Mary T. Kelly Papers
The Mary T. Kelly Papers consist of 18 linear feet of material, 1970 to 2008, divided into topical, clippings, and photographs. Much of this collection relates to environmental issues important to Kelly and documents her involvement in organizations such as the Sierra Club and the League of Women Voters.
The general folder includes biographical information on Kelly and letters and awards from the Sierra Club and the South Carolina Wildlife Foundation, along with general newspaper editorials by Kelly.
Topical files documenting the issues important to Kelly make up the bulk of this collection. Six topics dominate this section: Energy (non-nuclear), Hazardous Waste, League of Women Voters, Nuclear, Solid Waste, and South Carolina. The energy files include folders on the South Carolina Hazardous Waste Task Force and the South Carolina Joint Legislative Committee on Energy. Kelly sat on the Energy Policy Panel of the latter. The hazardous waste files include three folders on the Laidlaw landfill—the issues that prompted Kelly to get involved with the League of Women Voters. The League of Women Voters files start when Kelly first joined the league in 1972 and continue through 2008. Files include general information about the league, convention workbooks, “The Voter” newsletter, correspondence, and other materials. The Nuclear material makes up eight boxes, the majority of which cover the Savannah River Site and Barnwell facilities here in South Carolina, nuclear waste and nuclear weapons. The solid waste files include information on the South Carolina Solid Waste Policy and Management Act and the Beverage Container Deposit Legislation/Litter Tax, among other efforts. Finally, the South Carolina series has quite a bit of information on DHEC, including the Board of Health and Environmental Control and the Environmental Quality Control Advisory Committee. There is also material on the Environmental Law Project and the Environmental Symposium.
The clippings series includes general clippings, 1982 to 2006, and clippings on Barnwell, Laidlaw, Nuclear issues, Savannah River Site, Utilities, Waste, and other topics.
The photographs include two photos of Kelly at events.
- 1970 - 2008
- Kelly, Mary T. (Person)
Library Use Only
18 Linear Feet
Mary Kelly spent more than 35 years as an active environmentalist. She joined the League of Women Voters of South Carolina in 1972. At various times during the following decades, she served as the State League President, Co-President, Director, Natural Resources Chair, Associate Director, Spokesperson, and Grant Administrator. Kelly also served on committees and task forces created by the South Carolina Governor's Office, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), and other state government divisions.
Mary T. Kelly, a leader in the League of Women Voters and an active environmentalist, was born on January 18, 1923 in Yonkers, New York. She earned a B.S. in chemistry from the College of Mount St. Vincent in Riverdale, New York and an M.S. and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from New York University. While at NYU, she met Robert J. Kelly, also pursuing a Ph.D. in chemistry. They later married and raised seven children. In college, Kelly worked at a chemical manufacturing plant. Discussing her job there, she remembered, “In those days, we dumped into the river, the Hudson. It didn’t go into secure landfills. What you once could do, you can’t anymore. You have to have social responsibility.” Kelly taught biology and chemistry part time at both high-school and college levels. The family moved to Columbia, South Carolina in 1965.
Mary Kelly spent more than 35 years as an active environmentalist. She joined the League of Women Voters of South Carolina in 1972, inspired by a series of bad experiences with septic systems and by the opening of the Laidlaw Hazardous Waste Landfill in Sumter County. Upon seeing the landfill for the first time she says “We thought it was not a great idea to put [the landfill] near Lake Marion. When we went out there it wasn’t lined, it just had barrels. I thought it was inadequate.” At various times during the following decades, she served as the State League President, Co-President, Director, Natural Resources Chair, Associate Director, Spokesperson, and Grant Administrator. She contributed many articles to the League newsletter and worked on a variety of League initiatives.
Kelly also served on committees and task forces created by the South Carolina Governor’s Office, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), and other state government divisions. These included the DHEC Environmental Quality Control Advisory Board, the Governor’s Statewide Hazardous Material Steering Committee, and the South Carolina Joint Legislative Committee on Energy Policy Panel. She attended many state government meetings and public hearings relating to environmental issues, often delivering official League of Women Voters statements on the issues being discussed.
Kelly was a member of various non-governmental groups as well. She was on the board of the South Carolina Environmental Law Project and the Carolina Peace Resource Center, and was also a member of the Sierra Club. She attended many conferences and summits and often wrote letters to the editor and guest columns for local newspapers, both on her own and as an official representative of the League of Women Voters.
Kelly’s primary interest lay in nuclear-related environmental issues, particularly those dealing with the Savannah River Site and the Barnwell Low-Level Nuclear Waste Facility, both located in South Carolina. She was strongly opposed to the development and use of nuclear power plants and to the storage in South Carolina of nuclear and hazardous waste that had originated in other states. She also took an interest in and devoted time to non-nuclear environmental issues such as forest and wetlands protection, reduction of air and water pollution, and promotion of recycling. Her activism in areas unrelated to environmental issues included serving on the Carolina Peace Resource Council and the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education Blue Ribbon Committee on Medical Doctor Education. She also worked on League of Women Voters campaigns for elections reform and voter registration.
Kelly received the South Carolina Wildlife Federation’s Conservationist of the Year Award in 1984 and was nominated for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Environmental Awareness Award in 2002. In April 2009, the League of Women Voters of South Carolina held a reception in her honor at their 29th Biennial Convention.
Donated by Mary T. Kelly
Copyright of the Mary T. Kelly Papers has been transferred to the University of South Carolina
Processed by Katherine Thompson and Virginia W. Blake, 2009-2010.
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
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