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Flynn T. Harrell Collection on the Separation of Church and State

 Collection
Identifier: SCU-SCPC-054
The Flynn T. Harrell collection consists of two series: Personal and Separation of Church and State. The Personal Series is made up of documents which chronicle Harrell’s distinguished career as a public servant and his duties as an active leader within the South Carolina Christian community. These papers include numerous examples of Harrell’s private and public correspondence with co-workers and friends. Notable interactions include exchanges with prominent state and national political figures such as President Jimmy Carter, Illinois Senator Paul Simon, former South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Richard “Dick” Harpootlian, former South Carolina Governors John C. West, Richard W. Riley, and James H. Hodges, plus numerous members of the South Carolina House and Senate. This correspondence reveals aspects of both Harrell’s loyalty to the Democratic Party and of his deeply held Christian beliefs, exemplified by his participation in several memorial services for loved ones and neighbors, frequent exchanges with friends on the subject of religion, and comments on the political situation within the Baptist Joint Committee during a period of upheaval in the late 1990’s. Harrell’s heartfelt beliefs are highlighted in his appearance as a guest columnist in The State newspaper on December 21, 2005. Harrell used this platform to eulogize his friend and colleague Senator Hyman Rubin, Sr. by quoting multiple verses of Scripture in a column he entitled “A Great Man Has Fallen”. Other notable documents in this series include three handsigned Christmas cards from President Carter and the transcript of a speech prepared by Harrell for Governor Riley, which the Governor delivered at the 1983 Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. Harrell’s manuscript addressed the Cold War tensions of the early 1980’s, voicing regret for the passengers killed when Korean Airlines Flight 007 was shot down by the Soviet Union but skillfully warning against aggressive retaliation by stating, “May the Earth’s people never have to confront ‘The Day After’ (a nuclear war), and may we remember that in a nuclear war there will be no winners, but all will be losers.” Harrell’s service in several state wide offices, including the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, as chair of Governor Riley’s Task Force on Critical Human Needs, and as a member of the State Ethics Commission are featured. The series also highlights Harrell’s service in organizations such as the USC Alumni Association and the Wake Forest Divinity School Board of Visitors. Created and compiled by Harrell, the materials comprising the series Separation of Church and State were gathered from a variety of sources, including Americans for Religious Liberty (ARL), the Council on Religious Freedom, The Center on Religion in the South, the SC Christian Action Council, and the Americans United Research Foundation. The majority of organizational materials are from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU) and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC). The collection includes Vertical Files (contain pamphlets, clippings, and other materials) documenting a range of issues, key individuals, and major events all linked to the separation of church and state and chiefly date from the early 1960’s to present. Harrell’s personal advocacy for the separation of church and state comes through strongly in his correspondence, speech materials, and large library of literature. Over 100 books received with the collection are catalogued and shelved in the Hollings Library Reading Room. The collection features the Americans for Religious Liberty (ARL) newsletter, “Voice of Reason,” from 1991, and the Council on Religious Freedom’s “Freedom Alert,” from 1993. Additional ARL material, such as brochures and articles, are also present. The Seventh-Day Adventist Church’s religious freedom magazine, “Liberty,” is present beginning in 1995. Many of the journals are present in near complete runs. Harrell concentrated his advocacy of the separation of church and state with Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. AU was organized in 1947 as Protestants and Other Americans for the Separation of Church and State to protest government proposals to fund private schools with public funds. Today AU describes itself as “a nonpartisan organization dedicated to preserving the constitutional principle of church-state separation as the only way to ensure religious freedom for all Americans.” In April 1976, Harrell wrote the first AU director, Glenn L. Archer, and expressed his passion for their mission. He wrote, “You aroused in me an interest in and a commitment to the principles of church-state separation which have deepened the last thirteen years….” Archer responded with a simple request, “Keep up your good work. What you do is very important.” Harrell went on to serve on the organization’s National Advisory Committee, Board of Trustees, Personnel Committee, Nominating Committee and Executive Committee. The collection features meeting minutes and annual and board reports beginning in the mid-1990s. Correspondence between Harrell and members of AU begins in 1963. AU’s monthly publication, “Church and State,” is present beginning in 1948. The journal, “Faith Connections,” a tri-yearly newsletter for “people of faith who support the separation of Church and State,” is present beginning with its inaugural issue of 2000. The collection also includes issues of “The Jefferson Circle,” beginning with the Fall 2007 issue. This newsletter highlights AU’s fundraising efforts through planned gifts and bequests. Harrell also became an AU “Patriot for Freedom” through his financial contributions and the collection includes the associated newsletter, “The Patriot Dispatch.” Parallel to Harrell’s involvement with Americans United was his journey with the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. The BJC is self-described as “an education and advocacy organization…fighting to uphold the historic Baptist principle of religious liberty.” Formerly the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, the group changed its name in 2005 to better represent their overall mission. The BJC is comprised of fifteen national, state and regional bodies supported by thousands of churches and individuals. Harrell’s strongest link to the BJC was through his membership with its Religious Liberty Council (RLC), “an association of individuals that works to provide education about and advocacy for religious freedom and the separation of church and state and to ensure adequate funding for the BJC.” The collection includes, “First Freedom,” the RLC quarterly, from Spring 1997 through Winter 2002. The collection also includes the BJC journal, “Report from the Capitol,” beginning October 1983. Harrell was close to former BJC Executive Director James Dunn. Writing to Harrell on June 28, 1990, Dunn noted, “What do we say to such loyal, practical, generous friends as you? Thanks, but that’s not enough. We need you. Causes like religious liberty couldn’t survive without dedicated allies and comrades in arms.” Correspondence related to the BJC runs from 1972 to 2008. Six pamphlets on various church and state issues published by the BJC are included. Audiovisual materials feature organizations such as the Baptist Joint Committee, The American Communications Foundation, and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. VHS cassettes have been transferred to digital MP4 files. For access to these materials, please contact SCPC in advance of your visit.

Dates

  • 1948-Present

Creator

Access

Library Use Only

Extent

17.5 Linear Feet (and published works shelved in Hollings Library Reading Room)

Abstract

A native of Columbia, South Carolina and a lifetime advocate for religious liberty, Flynn Thomas Harrell was born in 1934. Raised as a Baptist, Harrell learned early on of the Baptist belief in the separation of church and state. Harrell became enamored with the idea and has dedicated his life to the study and promotion of religious liberty. While his formal education was in accounting and his official work in finance and government, Harrell maintained a robust and fulfilling connection to the cause of religious liberty.

Harrell's Baptist roots sprouted the seeds of religious liberty for all in his mind and have transformed him into an avid reader, speaker, and educator on such ideas. Harrell has spoken to over one hundred groups and authored numerous articles on the topic.

Biographical Note

A native of Columbia, South Carolina and a lifetime advocate for religious liberty, Flynn Thomas Harrell was born in 1934. Raised as a Baptist, Harrell learned early on of the Baptist belief in the separation of church and state. Harrell became enamored with the idea and has dedicated his life to the study and promotion of religious liberty. While his formal education was in accounting and his official work in finance and government, Harrell maintained a robust and fulfilling connection to the cause of religious liberty.

Harrell attended Eau Claire High School, graduated with a degree in accounting from the University of South Carolina in 1956, and then served two years in the United States Army. He married Anne Turner of Winnsboro in 1963 and the couple had two children, Beth and Flynn T. Harrell, Jr.

Harrell served as Executive Assistant for Attorney General Travis Medlock for eleven years and is a former member of the City of Columbia’s Planning Commission. From 1981 to 1982, Harrell volunteered his efforts to chair Governor Richard Riley’s Task Force on Critical Human Needs. In 1987, Harrell became Director of the Southern Mutual Church Insurance Company. Harrell continued his governmental service as a member of the South Carolina Ethics Commission from 2000 to 2005.

Combining his accounting skills, love for his home state and religious convictions, Harrell also served as the business /financial officer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. He was elected president of the Convention in 1987. Additionally, Harrell held several positions within his congregations and served as president of both the South Carolina and Southern Baptist historical societies. In 1997, Harrell and his wife left the Southern Baptist Convention, citing its growing conservatism, and joined a congregation of the Presbyterian Church/USA.

Harrell’s Baptist roots sprouted the seeds of religious liberty for all in his mind and have transformed him into an avid reader, speaker, and educator on such ideas. Harrell has spoken to over one hundred groups and authored numerous articles on the topic. Reflecting on his life’s passion, Harrell stated in July 2009, “It is important that Americans remain free to worship or not to worship according to the dictates of their individual consciences. State-coerced religion would result in an America that few of us would recognize or desire. True and vibrant religious faith must remain voluntary.”

Provenance

Donated by Flynn T. Harrell

Copyright

Copyright of the Flynn T. Harrell Collection on the Separation of Church and State has been transferred to the University of South Carolina.

Processing Information

Processed by Debbie Todd, 2010; additions by Cody Willis, 2013; additions by Chandler White, 2015

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