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Robert Richardson Coker papers

Identifier: SCL-MS-11295

Chiefly business and personal correspondence relating to Coker and the management of Coker's Pedigreed Seed Company and other family businesses including Coker's Experimental Farms, J. L. Coker & Company, Sonoco Products Company, and Hartsville Oil Mill.

Coker was actively involved in the National Cotton Council; through this organization he worked tirelessly to find a way to eradicate the destructive boll weevil. His knowledge and expertise also led him to assume important duties for the United States Department of Agriculture (he participated in the United States Agricultural Trade Mission of 1954), as well as the United States and South Carolina Farm Bureaus.

Coker was also active in several organizations within the financial world including the Bank of Hartsville, the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, and the Gulf Life Insurance Company.


  • 1890-1988


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.


62.5 Linear Feet (22 oversize folders 6 large oversize volumes 1 oversize flat box (16 oversize folders))


1905: Born to David Robert Coker and Jessie Ruth (Richardson) Coker on September 6th in Hartsville, South Carolina. Mother died suddenly on 20 June 1913. Second wife is May Roper, who was 24 when she married on 25 August 1915 and became mother to the six children D.R.C. had with Jessie (Miriam, Katherine, Hannah, Eleanor, Robert, and Samuel) They had 3 more of their own (Martha, Mary, and Carolyn).

1913 June 20: Jessie Coker died.

1915 August 25: David R. Coker married May Roper.

1924: Graduated from the Webb School in Bell Buckle, Tennessee.

1928: Graduated with a B.A. from the University of South Carolina. Went to work at Coker's Pedigreed Seed Company in February.

1933-1961: Director, Bank of Hartsville.

1935: Elected to board of directors, Coker's Pedigreed Seed Company.

1936: Married Lois Walters, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Theodore A. Walters of Caldwell, Idaho. Wedding took place in Washington, DC, on October 24th. (Had three children: Ione Walters (Lee), William Chambers, Cecilia Richardson (Bell).

1938: Appointed vice president (in charge of sales), Coker's Pedigree Seed Company when D.R. Coker died. (George Wilds appointed president).

1940: Elected president of J. L. Coker & Company.

1940-1945: Vice President, National Cotton Council.

1944: Founder, South Carolina Farm Bureau. Served as its first president for one year. Continued to serve on its board of directors. Served in order to get the organization started.

1945-1963: Adviser to the NCC board of directors.

1946-1952: Member of the Agricultural Research Policy Committee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

1947: Appointed vice president and secretary, Coker's Pedigreed Seed Company.

1949-1951: President, Darlington County Agricultural Society.

1951: Named president of Coker's Pedigreed Seed Company. Also continued to head up the sales department. Served until 1978 when the company was sold to KWS, a West German agricultural research and distribution firm. For several years following the sale, he served as an adviser to the board of directors.

1951-1952: Member, Agricultural Mobilization Policy Board.

1953: Appointed by President Eisenhower as member of the National Agricultural Advisory Commission. Served for 1953.

1954: Member, U.S. Agricultural Trade Mission to Latin America.

1955: Recipient of an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Clemson College. Advisory committee of the Federal Crop insurance Corporation, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

1959: Certificate of Distinguished Service, South Carolina Farm Bureau. Named honorary member of the South Carolina Entomological Society.

1959-1960: Founder of National Council of Plant Breeders. Served as president.

1960: Elected life member, Clemson College Board of Trustees. Member of board of directors, American Seed Trade Association.

1962: Appointed member of the Shaw Airforce Base Civilian Advisory Council.

1962-1968: Director, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

1963: Served as president, National Cotton Council.

1964: South Carolina Man of the Year in Service to Agriculture, Progressive Farmer. Named chairman of the board, National Cotton Council. Re-elected a Class B director, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond (3-year term).

1967: Appointed ex-officio member of the State Commission on Higher Education.

ca. 1968: President, Coker de Mexico (Mexico City).

1970: Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of South Carolina.

1971: Georgia Crop Improvement Association, Superior Service Award.

1974: South Carolina Cooperative Council Distinguished Agriculturist Award.

1976: May Roper Coker died in March after a long illness.

1977: South Carolina Association of County Agricultural Agents, Distinguished Service Award, 1977

1978: CPSC sold to KWS, a West German agricultural research and distribution firm. Stepped down as president of CPSC, continued to serve as an adviser to the newly formed board of directors.

1980: Started educational scholarship in honor of South Carolina Farm Bureau's second president, Edwin Hugh Agnew.

1982: South Carolina Farm Bureau established scholarship in honor of RRC.

1985: Received the Clemson Medallion, the university's highest public service honor.

1987: He and wife Lois gave Clemson University a $500,000 gift that led to the creation of a prestigious Trustees Chair in molecular genetics in the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

1987: Died September 28.


Meg Moughan, Processing Archivist (November 1999)

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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