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John Marion Lofton papers

Identifier: SCL-MS-11490

The papers of John Marion Lofton, Jr. (1919-1990), span the years 1909 through 1990 although the bulk of the collection falls between 1940 and 1980. Included in the papers are correspondence, writings, press releases, bulletins, news clippings, and newsletters. Units of material in the collection reveal Lofton's involvement in the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Unitarian Church, political events during the tumultuous years of racial integration and Vietnam War protests, and such related issues as the environment, disarmament, and world peace.

The principal focus of the collection is Lofton's professional career as a journalist and writer, working for two newspapers, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, both of which espoused left-wing, liberal viewpoints. Lofton divided his time among family, career, and personal interests in the ACLU, both national and local, and the Unitarian Church. He transcended his Southern roots to attain a national reputation as a writer and defender of the press as guardian of civil liberties.

The collection reflects the progress of Lofton's thoughts and interests from his formal and practical education as a boy growing up in lowcountry South Carolina to his retirement in 1985 as a senior editorial writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Revealed in his papers and letters is a serious concern for a broad spectrum of issues--legal, political, social, scientific--as well as the stylistic virtuosity of his writing, which ranged from free-lance articles and biographical sketches to editorials and essays.

Lofton's intellectual pursuits were lifelong. He graduated from the College of Charleston with a B.S. degree in English in 1940 and from Duke University with an LL.B. degree in 1942. In 1956 he received an M.A. degree in history from the University of Pittsburgh and did further graduate study at Stanford University. Other files attest to Lofton's adjunct role as a professor at such institutions as the University of Pittsburgh, Washington University, and Webster College.

It was Lofton's career as a journalist that generated much of the interesting and significant material in the collection. Following a wartime enlisted stint in the U.S. Army, Lofton began to canvass various newspapers for employment as a writer. His early postwar employment correspondence files contain letters from such newspapermen as Jonathan Daniels (Raleigh News and Observer), Thomas L. Robinson (Charlotte News), Herbert Elliston (Washington Post), Frank Bear (PM Daily), and Harry S. Ashmore (Arkansas Gazette). Lofton's first professional newspaper experience began on William Townes' Spartanburg Herald in 1946, and in 1948 he was hired by Harry Ashmore as an editorial writer for the Arkansas Gazette. After four years in Little Rock, Lofton became an editorial writer with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and in 1971 he joined the editorial staff of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Correspondence and topical files form the major series in the collection. The correspondence series consists chiefly of personal correspondence and family correspondence revealing the love and devotion among members of a southern family despite their substantive differences with regard to social issues of integration and religion. Prominent correspondents represented by correspondence include James F. Byrnes, James A. Dombrowski, J. William Fulbright, Brooks Hays, Hubert H. Humphrey, Burnet R. Maybank, L. Mendel Rivers, Hugh Scott, and Hugo S. Sims, Jr.

The collection also documents the publication of Lofton's major books, two of which mirrored his primary concern for journalistic freedom and the relationship between the press and the bar: Justice and the Press (1966) and The Press as Guardian of the First Amendment (1980). His 1964 book, Insurrection in South Carolina, resulted from a long-held interest in the history of the 1822 Charleston slave rebellion led by Denmark Vesey. Among Lofton's other writings are a church history, Pittsburgh's First Unitarian Church...1820-1960, and numerous editorials for the Arkansas Gazette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Lofton's early writings illustrate a concern with conservation of the environment and preservation of endangered species.

Two major subjects represented in the topical files are the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), with which Lofton was affiliated as a member of the National Advisory Board and local chapters in Pittsburgh and East Missouri, and the Unitarian Church. Other files of interest include: College of Charleston, Integration Issue; Vietnam Moratorium; and Alabama tour with Gov. George Wallace.


  • 1909 - 1990


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.


7.5 Linear Feet (6 boxes)


South Carolina journalist, author, educator, and civil libertarian

Chronology of John Marion Lofton, Jr.

1919 Apr 11, Born McClellanville, South Carolina, son of John Marion Lofton, Sr., and Vivian Lucas Lofton; 1925-1937, Attended McClellanville Public Schools (grades 1-12); 1940, Graduated College of Charleston, B.S. in English; 1942, Graduated Duke University, LL.B, and admitted to South Carolina Bar; 1942-1945, U.S. Army military service; 1945-1947, Employed by several small South Carolina newspapers; 1948 Dec, Associate editor, Arkansas Gazette, Little Rock, Arkansas; 1952 Feb, Editorial writer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; 1954 Dec 27, Married Anne O'Neil Watson; 1956, Graduated University of Pittsburgh, M.A. in History; 1960 June, Lofton and Post-Gazette awarded "American Bar Association Gavel" award; 1961 Jan, Published Pittsburgh's First Unitarian Church...1820-1960; 1962 Dec, Associate Editor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; 1964 July, Published Insurrection in South Carolina; 1966 Nov, Published Justice and the Press; 1968, Anne Watson Lofton died; 1969 Aug 23, Married Priscilla Alvarado; 1971, Associate Professor of Speech, University of Pittsburgh; 1971 May, Editorial writer, St. Louis Post-Dispatch; 1975 Feb, Divorced Priscilla Alvarado; 1980, Published The Press as Guardian of the First Amendment; 1981 Apr, Awarded distinguished service award from the Society of Professional Journalists; 1983 Apr, Married Dr. Joanne B. Lyon; 1985, Retired from St. Louis Post-Dispatch; 1988 Mar, Awarded second distinguished service award from the Society of Professional Journalists; 1990 Mar, Died at Graniteville, Kansas.


Also includes accession number 14923.


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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