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Allard Henry Gasque Papers

 Collection
Identifier: SCU-SCPC-038
The collection consists of 7 linear feet of papers comprised chiefly of constituent correspondence. Study of the collection reveals a great deal about life in South Carolina during the Depression, particularly in regard to the politics of the time. The collection is arranged into two major series: Personal, including campaign, and Public. The Personal papers document Gasque's financial affairs, his family life, and activities and correspondence outside of his official role as a congressman. The campaign papers, 1928 to 1938, showcase the large numbers of Gasque supporters who reached out to him in the various elections. The topical papers are the most varied and provide insight into issues such as patronage, veteran's affairs, and post office politics.

Gasque's personal papers make clear that he shared in the troubles that many of his constituents faced as a large financial crisis towered over South Carolina and the United States. Correspondence between Gasque and various banks and creditors highlight his own personal financial hardships. Gasque tried as best he could to provide for his family and his letters reflect his efforts and love. On February 15, 1935, Gasque wrote to his son, Tommy, who was attending the Augusta Military Academy at Ft. Defiance, Virginia, “I was glad to get your letter and would have answered same earlier but have been so busy could not get to it. I am sending you $2.00 and also the $1.00 for collars. This about breaks me but of course you know your 'old pal' will give you anything he has if he can. With all my love, I am, Your Daddy.”

Gasque also struggled with a series of heart troubles and various bouts with the flu. Get well letters poured in after Gasque suffered a heart attack in the spring of 1935. On May 11, 1935, attorney R.H. Singletary of Bishopville wrote to Gasque, “It is with profound regret that I learned through the papers of your illness and I wish to say to you that I hope for you a speedy and complete recovery that have been expressed by various of your friends in this community to me and they too join with me in hoping for you an early complete restoration of your health.” The personal papers also highlight Gasque's club activities and correspondence between him and his many friends.

As a member of Congress from 1923 to 1938, Gasque participated in eight races for his seat in Congress. The campaign subseries is comprised of correspondence from six of those races. Letters of strategy, support, and hearty congratulations are typical of each election year. In the 1928 election, Gasque faced an opponent named Allen. With assistance from his brother, C.J., Gasque sought to clarify to a constituent the truth about Allen‟s war background. On August 25, 1928, C.J. wrote, “...and what I can gather he was supporting Allen on his War record. I presume you have found out what his War record is...as a matter of fact he only served about two months in the Students Training Camp at Wake Forest at about the time the Armistice was signed, yet he is leading a great many people to believe he actually fought in France.” Throughout his races, Gasque always counted on support from his friends across the sixth district. That same August day, Gasque wrote to John Wheeler of Trio, “I feel sure if you will use a little extra effort in my behalf Tuesday that you will never regret it and if there is anything at any time that I can do for you, all you have to do is to command me.” The campaign papers also provide a glimpse into Gasque's political accomplishments and key issues he focused on during his congressional tenure.

The public papers cover a wide range of issues from agriculture to public works projects. Incoming letters during the fall of 1928 and winter of 1929 relate the efforts of local farmers to combat the devastation caused by flooding. In 1930 Congress passed legislation to expand the Inland Waterway, now called the Intracoastal Waterway, through his district. Gasque considered his efforts and success in this matter one of his finest accomplishments. He wrote F.M. Brickman, April 9, 1930: “I am right proud of my achievement in getting the Inland Waterway route adopted....this is the biggest project, calling for the expenditure of more money, that no other member of Congress or the Senate from South Carolina has ever been able to get through, and I have done this practically alone.”

Gasque‟s congressional career spanned some of the most challenging economic times the country faced. Gasque blamed a number of the economic problems that his district, state, and the country faced on the Republican Party. On May 7, 1932, Gasque wrote to a constituent, “We are working and trying to bring the government out of the depth that the Republican Party has plunged us into. Of course, this will take time and study as to where cuts can be made without impairing the efficiency of the government.” Gasque fought hard for the common man and often made waves when fighting for the less fortunate. On April 1, 1933, Gasque wrote to a friend, “We are working like the dickens but of course we cannot always please everybody. We can't please both the millionaires and the poor people by the same vote and it is my purpose to see that the poor get equal rights.”

The topical series is dominated by three sub-series, patronage, postal, and veteran‟s affairs. Patronage is the largest sub-series, showcasing the scarcity of jobs from 1923-1938. Gasque‟s office was inundated with job requests, particularly in 1935. On June 4, 1935, Gasque himself expressed his exasperation, “It is quite impossible to rest when I am at the office as we are rushed to death with work and people looking for jobs and positions.” Two months later on August 29, 1935, Clara Moore, a stenographer in Gasque's office wrote: “Everything here is o.k. Plenty of job seekers right on but not quite as bad as a few days ago. The correspondence has not let up any so far but I am keeping up with it all anyway.” Through his efforts to assist his constituents, Gasque became linked to these individuals' lives. Constituents expressed their gratitude to Gasque throughout their difficulties. On July 24, 1937, Mary D. Parnell wrote to Gasque: “This is to express my appreciation for the interest and cooperation furnished by you and your Staff concerning my recent furlough. Thanks to you, I am still employed...Needless to say my continued employment is no trivial matter to me and I shall do everything possible to justify your confidence.” Due to the volume of correspondence concerning patronage, this series is arranged by year, month, and then by week.

Much of Gasque's mail concerns the selection of local postmasters. Gasque fumed over the corrupt local Republican regime and his inability to influence patronage. Writing to A.P. Padgett of Hemingway, March 9, 1928, Gasque stated, “The methods used by the Republican Party in making these appointments in South Carolina are a shame and a disgrace to civilization, however they are in power and we can do nothing about it until we can get them out.” On March 4, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, came to the White House and Gasque could then play a role in the selection of local postmasters. He could select from among the three individuals scoring highest on a federal exam to fill any openings for these desirable, remunerative, and often hotly contested positions. Letters of recommendation and requests for consideration frequently discuss in detail the political ramifications of an appointment, documenting local political battles in such communities as McColl and Kingstree and illuminating Gasque's campaign machinery. For example, F.J. Watson, postmaster of Kingstree during the Hoover administration, had voted from Hoover in opposition to the nomination of Al Smith by the Democratic Party, though he did not consider himself a Republican. Hoping to retain his position under Roosevelt, Watson wrote Gasque, January 24, 1936, and explained the circumstances which had led him to support Hoover and his underlying loyalty to the Democratic Party. He concluded, “During the spring of 1932...I wanted to vote for Roosevelt, but I felt sure that in case I did I would be accused of doing so only to be able to say that I voted for the winning man in order to hold my job. Being sensitive on that point, I voted for Hoover.” Variations of such stories appear throughout Gasque's constituent mail.

Veterans, their widows, and their children held a special place in Gasque's heart. Gasque worked tirelessly to see veterans and their families provided for. His letters reveal his work with Civil War widows, Mexican American War veterans, Indian wars veterans, Spanish American War veterans, and veterans of the First World War Summing of the feelings of many of the war widows, a World War I widow wrote to Gasque on January 29, 1932: “I am writing you not only in the interest of myself but thousands of other widows who have been left penniless with little ones because their loved one gave their lives for their country either during War or after their return home from oversea[s].” Gasque supported a number of pieces of legislation to aid widows and their children, as well as assisted veterans with claiming their pensions. In 1933 Gasque faced criticism for his vote against Roosevelt's Economy Act. Designed to support Roosevelt's campaign pledge to balance the federal budget, the so-called “Economy bill” featured a significant reduction in veteran's benefits. Wattie McGirt of Darlington wrote to Gasque, May 19, 1933: “I have yet to see a single veteran who has criticized you for the stand you took and only a few disgruntled politicians and men who hate to see the veterans receive anything are the ones who have had anything to say and I feel sure after August 1, when no checks come in, for over half the veterans in your district, that they will realize that you are the best friend that they ever had.”

Dates

  • 1920 - 1938

Creator

Access

Library Use Only

Extent

7 Linear Feet

Abstract

Allard H. Gasque represented the 6th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1923-1938. This collection is comprised chiefly of constituent correspondence which reveals a great deal about life in South Carolina during the Depression, particularly in regard to the politics of the time. Gasque also served as Superintendent of Education, Florence County, 1902-1923, and on the Democratic State Executive Committee, 1912-1920.

Biographical Note

Allard Henry Gasque (1873-1938) represented South Carolina's Sixth Congressional District from 1923 until his death from heart disease just hours after the close of the final session of the Seventy-fifth Congress. As a member and later chairman of the Pension Committee, Gasque was a champion of America's veterans and their families. His final major piece of legislation provided pensions to veterans of the Spanish-American War. In addition to his work on behalf of veterans, Gasque served on the Interstate Commerce Committee.

Gasque was born near Hyman in what is now Florence County. Born into a farming family, Gasque became a teacher in country schools and later entered the University of South Carolina. Following graduation in 1901, Gasque became principal of Columbia's Waverly Graded School. In 1902, he was elected superintendent of education for Florence County. Gasque became active in local and state politics and educational organizations, and served on the Democratic State Executive Committee from 1912-1920. In 1923, he resigned as superintendent to take his seat in Congress. On his work as a congressman, Gasque wrote to a friend on March 14, 1924, “The next time you hear anybody say a Congressman does not have anything to do, you can just deny that fact. It is the hardest work that I have undertook [sic].”

Gasque‟s political machinery and network of support continued to function long after his death. His wife, Elizabeth “Bessie” Hawley Gasque, was elected to fill Gasque's unexpired term in a special election and served from September, 1938 until January, 1939. His secretary, John Lanneau McMillan (1902-1979), was elected in 1938 to the Seventy-sixth Congress and represented the Sixth Congressional District from 1939 until 1972. McMillan's papers are also held by South Carolina Political Collections.

Provenance

Donated by Mrs. A. J. Van Exem.

Biographical Information

Copyright

Copyright of the Allard Henry Gasque Papers has been transferred to the University of South Carolina.

Processing Information

Processed in 1988; arrangement revised, 2009, by Debbie Davendonis-Todd

Repository Details

Part of the South Carolina Political Collections Repository

Contact:
Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library
1322 Greene St.
University of South Carolina
Columbia SC 29208 USA
803-777-0577