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Olin DeWitt Talmadge Johnston Papers

Identifier: SCU-SCPC-ODJ

The Johnston Papers consist of 182 linear feet of material, 1914 to 2004, chiefly dating from his Senate service and documenting his activities and the interests and concerns of South Carolinians. The Papers are arranged into: Senate Papers, Gubernatorial Papers, Personal Papers, and Audio-Visual.

Senate Papers

The Senate Papers include: Legislative Files, Media and Press Release Files, Newsletters, Office Files, Recommendations, Reference Files, Speeches, Voting Records, and News Clippings.

Legislative Files, 132.5 linear feet (106 cartons), contain correspondence and other material relating to bills and issues considered by Congress. Files often include copies of the pertinent bills and resolutions, committee prints, and official and constituent correspondence. Legislative files are arranged by year, with general papers followed by topical files for that year. The collection inventory, which follows, contains a detailed list of the files. Those for cities and counties usually relate to projects proposed or being implemented in those localities, such as funding sewage systems and the erection of new government buildings to serve the locality. Files regarding individuals, grouped under the heading "Persons," contain either extensive correspondence with or about the individual, or reference material. Many years include files for Johnston's brother, frequent campaign manager, and aide -- William C. Johnston, former Senator and Anderson publisher Wilton Hall, and Orangeburg attorney Julian S. Wolfe.

Johnston was a member of the Post Office and Civil Service Committee throughout his tenure in the Senate and, in time, wielded significant influence over legislation affecting this area. This is evidenced by voluminous files regarding postal service and government employees.

Extensive files document the importance of agriculture and the textile industry in South Carolina, the effort, 1962 to 1963, to erect a dam at Trotters Shoals, led by Johnston, with Georgia Senator Richard Russell, and the Democratic Party. Party material chiefly consists of speech material issued by the Democratic National Committee for use in campaigning, and is similar to other material filed in the Campaign series.

Johnston's lengthy service on the Judiciary Committee is reflected in voluminous files, 1953 to 1965. In the 1950s, Johnston chaired Judiciary's Subcommittee on Internal Security, investigating fears of communist influence in the United States government as well as in organizations such as the United Nations. In 1962, Johnston chaired a sub-committee of the Judiciary Committee which considered President Kennedy's appointment of Thurgood Marshall to the Second United States Circuit Court of Appeals. Johnston was accused of using delaying tactics to halt Marshall's confirmation. Over one inch of correspondence received from constituents and others from all across the country reflects the bitter division across America over this appointment.

In 1957 the nation focused on events in Little Rock, Arkansas. Extensive records document the passage of civil rights bills in Congress and the reactions of Johnston's constituents and from across the country. A 1957 file on the N.A.A.C.P. regards Johnston's call for an investigation of the organization and suspicion that it had been subverted by the communists.

Media and Press Release Files consist of 3 linear feet (3 cartons). Media files, 1955 to 1964, were maintained by the public relations officer and consist of radio and television speech texts as well as correspondence with radio and television stations and newspapers regarding coverage of Senator Johnston and political advertising. Press releases, 1948 to 1965, arranged chronologically, include releases from Johnston's office, draft releases, and un-released statements. Topics include agriculture, the textile industry, postal affairs and construction of new postal facilities, appointments, and foreign affairs. Press releases from Mrs. Gladys Johnston and the White House follow the 1965 folder. Note: media files also exist among Campaign Files, and material on legislation affecting the media are in Legislative Files under "Media".

Tucked behind the press releases are 4 folders of A Washington Letter, the newsletter released by Johnston’s office, 1956 and 1960 to 1965. The newsletter was previously called Capitol Comments. One folder of reaction to A Washington Letter is at the end of Legislative Files, 1961 (box 85).

Office Files, 3 linear feet (3 cartons), chiefly from Johnston's Washington office, consist of appointment and guest books, constituent assistance summaries, telephone directories (including two pop-up “list finder” directories), and schedules.

Recommendations, 2.5 linear feet (2 cartons), 1945 to 1955 and 1960 to 1961, include correspondence and notes documenting the Senator's recommendations for appointment to a variety of schools and offices, ranging from military academies to the federal judiciary. Much of the correspondence comes after John F. Kennedy's election as president. As a vigorous supporter of Kennedy, Johnston's recommendation was eagerly sought for patronage positions.

Reference Files, 4.5 linear feet (in 5 cartons), are drawn from Senator Johnston's files of "Printed" and "Speech Material" consisting mostly of source material gathered by Johnston's office. Of particular interest are files concerning civil rights, 1957 to 1960, chiefly about attempts to impede the passage of a civil rights bill and hearings, 1957, held by the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights. Among those appearing before the Subcommittee and /or corresponding with Johnston on this were Edgar Brown, Jimmy Byrnes, Governor Fritz Hollings, and I. DeQuincey Newman. One file relates to concerns over the testimony of journalist John H. McCray, a founder of the Progressive Democratic Party.

Speeches, 6 linear feet (in 7 cartons), 1935 to 1965, arranged chronologically, include drafts and texts of remarks delivered by Johnston plus related documentation such as invitations to speak, event programs, and press releases. The majority of the speeches date between 1959 and 1964. Topics include agriculture, civil rights and integration, communism, Cuba, foreign aid, the Democratic Party, and postal affairs. Included are numerous speeches, 1959 to 1960, regarding civil rights, two speeches, 23 April 1959 and 23 October 1961, regarding women in government; several speeches, summer, 1959, regarding pornography; speeches, August to September 1959, on the visit to the United States by Nikita Khrushchev; a speech, 8 June 1961, regarding race relations and communism; speeches, June, 1963, regarding the Supreme Court ruling on prayer in school; and a statement, 27 August, 1963, titled "Why I Tithe." This series also includes two speeches by Gladys Johnston, 31 August 1959 on women and happiness, and 16 May 1961 regarding South Carolina.

Voting Records, 2.5 linear feet (in 3 cartons), document Johnston's Senate voting record from the Eighty-third to Eighty-eighth Congresses, Johnston's voting record in support of the president, and two topical voting records covering 1945 to 1962.

Clippings consist of 15 feet of material (12 cartons), primarily 1958 to 1964. Clippings were kept by Johnston to provide background information on persons, issues, and current events. Most frequently from the Columbia State, Charleston News and Courier, and Greenville Times, clippings include extensive files on agricultural topics, the armed services, civil rights, political campaigns, education, persons, and postal issues. [While working with the clippings, you may notice there are gaps in the numbers penciled in on each folder; this is the result of re-arrangement since initial labeling.]

Gubernatorial Papers

Gubernatorial is 1 linear foot (1 carton), covering 1935 to 1939 and 1943 and 1944. Documents include addresses before the South Carolina State Legislature, correspondence and proclamations in 1943 and 1944, four folders regarding the South Carolina Highway Department, a 1943 “Racial Situation” file, and a 1944 “South Carolina at War” file.

Personal Papers

Campaign Files, 4 linear feet (4 cartons), 1938 to 1964, contain correspondence and other materials related to Johnston's campaigns for public office as well as other statewide campaigns. This series contains valuable records from the presidential races of 1948, 1952, 1956, 1960, and 1964. Particularly good material exists for the campaigns of Adlai Stevenson, 1952 and 1956, and Barry Goldwater, 1964. William C. Johnston's 1958 gubernatorial campaign is also documented with papers including campaign speeches. Party activities, chiefly at the national level, are documented both in this series and, under the heading "Democratic Party," within Legislative Files.

Correspondence and Topical Files, 2 linear feet (2 cartons), includes early correspondence, 1914-1959, chiefly letters between Olin Johnston and Gladys Johnston, 1922-1927, described in more detail in the 1996 University South Caroliniana Society program. Topical Files include Johnston's 1923 master’s thesis, which "appraise[d] the economic and social resources of Anderson County, South Carolina," correspondence from Wilton Hall's Senate service at the end of 1944; tributes following Johnston’s death in April 1965, materials relating to the activities of Johnston's wife and children, and published materials either written by or featuring Senator Johnston.

Audiovisual consists of 5 folders of photographs and 5.5 feet of film and audio recordings. A film register folder is in box 147.

Eight scrapbooks document Johnston's first term as governor, 1950 campaign, and death.


  • 1914 - 2004
  • Majority of material found within 1914 - 1965



Library use only


182 Linear Feet


Olin D. Johnston served South Carolina as a U. S. Senator from 1945 until his death in 1965. At that time he was ninth in seniority in the Senate, and renowned as a champion of the common man. Prior to his election to the Senate, Johnston served two terms as Governor, 1935-1939 and 1943-1945, and in the state House of Representatives, 1923-1924 (Anderson County), 1927-1930 (Spartanburg County). Through his long career in public service, Johnston was the friend and advocate of the farmer and laborer.

Biographical Note

Olin DeWitt Talmadge Johnston (1896-1965) served South Carolina as a United States Senator from 1945 until his death in 1965. At that time he was ninth in seniority in the Senate, and renowned as a champion of the common man. Prior to his election to the Senate, Johnston served two terms as Governor, 1935-1939 and 1943-1945, and in the state General Assembly, 1923-1930. Throughout his long career in public service, Johnston was the friend and advocate of the farmer and laborer.

Johnston was born in 1896 near Honea Path, South Carolina. His family maintained a farm and worked in the Chiquola Manufacturing Company's textile mill. Johnston's youth was divided between schooling, work on the farm, and work in the mill. He could attend school only while the family was on the farm, usually in the summer. He eventually entered the Textile Industrial Institute in Spartanburg and there Johnston earned his high school diploma in thirteen months, graduating in 1915.

In the fall of 1915, Johnston entered Wofford College in Spartanburg, where he worked his way through school, holding a variety of jobs. His studies were interrupted by America's entry into the Great War. Johnston enlisted in the Army National Guard in 1917 and served with the 117th Engineer unit, which was attached to the 42nd (Rainbow) Division. He served eighteen months overseas and attained the rank of sergeant. Following his discharge, in June, 1919, he returned to Wofford where he received his Bachelor's degree in 1921. That fall, Johnston entered the University of South Carolina where he earned both an M.A. in Political Science in 1923 and an LL.B. in 1924. That same year established the law firm of Faucette and Johnston in Spartanburg, and in December, married Gladys Atkinson of Spartanburg. She would serve throughout his career as his most trusted counselor.

Johnston's political career began while he attended U.S.C. The former mill worker and doughboy was elected to the South Carolina House in 1922 and represented Anderson County from 1923 to 1924 and Spartanburg County from 1927 to 1930. Johnston proved a capable and popular campaigner. He was an unsuccessful candidate for Governor in 1930, but won that office in 1934 and served his first term as Governor from 1935 to 1939. In his inaugural address of 1935, Johnston stated --"This occasion marks the end of what is commonly known as 'ring rule' in South Carolina." Among his achievements as governor were the repeal of the state's personal property tax; the initiation in South Carolina of the country's first rural electrification program, a pilot program personally authorized by President Roosevelt; the $3.00 license plate; and the establishment of the Industrial Commission, Labor Department, Planning and Development Board, and Ports Authority.

Johnston unsuccessfully campaigned for the United States Senate first in 1938 and again in 1941. He was elected to a second term as Governor in 1942 but still desired a seat in the Senate. In 1944, Johnston ran again and defeated the incumbent, Ellison "Cotton Ed" Smith (1866-1944), in the Democratic primary. Johnston resigned as Governor on January 3, 1945 and was sworn into the Senate that same day. He served for twenty years until his death in 1965.

Johnston served on the committees on Agriculture and Forestry, District of Columbia, Judiciary, and Post Office and Civil Service. He became chair of the Post Office and Civil Service Committee in 1950 and gained the nickname Mr. Civil Service for his leadership on that committee and dedication to the needs and interests of postal and other federal employees. Johnston also joined with fellow Southerners as part of the conservative Southern Democratic coalition.

In the Senate, Johnston was a staunch advocate of public power, parity programs for farmers, a broad strong social security program, and the provision of lunches to needy school children. He also generally opposed foreign aid, viewing it as support of foreign interests at the expense of American industry and consumers. Johnston died on April 18, 1965, following a long battle with cancer. In eulogizing Johnston, his long time associate, Senator George Aiken of Vermont, noted --"During his entire career in the Senate, he worked for those who needed his help most and whom it would have been easy to ignore and neglect." At the dedication of the Johnston Room at the South Caroliniana Library, Governor Robert McNair described Johnston as "a working man, and those who made his public life possible were working people....He was a man of conviction who arrived at a time when hard decisions had to be made."


Donated by the Johnston family


Copyright of the Olin DeWitt Talmadge Johnston Collection has been transferred to the University of South Carolina.

Processing Information

Processed in 1994; additions in 1996; additions in 2010.

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

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