Democratic Party of South Carolina Records
The Democratic Party of South Carolina (DPSC) Records consist of 85 linear feet of material, 1924 to 2016, with the bulk of the collection dating from 1966 to 2008. The party’s activities during the 1970s are particularly well documented. The collection is arranged into 16 series – General, Administration, Auxiliaries, Committees, Conventions, Elections, Issues, Patronage, Programs, Publications, Maps, Clippings, Electronic Data, Audiovisual, Vertical File Materials, and Scrapbooks.
A small number of records that did not belong in any of the major series are located in a General file.
The Administration series, 1924 to 2007, is comprised of records that document the organizational and administrative activities of the DPSC and its personnel, as well as some of the activities of county parties and elected officials at the state and national levels. The most notable subseries within this series are Financial, Office, and Party Leadership.
The Financial subseries, 1924 to 2007, consists of two smaller subseries, Party Finances and Fundraising. Party Finances contains records of those activities not directly related to fundraising or elections, and includes records of the accounting and banking practices and operational expenses of the DPSC. Fundraising subseries consists of records of the state party’s efforts to acquire revenue to sustain the party. This subseries deals only with fundraising for the DPSC as an entity. Records documenting fundraising efforts for specific elections or candidates are located in the Elections series.
The Office subseries, 1968 to 2004, includes records documenting the activities of the party’s office staff, notably Executive Directors and Associate Executive Directors. The Party Leadership subseries, 1934 to 2004, includes files on Democrats elected to public office, elected party officials (e.g., state chairmen), and other political leaders.
The Auxiliaries series, 1966 to 2003, consists of materials related to various auxiliary organizations of the Democratic Party. Groups represented include the Democratic Women’s Council, Teen Democrats, and Young Democrats. Auxiliary conventions and activities undertaken during the 1970s are particularly well documented.
The Committees series, 1960s to 2008, contains records that document the activities of the Democratic National Committee, State Executive Committee, Executive Council, Finance Committee, other committees created by the DPSC, and county party executive committees. Committees on the party platform and rules are housed with the Conventions series.
The Conventions series, 1960 to 2008, consists of records related to conventions in which the DPSC or its members were involved. The major types of convention represented in this series are the county convention (including the preceding precinct organizational meetings, records for which are filed under the appropriate county), state convention, and the Democratic National Convention. Delegate and alternate selection, convention planning, and platform and rules development are among the activities documented in this series.
Records related to other conferences and mid-term conventions – most notably the 1974 mid-term conference in Kansas City – are also located in this series. Included in the documentation of this convention are a substantial number of materials related to the 1974 Democratic Charter and the Charter Commission, of which then-State Party Chairman Don Fowler was a member.
The Elections series, 1944 to 2008, consists of records documenting the work of the party in Democratic campaigns for public office at the local, state, and national levels. Primary, general, and special elections are all represented in this series, which is arranged by year. Records in this series include filing forms, correspondence, informational materials about candidates, documents on campaign strategy and activities, campaign fundraising materials, voter registration materials, and election protest transcripts. 6 boxes of material in this series are restricted. Inquire with SCPC staff for more information.
The Issues series, 1969 to 1994, documents the party’s role and interest in a variety of social, political, economic and legal issues.
The Patronage series, 1969 to 1998, bulk 1969 to 1975, includes records of the party’s use of its influence to assist supporters. These records are arranged into topical groupings such as education, employment, and political patronage. Although this subseries includes resumes and rosters of commission members and potential appointees, its primary focus is on patronage requests.
The Programs series, 1971 to 1974, consists of material related to programs that the DPSC conducted to attract the support of particular groups of people, such as businessmen and young voters. The activities documented in this series were undertaken to recruit general support and potential leaders to the party, rather than simply to gain votes.
The Publications series, 1950 to 2004, bulk 1996 to 1998, consists of newsletters and other regular publications of national, state, and local Democratic Party organizations for select years.
The Maps series, c. 2000, consists of printouts of computer-generated maps of most of South Carolina’s precincts. The reason for which the South Carolina Democratic Party printed and saved these maps is not clear.
The Clippings series, 1962 to 2006, is primarily concerned with elections, legislation, contemporary issues affecting the state and the nation, and people of interest to the DPSC.
The Electronic Data series currently consists of 5 floppy disks. These disks have been separated from the collection. For more information, contact SCPC staff.
The Audiovisual series, 1967 to c. 2008, consists of materials in a variety of media, including photographs, photographic negatives, a compact disc, U-Matic and VHS tapes, audiocassette tapes, audio reels, and film.
The collection also includes two Scrapbooks of photographs, one from 1992 and one from 1997. These items are housed separately from the rest of the collection and are available upon request.
- 1924 - 2016
- Majority of material found within , 1966- 2008
- Democratic Party (S.C.) (Organization)
Library Use Only
Access to boxes 67-72 is currently restricted. Inquire with SCPC staff for more information.
85 Linear Feet
The Democratic Party of South Carolina Records document the party's efforts at the local, state, and national levels. Headquartered in Columbia, the party's primary purposes are to promote the its interests throughout the state, provide campaign assistance to Democratic candidates for state and national office, and serve as a liaison with the national and local Democratic parties.
With roots dating back to the 18th century, the Democratic Party is the oldest continuously operational political party in South Carolina. However, the modern iteration of the party is frequently dated to 1876, when the election of Wade Hampton III to the governorship brought an end to the state’s Republican Reconstruction government and ushered in an era of almost absolute Democratic dominance in the state. As Don Fowler writes in the South Carolina Encyclopedia (Edgar 2006):
Although there were vast differences of ideology, style, and sophistication among state Democrats, one overriding, enduring value and purpose held it together: maintaining a segregated party and society and ‘keeping the Negro population in their place,’ as well as an intense aversion to the Republican Party. Conflicts within the Democratic Party included elites versus populists, lowcountry versus upstate, mill workers versus mill owners, and conflicts of personality among political leaders. Without question, the dominant, controlling influence in South Carolina politics (and therefore the Democratic Party) was the established, conservative economic and social order.
The Democratic Party of South Carolina exercised near-complete control over the state’s political scene through World War II. As a result, the party had to expend little effort in promoting itself or its candidates – a fact that is reflected in the paucity of records documenting its early 20th century activities. In the decades following the war, the social changes that swept the nation forced Democratic officials in South Carolina to try to balance the social conservatism of their traditional voter base with increasing political participation and demands for inclusion by minority groups and the national party’s broad support of the civil rights, women’s rights, and anti-war movements (Edgar 2006). The state party’s attempts to cultivate the support of African Americans and women are especially well documented in the Elections, Conventions, and Issues series of this collection. Despite the party’s attempts to be responsive and retain its popularity with the electorate, increasing numbers of socially and economically conservative voters were attracted to the well-organized, active, and increasingly successful Republican Party (Edgar 2006). These changes did not occur overnight, but by the time a report titled “Party Organization and the State Headquarters” was completed in 1967, state Democratic leaders recognized that they needed to change if they wanted to effectively contend for political power in the state. In addition to urging the party and candidates to switch their focus from the Democratic Primary to the General Election (where an increasing number of offices were being contested), the reporting committee concluded that the party must also expand its operations in order to effectively organize votes, money, and ongoing support. The contents of the 1967 report are echoed in later records, as the evolving political scene required the Democratic Party to organize more effectively. As then-Chairman Don Fowler wrote to S. E. Lowry on December 28, 1972:
The “concrete” efforts of the Democratic Party of South Carolina to adapt to the changes affecting the country and state and the ascendancy of the Republican Party are well documented in this collection, especially in materials dating from the socially and politically tumultuous 1970s.
Here in South Carolina we have a lot of basic grassroots work to do. We cannot rest any longer on our laurels as Democrats and think automatically everybody else is a Democrat. We are faced with significant challenges all up and down the line and if we don’t take some positive corrective action we are going to find ourselves out in the woods -- as you well know. [....] I think that we have got to look towards specific programs of action to strengthen our Party rather than just deal with sentimentality about getting together and doing better. We have got to think in concrete terms of doing things.
Despite the loss of its political supremacy in the second half of the 20th century, the Democratic Party has remained a viable and active force in South Carolina politics, as demonstrated by the election, convention, and administrative records from the past decade included in the collection. As documented in the party papers, the organization continues to work for the election of its candidates for public office, organize and govern itself through conventions and committees, and engage in activities to build and consolidate support for the people and policies it represents.
Donated by the Democratic Party of South Carolina
Copyright of the Democratic Party of South Carolina Records has been transferred to the University of South Carolina
Timeline of State Party Chairmen, 1932-present
1932-1934 Claud N. Sapp
1934-1938 Ben T. Leppard
1938-1940 Taylor H. Stukes
1940-1946 Winchester Smith
1946-1947 Tom B. Pearce
1947-1952 William P. Baskin
1952-1953 Edgar A. Brown
1953-1954 L. Marion Gressette
1954-1958 Neville Bennett
1958-1960 Thomas H. Pope
1960-1964 E. P. Riley
1964-1966 Yancey A. McLeod
1966-1968 Earle E. Morris, Jr.
1968-1970 E. Crosby Lewis
1970-c. 1971 Harry M. Lightsey, Jr.
1971-1980 Donald L. Fowler
1980-1984 William Jennings Bryan Dorn
1984-1986 M. William “Bill” Youngblood, Jr.
1986-1988 H. Donald McElveen
1988-1990 Frank S. Holleman, III
1990-1994 Albert D. McAlister
1994-1998 Ronald A. Maxwell
1998-2003 Richard A. “Dick” Harpootlian
2003-2007 Joe Erwin
2007-2011 Carol Fowler
2011-2013 Richard A. “Dick” Harpootlian
2013-2017 Jaime Harrison
2017-present Trav Robertson
Originally processed by multiple staff members, c. 1988-1992; additions by Stephanie Stewart, 2004; reprocessed and significant additions added by Laura Litwer and Caitlin Mans, 2011-2012.
- African Americans -- Civil rights -- Southern States.
- Culbertson, John Bolt, 1908-1983
- Dorn, William Jennings Bryan, 1916-2005
- Elections -- Southern states.
- Elections -- United States -- History.
- Fowler, Donald L. (Donald Lionel), 1935-2020
- Hollings, Ernest F. (Ernest Frederick), 1922-2019
- Local elections.
- McNair, Robert E. (Robert Evander), 1923-2007
- Morris, Earle E., Jr.
- Politicians -- United States.
- Ravenel, Charles Dufort, 1938-
- Sanders, Alex
- South Carolina -- Politics and government -- 1951-
- West, John Carl, 1922-2004
- Women -- Political activity -- United States.
- Youth -- Political activity -- United States.
- Democratic Party (S.C.) (Organization)
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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