Carolina Federated Forces for Temperance and Law Enforcement organized to “fight the repeal” of the Eighteenth Amendment; Dr. John Roper, President, Dr. Charles E. Burts, Executive Secretary.

1938: A.D. Betts, Executive Secretary of Federated Forces, began editing a publication, South Carolina Temperance News.Maxie Collins, Jr. became Executive Secretary in January. “Christian Citizenship” and “Knowledgeable Political Action” were given a stronger emphasis.

1950: At Annual Meeting in January, Betts was elected President; the name was changed to the Temperance League of South Carolina, and Howard G. McClain was elected Executive Secretary.At spring meeting, new name (Christian Action Council), new constitution, and enlarged purpose were adopted.

1952: Christian Action Council (CAC) merged with the South Carolina Association for Alcohol Education, becoming South Carolina's first racially integrated organization.CAC took first public action related to race relations in releasing a widely publicized statement supporting a state constitutional mandate that required public education be available to students of all races.

1953: Created statewide Citizen's Committee for Local Option to combat the legality of alcohol sales in South Carolina.

1960: A decade of “Social Concerns Conferences” was begun. Topics included Communism, television, desegregation of public schools, Anti-Semitism, Vietnam, poverty, etc.Council moves offices from Methodist Center into new Baptist Building in Columbia.

1964: The Council sponsored its first annual “Churchmen's Legislative Seminar” at Trinity Episcopal Church in Columbia. The event was the first public program including a meal for a non-segregated audience in South Carolina.

1969: Dr. Joseph Stukes installed as President, becoming the first layperson to serve in that capacity. Future presidents included Christians of all denominations, races, and genders.

1970: First Christian Action Council Award was awarded to James Rogers of Florence, South Carolina. CAC initiated the “Good News for South Carolina” program, distributing Good News for Modern Man Bibles to South Carolinians.

1972: Internal Revenue Service ruled against CAC's tax-exempt status. Council raised $9914.84 to pay the assessment. CAC then brought suit to recover funds and succeeded.

1973: CAC underwent thorough self-evaluation study between Dr. Robert Wilson of Duke University and Dr. Robert Ackerman of Erskine University, resulting in stronger commitments from member-denominations.

1975: Helped to form the Congress of Christians and Jews in South Carolina, initiated by the CAC and President Ralph Cannon.Moved offices from the Baptist Building to the campus of the Lutheran Seminary in Columbia.

1978: Sponsored first “Women in Church in the Future” conference in cooperation with over twenty denominations, both mainline and pentecostal.

1985: Howard G. McClain resigned after thirty-five years of service. Dr. Russell B. Norris was chosen as new Executive Minister.

1990: Dr. L. Wayne Bryan becomes new Executive Minister.

Historical Sketch

The Christian Action Council was formed in 1933 as an ecumenical organization devoted to fighting the repeal of Prohibition. Composed mostly of Methodists and Baptists, the group, then known as the South Carolina Federated Forces for Temperance and Law Enforcement, included members of several Christian denominations. Under the executive leadership of Rev. C.E. Burts (1933-1938), Rev. A.M. Betts (1938-1948), and Rev. Maxie Collins (1948-1950), the group strove to make the sale of alcohol in South Carolina illegal. Following World War II, the Federated Forces changed their goal from absolute temperance to “Local Option.” This system would have allowed citizens to locally vote on the legality of alcohol in their individual county.

In 1950, Rev. Howard G. McClain assumed leadership of the group, providing them with not only a new Executive Secretary, but also a new Executive Minister. On January 23, 1951, the Federated Forces officially changed their name to the Christian Action Council (CAC). This change represented the new perspective McClain would bring to the organization. Rather than focus solely on temperance, as the group had traditionally done, McClain broadened the CAC's mission to include “the promotion of relevant social, educational, and action programs of cooperating denominations [and] serve as a liaison between churches and important movements for moral and social welfare in the state.”

As the CAC's mission grew, so did its membership. The group grew to include virtually every major Protestant denomination in the state. In 1952, the CAC merged with the South Carolina Association for Alcohol Education, becoming South Carolina's first integrated organization, receiving support from both white and African-American congregations. Following the merger, the promotion of racial integration became a major focus of the CAC. In 1964, they held the first Churchmen's Legislative Seminar. This annual program brought religious and political leaders of all races together in a forum-style meeting to discuss race relations and other current social problems in South Carolina. The 1964 meeting became the first public program in South Carolina including a meal for a non-segregated audience.

The 1960s also witnessed the beginning of a decade of “Social Concerns Conferences.” These conferences displayed the CAC's expanded interest in all issues of social and moral concern. Under Rev. Howard G. McClain's guiding hand, the organization sought to educate Christian members about all social problems affecting the state through these conferences and seminars. In addition to alcohol and race issues, the group's causes included care for the elderly, drugs, education, gambling, gun control, highway safety, marriage and divorce laws, housing, poverty, women's rights and others. Because the organization included numerous denominations, some with slightly differing beliefs, the CAC avoided taking sides on more controversial issues, such as abortion.

The CAC continued these seminars and conferences throughout the 1970s. The three biggest and most successful of these were the “Good News for South Carolina” program, the “Women in the Church” seminar, and the inception of the Christian Action Award. Sponsored in 1970, the first was an effort to distribute recently published Good News for Modern Man Bibles to every South Carolinian, since scriptures in the new Bibles had been paraphrased into a vernacular language that could be easily understood. The second program addressed the prejudices and stereotypes of women and their role in church leadership. Finally, in 1970, the group awarded its first Christian Action Award. Given for outstanding achievement in Christian service, the award eventually became an annual one.

The CAC possessed a very dedicated following throughout the 1980s. The group suffered a loss, however, in 1985, with the retirement of McClain. His leadership for thirty-five years in the capacity of Executive Secretary had guided the CAC through both prosperous and troubled years. McClain had overseen the CAC from its inception, and many doubted its future success after his retirement. The CAC, however, quickly recovered and continued to advocate social and moral change in South Carolina during the 1990s. Although the group did not retain the visibility it once enjoyed, the legacy of its achievements will always remain.


McClain, Howard G. “South Carolina Beginnings and Becomings,” 1993.

Spears, R. Wright. Journey Toward Unity: the Christian Action Council in South Carolina, 1933- 1983. Columbia, SC: Crowson-Stone Printing Co., 1983.

Repository Details

Part of the South Caroliniana Library Repository

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

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