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Butler Derrick Papers

Identifier: SCU-SCPC-BCD

The Butler Derrick Papers, c. 1968 to 2014 (bulk c. 1968-1998), consist of 117.5 linear feet of material which chiefly document Derrick’s representation of South Carolina’s Third Congressional District and his campaigns for office. The collection is divided into five series: Public, Personal, Clippings, Audiovisual, and Vertical File Materials. Public Papers is comprised of nine sub-series: Biographical, General Papers, Leadership Files, Press Releases, Speeches, Office Records, Grants and Projects, Voting Records, and Miscellaneous. Personal Papers is divided into General and Campaign sub-series.

The Public Papers series contains Derrick’s congressional papers. The biographical file contains biographical sketches of Derrick from 1975 to 1994. General Papers, 1975-1994, comprising the bulk of the collection at 58 linear feet, consist chiefly of legislative material including drafts and texts of bills, correspondence, and reference material. This series documents Derrick’s tenure in office and reflects not only his legislative activity, but the concerns and opinions of his constituents. General Papers is arranged by year and then topically within each year. It should be noted that Derrick’s office staff used three different filing systems over the years and some inconsistencies exist among certain topics. Typical of such inconsistencies are the Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources files, which frequently contain related or overlapping materials. This problem also exists in Budget and Taxes files.

Budget files pertain to the budget process, inflation, and balancing of the budget. For years during which Derrick served on the Budget Committee, topical files in the General Papers may include some committee papers due to the difficulty in distinguishing between the committee and legislative files. Material regarding funding for individual projects, agencies or programs is filed under specific topical headings. Any examination of the budget and funding should include a look at the Budget files and the corresponding topical files. For materials relating to Derrick’s service on the Budget Committee, see appropriate Leadership files sub-series.

Commerce files include material relating to the Consumer Protection Agency, Federal Trade Commission, Interstate and Foreign Commerce Commission, business and industry, trademark and copyright legislation, and the North American Free Trade Agreement, among others. Product liability material is filed under Law and Order. For topics relating to foreign exports or trade, consult Foreign Affairs.

Communications files chiefly relate to the Federal Communications Commission and regulation of the telephone system, cable telecommunications, advertising, religious broadcasting, and other broadcast media issues.

The topic Welfare incorporates a large number of programs administered by different agencies and may prove particularly difficult for researchers because of the interrelationship of the many aspects of the welfare system. Usually, subjects are filed with the administrating agencies. Under “Agriculture, Domestic Food Assistance Programs” are filed subjects such as School Lunch, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), Women and Infant Children (WIC), and Meals on Wheels. “Social Security Disability”is filed under Social Security and “Medicaid” under Health. When multiple agencies were involved or several different issues raised in the same letter, material was filed under the Welfare topical heading. Researchers should be careful to search under the titles of specific administrating agencies as well as within General papers and Welfare topical files.

Leadership Files document Derrick’s service on the Budget Committee, 1975 to 1978 and 1985, the Rules Committee, 1979 to 1994, as Chief Deputy Whip, 1990 to 1994, and on the October Surprise Task Force, 1991 to 1992. Papers relating to Derrick’s service as a member of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee are filed in the General Papers and in Chief Deputy Majority Whip files, to reflect the original office filing system. Steering and Policy files chiefly regard committee assignments for Democratic members of Congress. Files include letters from members requesting specific committee assignments and reference material on the committees themselves.

Budget Committee files, .5 lf, consist of chiefly of material relating to Derrick’s service as the chair for the Task Force on the Budget Process as well as general committee files. They include hearing reports, notes, statements, findings, recommendations, newsletters, and other material. For the years Derrick served on the Budget Committee, topical files in the General Papers may include committee papers due to the difficulty in distinguishing between committee records and office files.

Chief Deputy Whip files, 4.5 lf, include drafts of legislation, correspondence with other members of Congress, and reference material. Inasmuch as possible the original order and the file titles have been retained when it was clear, descriptive, and non-duplicative.

Rules Committee files, 11.25 lf., include drafts of legislation, meeting agendas, staff memoranda and reference material. Derrick’s files as the chair of the Subcommittee on the Legislative Process are interfiled within this sub-series. Rules Committee files are arranged by Congress and then by bill number in keeping with the original Derrick office filing system.

October Surprise Task Force files, 1 lf., relate to the investigation of the January 1981 Iranian hostage release following Ronald Reagan’s presidential inauguration. The Task Force was created in 1991 in response to allegations that Reagan’s campaign staff entered into secret negotiations with the Iranians to delay the release of the American hostages to make President Jimmy Carter seem ineffectual and thus clinch the 1980 presidential election. Files include correspondence among members, evidentiary material, transcripts and audio cassettes of media programs about the October Surprise, letters from constituents, clippings, and reference material. Additional constituent correspondence regarding the October Surprise can be found in the General Papers for 1991 and 1992.

Speeches, 2.5 lf, 1974 to 1994, include background material, drafts, talking points, and final versions.

Press Releases, 2 lf, 1974 to 1994, include press releases, as well as op-ed articles written by Derrick for local and national newspapers. Press Releases also include Derrick’s newsletters: the Washington Digest and Washington Report, 1975-1994.

Office files, 12.5 lf, 1975 to 1994, include a General file, Appointment Books, Constituent Texts, Invitations, Mail Reports, Media Files, Schedules and Travel Records. The General file documents office procedures in the Washington and District Offices, including staff assignments and work distribution. Appointment Books, 1975 to 1982, are incomplete and should be used in conjunction with the Schedules.

Constituent Texts, 1977 to 1994, are prepared texts, computer generated to respond to the flood of constituent mail received by Derrick. The texts are numerically coded to correspond to the topics addressed in these letters. This same code was written on the incoming letters at the time of receipt to indicate which texts should be included in the responses. The texts are filed chronologically and then topically according to the numerical code. Texts which were undated, though grouped with dated material, were filed with the dated material in files prefaced with a circa date. This decision was made to preclude the creation of a large undated file.

Invitations, 1975 to 1994, include the accepted invitations and, occasionally, programs from the events.

Mail Reports, 1986 to 1993, document the nature and volume of responses to constituent correspondence. The reports provide the numerical coding for the responses, which can be helpful in identifying topics within the General Papers. The Mail Reports are incomplete and should be used in conjunction with Constituent Texts and Office General Papers.

Media Office Files, 1975 to 1979, include schedules for press interviews, radio actualities (short advertisements or announcements), and other media-related activities. These media schedules document only a portion of Derrick’s public relations activities.

Schedules, 1974 to 1994, document Derrick’s daily activities in Washington, the district and elsewhere. The schedules are divided into general schedules, special events, and schedule reports. General schedules and special events were files usually created at the time of the event and include travel arrangements, programs and other details of the event. Schedule reports are computer records generated using the Congressional Scheduling Software and present Derrick’s schedule in condensed, though annotated, format.

Travel Files, 1980 to 1992, are sparse and include limited information regarding Derrick’s foreign travel to Egypt, Central America, Japan, the Middle East, and Taiwan and his domestic travel to Los Angeles, California for the Congressional Arts Caucus.

Grants and Projects, 8.75 lf, 1974 to 1994, chiefly regard projects within the Third District and are arranged in three sub-series: general, geographical and topical. General files include project logs and geographical and topical subjects. Geographical files chiefly consist of projects in distinctly identified cities and counties in his district and are filed alphabetically by city or county. Topical files pertain to projects that involve multiple cities or counties. Representative topics include community building projects, new post offices, and waste water/sewer management facilities. The Savannah River Plant is a prominent project and includes information on Monitored Retrievable Storage, i.e. the Barnwell Nuclear Fuel Plant. Materials relating to Clark Hill Lake, Lake Hartwell, Richard B. Russell Dam, and the Savannah River water projects are filed with the General Papers rather than Grants and Projects due to the legislative component of these files.

Voting Records, 6 lf, 1975 to 1994, document roll call votes and voting analyses prepared by office staff and interns.

Miscellaneous files are of limited informational value, and include records relating to the Congressional Art Competition and government publications.

Personal Papers consist chiefly of General and Campaign Files. General files, 1 folder, 1965 to 1998, include sparse information about Derrick and his first wife, the former Suzanne Mims of Edgefield. Also included is material relating to Derrick’s law career after retiring from Congress.

Campaign Files, .75 lf., 1974 to 1992, pertain to Derrick’s congressional campaigns, his attendance and involvement in Democratic National Conventions, and activities in presidential campaigns. Included are financial statements, lists of supporters and financial contributors, state and national polling data, congratulatory correspondence, campaign literature, schedules, and information regarding campaign fundraising events.

Audio-Visual material, 4 lf., includes photograph, negative, slide, audiocassette, audio reel to reel, and video cassette formats. Video cassettes record Derrick’s appearance on local and national news programs, his television campaign advertisements and special events. Broadcast and beta tapes have been reformatted into VHS and have been retained separately.

Clippings, 1968 to 1995, address topics of vital importance to Derrick, notably nuclear energy, especially the Savannah River Site and Barnwell Nuclear Fuel Plant, textiles, social security, Russell Dam, and the budget. Also included are clippings related to the Third District and Derrick himself.

Vertical File Materials, 1975 to 2014, contain information gathered by SCPC relating to Derrick and may duplicate information already present in the collection.


  • 1968 - 2014



Library use only.


117.5 Linear Feet


Elected to Congress in 1974, Butler Carson Derrick represented South Carolina's Third District from 1975 to 1995 and rose to serve as Chief Deputy Majority Whip before retiring from office. At the time of his retirement, Derrick was considered one of the ten most influential members of Congress. Seen by his party and others in Congress as a bridge between liberals and conservatives, Derrick was elected in 1986 to serve as a regional representative to the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which sets Party policy and makes committee assignments for the Democrats in the House of Representatives.

Biographical Note

“Butler Derrick is a true leader, a man of principle and integrity. When the public thinks of Congress, I’d be proud if they thought of Butler Derrick, because he was a member of the House in the finest sense of the word.” So said Former Speaker of the House, Thomas Foley, upon Butler Derrick’s retirement from the House of Representatives in January 1995. Elected to Congress in 1974, Derrick represented South Carolina’s Third District from 1975 to 1995 and rose to serve as Chief Deputy Majority Whip before retiring from office. At the time of his retirement, Derrick was considered one of the ten most influential members of Congress.

Butler Carson Derrick, Jr. was born September 30, 1936 to Butler Carson, Sr. and Mary English Scott Derrick of Johnston, South Carolina. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of South Carolina and his Bachelor of Laws from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1965. After graduating, he returned to Edgefield and started the law firm Derrick and Byrd. He represented Edgefield County in the S.C. House of Representatives from 1969 to 1974, serving on the Rules and Ways and Means Committees and as a member of the South Carolina Nuclear Advisory Board. In 1974, Derrick was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Derrick’s service in the U.S. House of Representatives was marked by influence, from his early appointments to the Budget and Rules Committees, to his mid-career service on the Congressional Textile Caucus and the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, and culminating in his appointment as Chief Deputy Majority Whip.

Derrick was named to the Budget Committee in his first term in Congress, becoming the first freshman ever appointed to that prestigious committee. He served from 1975 to 1978 and again from 1983 to 1988, and chaired the Task Force on the Budget Process from 1977 to 1978.

In 1979, Derrick was appointed to the Rules Committee, serving as vice-chairman from 1989 to 1995. The Rules Committee is considered to be one of the three most influential committees in the House. It was widely reported that one day Derrick would become chairman of the Rules Committee, though he retired from office before that came to pass. He served as the chairman for that committee’s Subcommittee on the Legislative Process.

Seen by his party and others in Congress as a bridge between the liberals and conservatives, Derrick was elected in 1986 to serve as a regional representative to the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which sets party policy and makes committee assignments for the Democrats in the House of Representatives.

In 1992 Derrick was named Chief Deputy Majority Whip, the fifth most senior leadership position in the U.S. House. Derrick’s appointment marks the first time in 130 years that a South Carolinian had been named to a top leadership post in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Although there were hundreds of issues before him over his twenty years of service, Derrick’s energies were focused on a handful of issues of critical importance to him and South Carolina’s Third Congressional District. Derrick was vitally interested in the textile industry, serving as chair of the Congressional Textile Caucus from 1987 to 1994. Issues affecting textiles ranged from brown lung disease legislation in the late 1970s to “Made in America” labeling in 1985 and textile import quotas in 1986 to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of 1992. Derrick was instrumental in pushing through brown lung disease legislation to enact stricter laws regulating air quality in mills and to provide remuneration for textile workers who developed respiratory ailments as a result of unhealthy working conditions. In 1985, in order to encourage Americans to support their domestic textile industry and counteract the economic damage caused by foreign apparel and textile imports, Derrick introduced legislation mandating country of origin labeling for such imports. Derrick worked tirelessly, though in vain, to override the 1986 presidential veto of textile import quota legislation and the following year was elected chair of the Congressional Textile Caucus. With NAFTA, the threat to the viability of the domestic textile industry peaked. Again, Derrick was there to oppose legislation he believed would result in its downfall. He noted, “The textile and apparel industries have continually acted as the punching bag for one administration after another, and I believe that NAFTA, as it is now, would be another series of blows to an otherwise vibrant industry. It is my conclusion that the North American Free Trade Agreement is not in the best interests of this country at this time.” (8/10/93)

South Carolina’s nuclear energy industry was another issue to which Derrick dedicated his efforts. In the 1980s, the nation was facing a crisis over the disposal of low-level and high-level nuclear waste. Because the Savannah River Site and the Barnwell Nuclear Fuel Plant were in his district, Derrick had to walk a fine line between providing for the economic security of the area and protecting the health and safety of South Carolinians by enacting far-reaching legislation with national significance which would reduce the amount of nuclear waste being shipped to South Carolina for storage or reprocessing. It was during this time that South Carolina was negotiating with other southeastern states to form the Southeast Compact and spread the burden of disposal sites among all members of the compact. Derrick worked diligently to prevent South Carolina from becoming the dumping ground for the nation’s nuclear wastes, while at the same time fighting to keep the Savannah River Site viable. An August 15, 1982, handwritten letter from former South Carolina Governor and Secretary of Energy James B. Edwards, appealing to Derrick to remove his objections to the passage of the nuclear waste bill before the Rules Committee, is of particular interest. “Neither of us want S.C. to be a dumping ground, and as you know this bill provides a place outside of S.C. to put out S.C. waste that is generated each day.” In July 1981, Derrick announced his opposition to any additional federal funding for Barnwell Nuclear Fuel Plant: “It is time for Allied General [Nuclear Services] to either operate the plant as a commercial venture or close it and take the tax write-off. With $54.5 million in four years, the federal government has more than made up for any problems caused by federal decisions.” Despite Derrick’s dramatic stand, Congress approved additional funding for the plant.

The controversy over continued funding for the Richard B. Russell Dam became a defining moment for Derrick when he voted against the Water Appropriations Bill of 1976, which contained funding for the Dam. Although President Carter vetoed the bill and full funding was authorized, Derrick won accolades from fiscal conservatives and environmentalists for his courageous stand in behalf of budgetary responsibility and environmental protection. In 1977, Derrick was chosen Conservationist of the Year by the National Wildlife Federation. He supported the Clean Air Act, the Alaska Land Act and numerous pieces of legislation aimed at preserving the nation’s environmental resources.

Derrick surprised many with his announcement on February 16, 1994 that he would retire from Congress at the end of his term. In his retirement announcement, Derrick said, “The U.S. Congress is the greatest deliberative body in the world. I will always be grateful to the people of the Third District for the honor of serving in the House of Representatives.” When asked what he greatest achievement was, Derrick replied, “I am most proud of my solid, honest, straight-forward leadership and the thousands of people I’ve been able to help.” Derrick passed away in 2014.


Donated by The Honorable Butler Derrick.


Copyright of The Butler Derrick Papers has been transferred to the University of South Carolina.

Processing Information

Processed by Susan Dick, Chris Dolan, Sarah Foss, Larry Grubbs, Tracy Harter, Herbert Hartsook, Cynthia Luckey, and Laurel Sharp, 1996-1998

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

Language of description
Script of description