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Samuel Lowry Latimer papers

 Collection
Identifier: SCL-MS-13075
Samuel Lowry Latimer, Jr. (1891-1975) was an editor, publisher, and editor emeritus of the Statenewspaper, in Columbia, SC. He was also the author of the paper's offical history, The Story of the State.

Dates

  • 1840-1975
  • Majority of material found within 1930 - 1975

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.

Extent

27 Linear Feet (20 cartons 3.5 document boxes 1 oversize box 2 v.)

Biographical Sketch

Samuel Lowry Latimer, Jr., and the State newspaper were born in the same year--1891--and he spent fifty-four years as a working newspaperman on its staff. His papers are therefore a mother lode of information about the State.

Latimer was a native of York, South Carolina. Though he espoused the Southern ideology of his Witherspoon and Latimer ancestors, he may have inherited some of his journalistic bent from his great-grandfather George Washington Williams, who published the pro-Union newspaper the Yorkville Patriot.

In March 1907, Latimer's parents moved to Columbia, and he resided in Columbia from the age of fifteen. He never married, and until his death in September 1975 he lived in his parents' home at 2211 Wheat Street.

His association with the State began when he answered a want ad in the 14 March 1907 male help column:

Wanted--A bright boy about 16 or 18 years of age to work in office and do collecting. Address in own handwriting "Office Boy," care The State.

Meanwhile, he pursued his education at the University of South Carolina, editing the yearbook during his senior year, and continuing through law school. He graduated in the law class of 1915 and was admitted to the bar, but never practiced.

When the United States entered World War I, Latimer entered the first reserve officer's training program at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, and came out a second lieutenant in the 81st "Wildcat" Division. He served on active duty at Camp Jackson and later in France, where the Armistice intervened before he got into combat.

However, his stint in the military resulted in a prolific file of war letters and started a lifelong interest in veterans affairs and civilian "friends of the army" organizations.

Returning home, he resumed his newspaper career with the State. He had learned his trade under the Gonzales brothers who founded the paper, and he steadily moved up the career ladder. He became editor of the State in 1941 when his predecessor McDavid Horton suddenly died, and two years afterwards he became both editor and publisher when William Elliott died. Latimer was the fifth editor of the State, preceded only by N. G. Gonzales, William E. Gonzales, W. W. Ball, and McDavid Horton.

During his term as editor, the paper relocated from its offices in the 1200 block of Main Street to a new facility on Stadium Road. It also experimented with a locally-edited gravure magazine supplement that was well received but proved too expensive to continue. Between 1956 and 1960, he wrote a weekly Sunday column titled "From Across the Editor's Desk" that contained his entertaining personal reminiscences of Columbia's past.

He retired on 1 January 1961 and as editor emeritus took on the project of writing an official history of the State newspaper, finally published in 1970 as The Story of the State. The book project led him to preserve among his papers many historical manuscripts such as papers of the Gonzales family and papers of his predecessor McDavid Horton.

Many of Latimer's other papers relate to press organizations, civic and charitable organizations, or veterans organizations to which he belonged and in which he nearly always attained a leadership role. He set longevity service records with organizations such as the Columbia Housing Authority, the American Legion, and the Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army program. He served on the Pulitzer Prize Committee Board, as an elder of Columbia's First Presbyterian Church, and on the development board of the University of South Carolina. He served on the James F. Byrnes Foundation and carried on a long friendship with Governor Byrnes.

Sometimes, he used the key positions he held on different boards to accomplish significant long-range ends. As a commissioner with the Housing Authority, he made Gonzales Gardens available to the US Army as additional housing space and forestalled a threat to close Fort Jackson. His dual roles as housing commissioner and prominent University of South Carolina alumnus led him to arrange real estate transfers to the university under the federal urban renewal program. By the early 1970s, at least one quarter of the university's land had been acquired through Latimer's influence.

Latimer's journalistic expertise created a demand for his services outside the newspaper office. The American Legion put him on its public relations board, where he helped commission an official history of the Legion written by Raymond Moley. He represented the American Society of Newspaper Editors on the editorial board of the Commission on Chronic Illness and helped edit a study that was published by Harvard University Press. In 1947, the US Army invited him on an editors tour of postwar Europe and he later published his findings in the pamphlet Germany and Austria, 1947: Observations of a South Carolina Newspaper Man Made During a Month's Tour of These War-Torn Countries.

Finally, his interests in the theater and in South Carolina history resulted in manuscript files in those areas. He became stage-struck during the "Opera House" era of South Carolina entertainment and remained active in local theater groups. And he was in demand as an organizer and speaker for historical observances like the 1956 Woodrow Wilson Centennial.

Repository Details

Part of the South Caroliniana Library Repository

Contact:
910 Sumter St.
University of South Carolina
Columbia SC 29208 USA
803-777-3131
(803) 777-5747 (Fax)

Status
Under Revision