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Robert M. "Robin" Tallon Jr. Papers

Identifier: SCU-SCPC-RMT

The collection chiefly consists of Tallon’s Congressional Papers, 1983 to 1992. It is arranged in the following series: Public Papers, Personal Papers, Speeches, Audio-Visual Records, and Clippings. Public Papers consists of two sub-series, South Carolina House of Representatives and U.S. House of Representatives. The South Carolina House of Representatives consists of a single folder concerning his 1981 to 1982 term. The U.S. House of Representatives sub-series, 1983 to 1992, is divided into General Papers, Constituent Texts, Grants and Projects, Office Records, Press Releases, Schedules, and Voting Record. General Papers are arranged topically for each year. Topical files chiefly relate to bills and issues before Congress and may include copies of the bills and resolutions, committee prints, and related official and constituent correspondence.

Tallon served on the Agriculture Committee and Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee throughout his tenure in Congress. Agriculture files demonstrate Tallon’s concern for farmers in his predominantly rural district, the center of the state's tobacco industry. Tobacco files specifically related to agriculture are filed under Agriculture, including materials dealing with tobacco exports. Other tobacco information is filed under Taxation and Health, depending on the aspect of legislation being considered. For example, correspondence dealing with excise taxes on cigarettes is found under Taxes, while materials concerning the health effects of smoking are under Health. Tallon also worked on rural development legislation to improve the economic prospects of depressed rural areas of South Carolina. He devoted considerable effort to it in the wake of the droughts and hurricanes affecting his district during the 1980s. Tallon’s efforts in working with the federal government to aid those devastated by Hurricane Hugo are documented in 1989’s Hurricane Hugo files.

In 1991, Tallon became chairman of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Domestic Marketing, Consumer Relations, and Nutrition, a body with jurisdiction over fruit and vegetable marketing regulations as well as nutritional matters, including food labeling, food stamps, and aspects of the federal welfare program administered by the Department of Agriculture. As Subcommittee Chairman, Tallon held hearings on issues including food labeling and welfare simplification. These materials are filed under Agriculture, Hearings, along with other hearings held by the full Agriculture Committee. Other information on food stamps, WIC, school lunches, and nutrition is filed under Agriculture, Nutrition.

Merchant Marine and Fisheries files include information on the U.S. Merchant Marine, fisheries, and boat user fees. As a member of this committee, Tallon sought to improve the port facilities of his district, particularly those of Georgetown, S.C., to enhance the area's ability to attract major industries. Armed Services files relate to the Army Corps of Engineers, National Guard, and closing of Myrtle Beach Air Force Base. Of particular interest are the Gander Investigation files which contain extensive information relating to the December 12, 1985 crash of an Arrow Air DC-8 flight near Gander, Newfoundland, Canada, which killed 248 members of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division and eight American crew members. It was Canada’s worst air disaster. Tallon’s effort to reopen this investigation is perhaps one the most interesting aspects of his Congressional career. U.S. and Canadian investigation teams determined that icing on the aircraft’s wings resulted in the crash. A minority report of the Canadian Aviation Safety Board maintained that an explosion caused the disaster. Constituents related to one of the victims urged Tallon to investigate the crash. Tallon met and corresponded with the Department of Defense, the National Transportation and Safety Board, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Aviation Administration, President George Bush, and the State Department but was never satisfied with the investigation of the crash.

In October 1989, Tallon wrote to President Bush a letter, signed by 103 Congressmen, requesting that the investigation of the Gander crash be reopened by the U.S. Government; Bush never agreed to reopen the case. Tallon’s efforts led to hearings by the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime. The subcommittee concluded that the Canadian and American investigations had not fully considered the possibility that the crash had resulted from a terrorist bomb. On March 18, 1992, Tallon held a press conference during which he released evidence that an explosion caused the plane to crash. He conducted the press conference just prior to the March 20, 1992, episode of the Arts & Entertainment Network’s “Investigative Reports” series which examined the Gander crash. A copy of this tape is in the Audio-Visual Series. Other Gander materials are located in the Clippings, Press Releases, and Audio-Visual series.

Budget files consist of material concerning the federal budget as a whole. Papers concerning funding for specific issues are filed with the other material regarding that issue. For example, the budget materials for the armed services, National Guard, health, and education are under those topics rather than budget.

Banking files document the Savings and Loan collapse and the House of Representatives’ bank scandal in which many members of Congress were proven to have bounced checks. Commerce includes steel and petroleum sales, voluntary restraint agreements, trade deficit, insurance, and foreign and domestic trade issues. Communications includes topics such as television cable rates, beer and wine advertising, pornography, and antitrust restrictions on the Bell system. Environment contains issues such as toxic waste disposal, clean air, acid rain, recycling, underground petroleum storage tanks, and wildlife preservation. Of interest in the Foreign Affairs files is information regarding apartheid and the Iran-Contra affair.

Health files regard issues such as AIDS, drug and alcohol abuse, effects of smoking, rural hospital development, and extensive Medicare/Medicaid files. Important Medicare/Medicaid issues include the mandatory assignment of patients to doctors, complaints by South Carolina physicians and hospitals about the state’s peer review organization, Medicare Solvency and Health Care Financing Reform Act of 1984, and proposed Community and Family Living Amendments which provided a gradual shifting of federal funds from state institutions for the disabled to community-based integrated settings.

Labor files regard the minimum wage, railroad retirement, federal employee issues, labor unions, unemployment insurance, family and medical leave legislation, and OSHA regulations. Material on the Economic Growth and Jobs Creation Act of 1991 (H.R. 960) and economic growth legislation for 1992 are located in Taxes because they aimed to reduce social security and capital gains taxes in order to stimulate the economy. Taxes also includes tax cuts; alcohol, cigarette, and gas taxes; the 1992 Reforestation Tax Act, and low income housing tax credits.

Tourism files reflect the activities of the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus and Tallon’s interest in promoting tourism in his district, especially in the Grand Strand. Travel files consist of itineraries, correspondence, and notes from trips Tallon made as a member of Congress.

Constituent Texts, 1983 to 1991, contain copies of the form letters used to respond with computer generated letters to constituent correspondence regarding issues and legislation before Congress. The texts are grouped in two-year periods reflecting the sessions of Congress. A list at the front of the first folder for each Congress notes the issue being addressed, such as “Pro Medicare,” and “School Lunch Budget Cuts -- Reagan,” the date the text was prepared, and the code assigned to the text. The series General Papers also contains numerous copies of Tallon responses generated using these texts, attached to constituents’ letters.

Grants and Projects files consist of correspondence and applications concerning specific federal grants administered in South Carolina. They are arranged topically under headings such as education, health, historic preservation, housing, and water and sewer.

Office Records consists chiefly of schedules, accepted invitations, and notices of committee meetings and hearings. These are arranged chronologically. Press Releases consists of Tallon’s “News and Views” column, newsletters, radio transcripts, and press releases and is arranged chronologically. It includes press releases from the Tallon office and releases by others concerning Tallon. The radio transcripts, “Washington Report,” are not interviews but brief prepared statements taped and provided by Tallon for radio stations in his district. The original audio tapes are not present.

Voting Records contains Tallon’s official voting record as well as assessments of his voting record produced by private interest groups.

Speeches are arranged chronologically and consist of final texts, drafts, and research materials. Campaign speeches include speeches made by Tallon on behalf of other candidates. Speeches concerning the Democratic Party’s national campaigns are filed under Democratic Party. Other topics include agriculture, commerce, education, and tourism.

Personal Papers consist of General and Campaign files. General files include Christmas cards Tallon received from other members of Congress in 1991. Campaign files, 1982 to 1992, chiefly consist of correspondence and memoranda concerning fund raising and campaign issues. Also included are lists of contributors and public opinion polls.

Audio-Visual records consist of photographs, audio cassettes, and video cassettes. Included are a video tape of the March 20, 1992, episode of the Arts and Entertainment Network’s “Investigative Reports” examining the Gander crash as well as tapes of several productions of Tallon’s “Washington Report,” featuring Tallon speaking with another member of Congress about issues before Congress.

Clippings consists of articles clipped by Tallon’s staff relating to his activities and issues of importance to him and the Sixth District. The articles are chiefly taken from the Florence Morning News, Columbia's The State, the Charleston News and Courier, and the Greenville News. Clippings are arranged by year and include general and topical files, reflecting their original order in the Tallon office. Little is present for the period 1986 to 1987. The topical heading Communications includes articles regarding anti pornography legislation. Education includes material on student school bus drivers. Forestry includes material on the spotted owl in Washington and Oregon. Health includes material on the effects of smoking. Labor includes material on the minimum wage, railroad retirement, federal employees, unemployment insurance, family and medical leave, and OSHA. Merchant Marine and Fisheries includes articles on boat user fees. The 1991 Taxation file includes reports on H.R. 960, the Economic Growth and Jobs Creation Act and low-income housing tax credits. Telecommunications includes material on beer, liquor and tobacco advertising. Transportation includes outdoor billboard advertising, the Food Contamination Act, seat belt and helmet laws, and the Airline Defense Passengers Act of 1990.


  • 1981-1992


Conditions Governing Use

Library use only. Copyright of the Robin Tallon Papers has been transferred to the University of South Carolina.


29 Linear Feet

Biographical / Historical

Robert M. “Robin” Tallon, Jr. represented South Carolina’s Sixth District in the United States House of Representatives for five terms, 1983 to 1993. Prior to that, he founded, owned, and operated a successful men’s wear store in Florence, and represented District Sixty-two, Florence County, in the South Carolina House of Representatives, 1981 to 1982.

Tallon was born in Hemingway, S.C. in 1946 to Mary Williamson Tallon and Robert M. Tallon, Sr. He was reared in Dillon County and attended the University of South Carolina during the 1964-65 academic year. At eighteen years of age, he opened a clothing store, Robin’s, in Florence, S.C. He eventually expanded the business to a chain of eight stores spread across the state.

President Jimmy Carter appointed Tallon to the White House Conference on Small Business in 1979, and Tallon has cited this as a seminal experience which led him to run for the South Carolina House in 1980. Elected with 67% of the vote, he served on the Labor, Commerce, and Industry Committee. In 1982, he ran for Congress and defeated Hicks Harwell in a bitter Democratic primary with 71% of the vote. For the general election in November, he worked with African-American church leaders to assure high African-American turnout and support, built an extensive “Get out the Vote” apparatus, and defeated incumbent Congressman John Napier.

In Congress, Tallon served on the Agriculture Committee and Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee, Textile Caucus, Travel and Tourism Caucus, and Rural Health Care Coalition. He became chair of the Travel and Tourism Caucus in 1990 and the Agriculture Subcommittee on Domestic Marketing, Consumer Relations, and Nutrition in 1991. Important legislation with which he is associated includes the Food, Agriculture Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990, bills related to rural development and aquaculture, and the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. He also participated in negotiations over the GATT international trade agreement.

Following the 1990 census, the Sixth District was redrawn to form a black-majority district. Although it was predicted that Tallon would be reelected, he surprised friends and political analysts by announcing he would not seek reelection because he did not wish to heighten racial tensions by running against a black opponent. “This contest couldn’t have done anything but further divide the races, cause racial disharmony and unrest. I don’t want any part of it. It goes against everything I’ve worked for . . . I could win, but I think in the long term, winning could be losing.” Columnist Armstrong Williams noted, “Seldom in politics do we see an incumbent politician give up a chance to be re-elected for the sake of principle.” James Clyburn succeeded Tallon as the Sixth District’s representative.

Since leaving Congress, Tallon has worked as a consultant in Washington. Among his most prominent clients is the Washington-based U.S. Tobacco Institute. He has also involved himself in real estate development in the Dillon area and is frequently mentioned as a possible candidate for other political office.

Physical Location

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

Processing Information

1996-1999, by Andrew Daniels, Susan Dick, Mark Dunn, Larry Grubbs, Tracy Harter, Herbert Hartsook, Harry Lesesne, Cynthia Luckie, Deanna Moore, Kate Moore, and Brian Newsome; addition, 2016, by Mary Clare Johnson

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

Robert M. "Robin" Tallon, Jr. Papers
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