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From the Collection: The collection consists of 151 linear feet of records, 1912-1995, divided into Congressional Papers, General Assembly Papers, Personal Papers, Clippings, Audiovisual, Speeches, Press Releases, Newsletters, and Vertical File Materials. Congressional Papers make up a majority of the collection with 127 boxes and cover Dorn's twenty-six year tenure in Congress. Personal Papers include extensive, valuable records documenting Dorn's and others' political campaigns, 1938-1984, his leadership in the South Carolina Democratic Party including his terms as Chairman, and his leadership in the American Legion, among other activities upon leaving Congress.

Congressional Papers reflect Dorn’s influential role on the committees of Public Works and Veterans Affairs and a strong emphasis on constituent service. These papers include correspondence, office records, post office files, topical files, and voting record. Correspondence contains letters to and from people throughout government, the state, and the nation on affairs of the day. Typical of the quality of discussion is the following letter of Jan. 22, 1948, from Dorn to H. Klugh Purdy, responding to a query about Dorn possibly bolting the Democratic Party: "...for years the Democratic Party has ignored our section of the country in favor of radicals and people like Henry Wallace. Even now they are trying to steal Henry Wallace’s platform, which is that of the radical elements of the country. I do not believe the Democratic National Party, as it now stands, will seriously push this segregation issue, so I would not want to inaugurate a movement myself in South Carolina at the present time to lead the state out of the Democratic Party because of my position here in Washington. I have to get along with some of these fellows in order to get things done, but I think the people down there should start a movement along this line. I would be delighted to come to Jasper County and make a speech any time soon on the principles of real Southern democracy. In fact, I am very anxious to speak to the real Democrats in your county."

Also included is a copy of an April 2, 1968 report to Mayor Lester Bates of Columbia and the Community Relations Council on "The Cause of Racial Unrest in Columbia by the Negro Students of The University of South Carolina." The Office Files, 1947-1974, contain records of routine office affairs and include Appointment Books and Calendars; Engagement Files; Guest Books; and Telephone Logs. Engagement files chiefly relate to Dorn’s speaking engagements and include programs, correspondence, and schedules prepared for Dorn and his wife with brief descriptions of the engagements.

The Post Office Files, c.1951-1970, concern postal issues within the district and include general correspondence, 1954-1970; almost a half-foot of correspondence regarding a minimum freight rates bill, 1963; and files regarding the appointment of post masters and rural carriers. The latter are arranged alphabetically by community and contain correspondence and other records which sometimes provide intimate descriptions of local political affairs and battles over the filling of key patronage positions with the Postal Service. The Post Office Files differ from the postal files found throughout the Topical Files, which relate to national issues involving the post office. This distinction reflects the order imposed by Congressman Dorn and his office.

Topical Files, 1947-1974, comprise the largest and most important set of records in the collection. The files are arranged by topic alphabetically in two-year periods mirroring each Congressional session. Files contain legislative matter, reference material, and correspondence with colleagues, constituents and other interested members of the public, and persons in state and local government. Topics reflect Dorn’s committee assignments: Agriculture, Public Works and Veterans Affairs; subjects of prime interest to South Carolina and the up country, such as Textiles; and subjects of more general interest, such as the Watergate Hearings. At right, Dorn visits a VA hospital.

Of particular interest are files, 1959-1974, on the development of power plants along the Savannah River and the construction of Hartwell Dam and the dam at Trotters Shoals. Dorn led the opposition to the latter project, which was championed by South Carolina's senior senator Olin D. Johnston and Georgia’s Richard Russell. Dorn believed that the proposed industrial development of the area, and resulting increase in the tax base, outweighed any benefit from building the dam and losing valuable land under water. Both Duke Power Company and the Mead Corporation were considering major developments for the proposed dam site — a steam plant and paper mill, respectively. Related files can be found under the headings Duke Power Company, Industry, Keowee-Toxaway, Mead Corporation, Public Works, and Trotters Shoals. Clippings files also exist documenting the controversy over the proposed dam.

Topical Files also contain material on civil rights, including a pamphlet apparently by Dorn, "Another Step to Socialism," attacking Truman’s proposed Fair Employment Practices Act. At the end of the Topical Files are Miscellaneous Bound Reports and Committee Prints, including House Judiciary Committee Impeachment Inquiry Hearings and Senate Select Committee Hearings on Presidential Campaign Activities, 1974; and Veterans Affairs, 1951-1956.

Dorn’s Voting Record, 1947-1974, provides his votes on legislation before Congress. In addition to the record supplied each member by the Clerk, these files also includes vote analyses supplied by special interest organizations.

The General Assembly Papers consist of only seven folders of documents from his term in the S.C. House, 1939 to 1940, and partial term in the S.C. Senate, 1941 to 1942. One folder documents the campaign to allow Dorn to take his Senate seat even though he would not turn 25 (the minimum age required) until April 14, 1941.

Personal Papers document Dorn’s life outside of Congress and are split into general papers, campaign files, and topical files. The general papers consist primarily of correspondence about family matters, the running of the Dorn farm, and his life after leaving public office. Topical files include a file on Dorn’s namesake, William Jennings Bryan, including Bryan autograph items. Most of the topical files are from his post-Congress life and document his association with the American Legion, Former Members of Congress, Furman University, Lander College, Leadership South Carolina, Piedmont Technical Education Center, South Carolina Farm Bureau, South Carolina Forestry Association, and the University of South Carolina. Also present are genealogical data and material relating to the Russell Dam and veterans’ affairs.

Campaign Files, 1938-1994, are particularly rich and contain valuable information on Dorn’s races and other local, statewide, and national campaigns. A half a box of material covers Dorn’s 1948 Senate campaign and document his attacks upon Judge Waties Waring and his belief that Maybank’s financial assets were a prime factor in his loss. The 1954 material includes voluminous mailings from the Democratic National Committee. Dorn considered initiating a write-in campaign challenging Brown for the U.S. Senate. A folder of correspondence documents his decision to forego such a campaign because it would further confuse that race and serve to weaken the Democratic Party in South Carolina.

Dorn’s great popularity is attested to by the fact that he was unopposed for reelection to Congress in 1956, 1958, 1960 and 1962. Campaign records for 1956 chiefly document the presidential campaign of Adlai Stevenson, for whom Dorn stumped in Florida. Files for 1960 include correspondence regarding Dorn’s interest in nominating South Carolina’s young and popular governor, Ernest F. Hollings, for the presidency. Dorn felt it essential that a candidate be nominated who would represent the South’s ideals. Hollings refused Dorn’s entreaties. Also included is a transcript of the famous television debate between Kennedy and Nixon, broadcast September 9, 1960. The 1962 files include correspondence resulting from press speculation that Dorn might challenge Olin Johnston for the United States Senate, possibly as a Republican.

Extensive files document Dorn’s gubernatorial campaigns of 1974 and 1978. Among the material documenting the 1974 campaign is regular correspondence with Sol Blatt, H.P. Stephenson, and Julius Wolfe. Dorn also polled his supporters before announcing for governor and the responses to his query signal the ambiguity those people felt, wishing to endorse Dorn’s bid yet reluctant to lose his voice in the House and the seniority he had achieved. Throughout the Campaign Files are records reflecting Dorn’s involvement with the Democratic Party. An additional 2.5 feet of records reflect Dorn’s continued work with the Democratic Party in his post-congressional years when he was Chair of the state party and active in national party affairs through the Democratic National Committee and presidential primaries and campaigns.

Speeches, Press Releases, and Newsletters, 1948-1981, consist of 2.5 ft. of releases and newsletters from Dorn’s office and outlines, drafts, and texts of his speeches. This valuable series allows the reconstruction of Dorn’s activities in Congress and his views of important subjects of the day. His speeches were often issued as releases or excerpted in them. This material is arranged chronologically. Please see also our complete item-level listing of these materials.

Audiovisual material includes photographs, c.1948-1983; audio-recordings, c.1956-1985; and video cassettes, 1984-1995. Included are photos of Dorn’s military service, veterans’ affairs activities, family and home, and campaigns and involvement with the Democratic Party. Audio recordings in reel and cassette form consist of interviews with Dorn during the campaign and relating to his service in Congress and speeches to diverse audiences like student groups and campaign rally attendees. Videos are from Dorn’s post-Congress years and include events honoring Dorn and interviews with Dorn like "Bryan Dorn: Representing the People," an ETV Production of an in-depth interview with Dorn.

Vertical File Materials, 1967-2006, contain information gathered by SCPC relating to Dorn and may duplicate information already present in the collection.


  • 1912 - 2006


Library use only


From the Collection: 151 Linear Feet


Repository Details

Part of the South Carolina Political Collections Repository

Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library
1322 Greene St.
University of South Carolina
Columbia SC 29208 USA