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Robert E. McNair Papers

Identifier: SCU-SCPC-REM

The Robert E. McNair Collection consists of 135 linear feet of papers, 1953-2010, arranged in eight series: General Assembly, Lieutenant Governor Papers, Gubernatorial Papers, Speeches, Personal Papers, Audiovisual Records, Clippings, and Vertical File Materials.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY PAPERS, 1954-1962, relate to McNair‘s service as a state representative for Allendale County and is subdivided into General and Topical Files.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR PAPERS, 1963-1965, consist of General and Topical material created during McNair‘s service as Lieutenant Governor under Governor Donald Russell. General papers include correspondence, memoranda, and other papers of a general nature, arranged chronologically. Topical Files regard education, his work presiding over the General Assembly, and meetings, as well as other subjects.

GUBERNATORIAL PAPERS, 1965-1973, is arranged in nine subseries: General; Appointments; Executive Orders; Extraditions; Invitations; Messages to the General Assembly; Receipts for Acts; Staff Files; and Topical Files.

General papers include correspondence, memoranda and other records of a general nature, arranged chronologically.

Appointments document McNair‘s appointments to a variety of boards, commissions, and state offices. Material in this sub-series is arranged under County-wide appointments, General Assembly appointments, and South Carolina (state-wide) appointments.

Executive Orders (2 folders) are official executive orders on a variety of subjects signed by the Governor.

Extraditions document requests from other states for the extradition of individuals sought for criminal trial in those states. They are arranged alphabetically by state, and thereunder by year and personal name of each fugitive.

Invitations consist of accepted invitations for speaking engagements and other events, and include related documentation. Some invitation correspondence is located in the Speeches series as it was originally filed with copies of the relevant remarks. Invitations are arranged chronologically by date of the event.

Messages to the General Assembly consist of the Governor‘s official Messages to the General Assembly.

Receipts for Acts consists of brief versions of final acts passed by the General Assembly for the Governor to sign. These include short descriptions of provisions included in the acts.

Staff Files consists chiefly of correspondence of liaison officer Robert Alexander and legal advisor Henry Lake. Topical files maintained by Alexander have been merged into the Topical Files sub-series to ensure that like materials are united. Lake‘s topical files relate to the legal aspects of subjects or issues, and therefore have been kept separate. "County" files maintained by Alexander include correspondence concerning school desegregation, the establishment of industry, federal aid for building construction, VISTA, declarations of states of emergency, and post offices.

Topical Files relate to a variety of subjects which came to Governor McNair‘s attention and typically include correspondence, memoranda, and reports. Topics range from adult education to youth and include files concerning state departments, commissions, and educational institutions.

Significant records regarding civil rights and education relate to the desegregation of the public schools. The collection contains significant records relating to this and the reaction across the state and nation. Dozens of constituent letters present in the collection applaud McNair for his firm stand and leadership on this divisive issue.

The Lamar Incident drew a flood of mail from across South Carolina and the nation. These letters have been separated into in-state and out-of-state files under the heading "Civil Rights, Desegregation, Lamar Incident." There is also a Lamar file in the clippings series.

The Orangeburg Incident, also referred to as the Orangeburg Massacre, garnered national attention as well. A large portion of files can be found under "Civil Rights," including general files, AP wire releases, executive orders and governor‘s statements, a file on student leader Cleveland Sellers, and letters from the public concerning the government‘s handling of the situation. Researchers should refer to "Education, Higher, Colleges and Universities, South Carolina State College" and the clippings series for possible additional material. The State Attorney General, under "South Carolina," also has a file, 1968-1969, on Cleveland Sellers.

The files on the strike at the Medical College of South Carolina include a large amount of correspondence from the public and material concerning the handling of the situation by both McNair and the Medical College. These folders are located under "Civil Rights, Medical College of South Carolina," and in the clippings series. Additional material about the Medical College in general can be found under "Education, Higher."

The "Moody Report" files include material from Moody‘s Investor Services and Campus Facilities Associates, the compilers of the report. Correspondence and study reports make up the bulk of the files, but there is also a report summary as well as a complete report, mailing lists, and material on the 1968 Wampee meeting and opposition to the plan.

Governors‘ Conferences include material from meetings of the National, National Democratic, and Southern conferences. In some years, mid-year national meeting information is available, and in these cases annual and mid-year meetings have been distinguished.

Natural Resources materials relate to a variety of issues involving air quality and water. There is unavoidable overlap of Natural Resources with other subjects. For instance, water materials relate also to the South Carolina Water Resources Commission and South Carolina Appalachian Regional Planning and Development Commission.

The proposed location of a German Badische Anilin und Soda Fabrik [BASF] chemical plant near Hilton Head resulted in a storm of opposition from late 1969 through 1970. Included in the flood of letters to the Governor‘s office was one from future president Jimmy Carter in Plains, Georgia. He wrote: "I am intensely interested personally in the strictest protection of our estuarine areas, and hope that you will do everything in your power to prevent any possibility of damage, even to the extent of relocation of the plant if necessary." Others, however, were very concerned about maintaining the positive image South Carolina was developing among domestic and foreign investors, and called for caution before summarily rejecting BASF. Speaker of the House Sol Blatt sent McNair a copy of Blatt‘s response to a concerned citizen [26 Dec. 1969]: "Before we stop the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in South Carolina by some foreign corporation because of pollution, we must be certain of our position or otherwise our state will begin to lose industry which we so badly need." According to a memorandum, McNair‘s office had received approximately 350 letters on the subject by 6 March 1970, and mail continued to pour in until at least October.

Armed Services records include correspondence regarding the war in Vietnam. Several form letters were used by the governor to express condolences to the families of South Carolinian casualties, and sample letters have been retained as part of this collection. A Vietnam folder includes material concerning the RSVP program. Secretary of State files include official and unofficial state and county election returns for November 8, 1966. This election encompassed the U.S. Senate races of Ernest F. Hollings vs. Marshall Parker and Strom Thurmond vs. Bradley Morrah, as well as the U.S. Representative race between William Jennings Bryan Dorn and John Grisso. These returns also include state Senators and Representatives and proposed amendments to the state constitution. Official election returns are arranged alphabetically by county.

Persons folders have been created when significant correspondence exists between particular individuals and the Governor. These files are not necessarily comprehensive, and additional correspondence with these individuals may be found among other files in the collection, especially Topical Files, Appointments, and Personal Papers

SPEECHES, 1957 to 2007 (bulk dates 1963 to1970), consist of notes, drafts, and final versions of speeches and remarks delivered by Governor McNair. Associated correspondence, program material, and background information may be included. This material is arranged chronologically. An item-level list of speeches is appended to this guide.

PERSONAL PAPERS, 1954-2000, are divided into six subseries: General, Appointment Books and Schedules, Campaigns, Democratic Party, Oral History Transcripts, and Topical Files. General consists of correspondence and miscellaneous materials of a general nature.

Appointment Books and Schedules contain McNair‘s daily appointments and notes, 1962 to 1979. The books for 1965 to 1970 were kept by the Governor‘s administrative assistant, Katherine Wolfe. Campaigns document McNair‘s successful bids for Lieutenant Governor, 1962, and for reelection to a full term as Governor, 1966.

Democratic Party materials concern McNair‘s extensive participation in affairs at both the state and national levels.

Oral History Transcripts include transcripts from the oral history sessions conducted with Governor McNair by the South Carolina Department of Archives and History in 1982.

Topical Files include McNair‘s involvement with corporations and educational institutions, finances, invitations, and persons. These include the 1975 Easter Seal campaign and the March of Dimes (McNair served as state chairman for both), Committee on Financing Excellence in Public Schools, South Carolina Foundation of Independent Colleges, University of South Carolina, Graniteville Company, and various events, among many others.

AUDIOVISUAL RECORDS are arranged according to format: Photographs; Slides; Audiotapes; and Film. Photographs include images of McNair and his family, the Governor in his office and the State House, inaugurations, Governor‘s staff, campaigns, various meetings and appearances (including at the White House with Lyndon B. Johnson), travel, Tricentennial events, and persons, among other general photographs. The majority of the 7" Audio Reels contain news conferences, but these also include coverage of McNair‘s 1967 inauguration, the January 1968 state of the state address, and other events. Two Films each contain an 18-second political spot.

CLIPPINGS, 1959-2008, are divided into Public and Personal subseries. Public clippings chiefly cover general subjects from 1963 to 1978 and n.d. [additional 1990s clippings have been included by SCPC staff]. Specific subjects include: education; desegregation of public schools, particularly in Greenville and Darlington Counties in 1970; the Moody Report; political parties; the General Assembly; the McNair family; inaugurations; the Tricentennial celebrations; and Governor Donald S. Russell [1963-1964]. Personal clippings concern campaigns and include a folder on McNair‘s opponent in the 1962 Lieutenant Governor‘s race, Marshall Parker. In addition to the loose clippings, there is a scrapbook documenting the activities of the Governor‘s Mansion Commission from 1965-1970.

VERTICAL FILE MATERIALS, 1965-2010, contain information gathered by SCPC relating to McNair and may duplicate information already present in the collection.


  • 1953 - 2010



Library use only.


135 Linear Feet


Robert Evander McNair represented Allendale County in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1951 until his election as Lieutenant Governor in 1962. He served under Governor Donald Russell until 1965, when the death of U.S. Senator Olin Johnston left a vacancy in South Carolina's congressional delegation. McNair succeeded Russell as governor and appointed Russell to serve in the senate until such time as a special election could be held. McNair was elected to a full term as governor in 1966 and served until January 1971. Following his public service, he resumed his career as an attorney and founded a new firm with governor's office colleagues James Konduros and Wayne Corley, which has since evolved into the McNair Law Firm.

Biographical Note

"One of his major attributes is his ability to bring people together, to conciliate, and to communicate ideas." [Wayne Seal, McNair News Secretary, Oct. 30, 1967]

Robert Evander McNair grew up on the large family farm, Ballsdam, near Jamestown in the Hell Hole Swamp of Berkeley County. He was born at the home of an aunt at Cades, South Carolina, on December 14, 1923, to Daniel Evander and Claudia Crawford McNair.

In 1942, McNair joined the U.S. Naval Reserve as a Lieutenant (j.g.) and served until his discharge in 1946. His war service included twenty-two months with the 7th Amphibious Forces in the Pacific Theater. McNair was awarded the Bronze Star for rescuing sailors from a burning ship that had been hit by a Japanese kamikaze attack while managing to keep his own vessel and crew safe in the midst of battle in the Philippines. On May 30, 1944, he married Josephine Robinson of Allendale, S.C. Over the years they reared four children, a son and three daughters.

Like many returning war veterans who chose to attend college, McNair enrolled at the University of South Carolina, earning an A.B. in 1947 and an LL.B. from the School of Law in 1948. That same year, he was admitted to the South Carolina Bar. The McNairs moved from Moncks Corner, in Berkeley County, to Allendale, where McNair joined with fellow attorney Thomas O. Lawton to form the McNair and Lawton firm. Upon his elevation to the governorship in 1965, McNair resigned from the firm, which by that time had become McNair, Lawton & Myrick.

In 1950, McNair was elected to represent Allendale County in the South Carolina House of Representatives. He served in that capacity for ten years, during which time he served as chairman of the Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee and the Judiciary Committee.

In the summer of 1961 McNair announced he would run for lieutenant governor in 1962. Two other Democratic hopefuls threw their hats into the ring: Oconee County Senator Marshall J. Parker and Greenville County Representative Rex Carter. Early in 1962 Carter withdrew from the campaign. At an Allendale fund-raiser in April 1962, McNair declared, "It is my sincere desire to serve wherever I can in South Carolina. If I am given the opportunity to serve in a high office, I shall do everything I can to deserve that office." Explaining his interest in the office, Parker stated, "I believe this office affords one of the highest opportunities to be of service to our state. The decisions and appointments by the Lt. Governor, as presiding officer of the Senate, can very well determine the future course of South Carolina." The race for lieutenant governor was particularly hard-fought that year, as both candidates were popular. According to the Anderson Daily Mail: "For the first time in the memory of political observers, the lieutenant governor's contest has been waged on a large scale--with billboards, pretty campaign girls, well-staffed offices and the other expensive devices usually reserved for well-financed governor and U.S. Senate races." Once the dust settled on primary night in June, McNair had won with 155,000 votes to Parker's 115,000. He was unopposed in the general election. He served under Governor Donald S. Russell.

Following the sudden death of U.S. Senator Olin D. Johnston in 1965, Russell resigned as South Carolina's chief executive. McNair succeeded Russell to the office and appointed the former governor to the empty senatorial seat. In 1966, having served a partial term, McNair campaigned for a full term. He was unopposed for the Democratic nomination, so he focused his attention on the general election and his opponent, Clarendon County Representative Joseph O. Rogers, Jr., who switched to the Republican Party just before announcing his gubernatorial candidacy. At the announcement Rogers stated, "My political philosophy is close to Sen. [Strom] Thurmond‘s and has been for many years." The campaign was tough, and many harsh accusations were hurled between Republicans and Democrats. At a press conference Rogers described the unusual circumstances of McNair‘s rise to the governorship as "arranging a double promotion" in collusion with Russell. According to an article in The State newspaper, McNair responded to the charge by saying "he has no apologies to anyone for appointing Russell to the U.S. Senate." He also "advised his Republican opponent and the GOP state chairman to take a lesson in constitutional government."

While parrying the verbal thrusts of his opponent, McNair continued to make appearances around the state, meeting his constituents and outlining his platform. On election night, 1966, McNair's perseverance paid off with a decisive victory. He had been elected to a full term with 255,854 votes to Rogers‘ 184,088. In the wake of McNair‘s election, an editorial in The Greenville News explained, "His 'low-key' method of operation is deceptive to many, but those close to state government know he has handled both crises and routine problems...and has started revamping internal administrative operations in a most effective manner." The editor continued by declaring McNair's victory "a personal one. He ran his own campaign in his own way and his sincerity and dedication came through to the voters."

As the state's top executive he encountered the full brunt of the challenges as well as the opportunities inherent in such tumultuous times. His overarching interest was the advancement of South Carolina in all areas of his responsibility such as education, industrial development, promotion of tourism, and the improvement of the quality of life for all in the state. Many of his challenges were related to the civil rights movement, which he faced resolutely and with a moderate tone, in contrast to the more adamant states‘ rights views of most other southern governors.

On February 8, 1968, a confrontation between police and black students demonstrating at South Carolina State College in Orangeburg resulted in the deaths of three students and injury to at least twenty-five others. The initial protest was a call to desegregate the local bowling alley and other local businesses. When emotions escalated, students began throwing objects at state highway patrolmen, who eventually opened fire. Quickly following the incident, S.C. National Guardsmen were sent to Orangeburg to keep the peace. Nine patrolmen were tried and, after pleading self-defense, acquitted. The leader of the protesting students, Cleveland Sellers, was arrested, tried, and convicted for rioting and inciting to riot.

In January 1970, federal courts ordered the integration of the Greenville and Darlington County public schools by February 9. McNair provided strong leadership urging South Carolinians to accept the order and move forward. In a speech broadcast on television on January 28, McNair counseled, "We‘ve run out of courts, and we‘ve run out of time, and we must adjust to new circumstances.... [The issue facing us] is too important to get drawn into political chicanery and political hypocrisy, and I think it is time for everyone to be honest and sincere to the people of South Carolina and quit holding out false hopes." On the ABC network news, commentator Howard K. Smith stated, "Now is the time for all good men to praise Governor Robert McNair of South Carolina. With emotions at a peak over school integration in the South, he said yesterday things it took courage for a Southern Governor to say: stop defiance, accept law, comply. There are no rewards for saying that. Segregationists trying to make water flow uphill will scathe him. Blacks, getting some, but not getting all they want, won‘t be happy.... Governor McNair‘s words were those of a statesman." James Batten, of the Detroit Free Press, wrote, "For the first time in nearly a decade, angry roars of defiance echoed throughout the South last week as Dixie braced for another spasm of massive school desegregation. More than thirty-five school districts accounting for 700,000 students in eight southern states are scheduled to switch to total integration in the next few days. The bristling rhetoric pouring out of Deep South governors‘ offices recalled earlier showdowns between state and federal authority.... A notable exception to the pattern came in South Carolina, where Gov. Robert E. McNair dramatically counseled his people to avoid defiance and bow gracefully to the inevitable." In response to McNair‘s speech, Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy wrote on Jan. 28, "I hope some of us can be so courageous in the North."

McNair opposed the deadline set by the courts, stating in a letter to President Nixon, Jan. 26, 1970, "it is impossible to carry out this Order on such short notice, particularly in the middle of the school year. Yesterday afternoon several thousand persons came to Columbia to see me, hoping that I could offer some relief and take action to postpone the effective date of this Court Order to the beginning of the school term in September, 1970.... As Governor of this state, I do not see how the two counties involved could carry out this Court Order without great disruption and confusion and the destruction of quality education." That same day, McNair received a letter from Alabama Governor Albert Brewer asking him to join Brewer in an action in the U.S. Supreme Court, "alleging the discrimination which is being practiced against many of our school systems by reason of the failure of these officials [the U.S. Attorney General and Secretary of the Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare] to apply a uniform standard to the school systems throughout the country."

On March 3, 1970, in Lamar, S.C., school buses carrying black children were met by a mob of 100 to 200 men and women who stopped and overturned the buses, which were being used to implement a new program integrating the Lamar public schools. The shocking event drew national attention to the state and, along with the subsequent trial of those arrested, brought a flood of mail addressed to the governor from across South Carolina and the nation. These letters represented a cross section of public opinion, such as these two telegrams, which arrived within minutes of one another: "Demand you stop persecuting people of Darlington County who are fighting tyrants," and "Prosecute Lamar rioters to full extent of law."

On March 20, 1969, black hospital workers at the Medical College of South Carolina in Charleston went on strike to protest the firing of twelve employees and to call for higher wages and union recognition. McNair, citing state law, refused to recognize the attempts to unionize. The strike attracted national attention when Southern Christian Leadership Conference leader Ralph Abernathy marched with the striking workers. Tensions were further heightened on April 28, when armed black protestors took over two buildings at Voorhees College in Denmark, S.C. A standoff between the police and the protestors lasted one day before the protestors surrendered and were arrested. McNair said of the incident, "Whatever the cause, there will be no negotiation at gunpoint in our state." The strike lasted until June 27th, when the workers and hospital administrators reached an agreement. Some of the workers' demands were met, but their union was not recognized.

McNair developed great expertise in education issues. He chaired the Executive Committee of the Education Commission of the States from 1968 to 1969 and served on its Steering Committee in 1970. The Commission‘s objectives included bringing together the political, educational, and lay leadership to further the understanding of the problems and opportunities facing education. During the time McNair chaired the Commission, some forty-one states and territories were members. McNair also served as Chairman of the Southern Regional Education Board, which was founded in 1948 at the request of Southern leaders in business, education and government. It was the nation‘s first compact for education, created to improve every aspect of education.

The "Moody Report," officially titled "Opportunity and Growth in South Carolina, 1968-1985," was compiled at McNair‘s request to analyze the status of education, transportation, health care and other areas affected by government and make specific recommendations on how best to advance South Carolina over the coming decades. Published in 1968 and over 440 pages in length, the report provided a level of analysis and financial data never before available to the state‘s leaders and challenged some long-held assumptions. The Governor faced some opposition to the report, led principally by Speaker of the House Sol Blatt.

In the same spirit of improvement, McNair created by executive order the Planning and Grants Division, whose purpose was to bring all state agencies and departments together in an effort to plan for and make the best use of federal grants and assistance. According to McNair‘s news secretary, Wayne Seal, "This unit is a pioneer effort to make meaningful and comprehensive evaluations of our future needs and to program for the future." The Governor and his staff worked diligently to develop a cordial and beneficial relationship with the federal government. McNair believed such a relationship was critical to the future of the state since South Carolinians must deal with leaders in Washington, and the best way to do that was to make sure state and federal representatives understood each other. His office maintained a full-time federal-state coordinator, Robert Alexander, whose main task was to keep tabs on federal developments that in some way affected South Carolina. Other states looked to McNair‘s administration for guidance in establishing similar offices.

Governors‘ Conferences – National, Southern, and Democratic – provided opportunities for governors and their key staff to consider common concerns. During his term, McNair provided leadership on several issues, and served as Vice Chair of the National Governors‘ Conference Committee on State Planning, 1967-1968. He also served as chairman of the National Democratic Governors' Conference. The city of Charleston was host to the Southern Governor‘s Conference in 1968.

McNair brought great energy and creativity to his efforts to boost industrial development and diversification. He was considered the "top salesman" in attracting new businesses and industries to South Carolina and frequently joined industry-hunting groups when they visited top executives. Many corporations and plants, including textile companies, chemical facilities, food processing plants, and a wide variety of other businesses, were wooed to the state by the McNair administration. Not all attempts at industrial expansion worked out for the administration, however. The proposed location of the German Badische Anilin und Soda Fabrik (BASF) chemical plant near Hilton Head resulted in a storm of opposition from late 1969 through 1970, and the plant was not built. However, in general, the Governor's industrial record proves him to have been adept at attracting new and diverse businesses to South Carolina.

Tourism held great potential for growth, and as a central part of his development plans for the state, McNair was diligent in promoting its historic charm, leisure opportunities, and natural beauty. In 1966 he and his family traveled to Toronto to publicize the attractions of "Semi-Tropical South Carolina" at the Canadian National Exhibition. Following up on a proposal by the Governor, the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism was created in 1967 specifically to further develop and promote state attractions. To facilitate the travels of anticipated visitors, the department made a priority of creating a state-wide system of rest stops and welcome centers along interstate highways.

In the 1960s and 1970s the war in Vietnam occupied the hearts and minds of most Americans, and they responded to the turbulence in a variety of ways. Many South Carolinians sponsored chapters of the Rally Support for Vietnam Personnel (RSVP) program in an effort to support U.S. troops fighting in Southeast Asia. Over one hundred civic clubs, church groups and other organizations in the Columbia area "adopted" units of the 1st Cavalry Airmobile Division as part of the morale-boosting program. Governor McNair urged South Carolinians to support the war effort. Speaking at the 43rd Annual "Singing on the Mountain" at Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina, McNair said, "We would urge Americans to stand together and let our men in Vietnam know that we are behind them 100 percent." He also believed that the American people "are still dedicated to the great principles on which this country was founded." In 1970 President Richard Nixon assembled a thirteen-member fact-finding task force on the Indo-China War comprised of U.S. governors, senators and congressmen. Governor McNair and other members of the group embarked on an inspection tour of U.S. operations in South Vietnam and Cambodia in June of that year. As part of the tour, they visited a center for Communist defectors in the Mekong Delta and questioned village officials in Huu Thanh about the success of the pacification program, before crossing the border to visit the Cambodian district capital of Kompong Trach.

The year 1970 marked the 300th anniversary of the 1670 founding of Charles Town (Charleston), the first permanent settlement in the colony of South Carolina. The Tricentennial was an opportunity for all South Carolinians to celebrate their heritage and the rich history and traditions of their state. Governor McNair created the Tricentennial Commission in 1966 to coordinate and oversee official preparations for statewide events and projects in observance of the historic milestone. One project devised by the Historic Resources Division of the S.C. Department of Archives and History was the development of a system of historic "trails." According to a program brochure, "These trails will lead to historic sites such as battlefields, distinctive public buildings, forts, Indian villages, homes of famous people, and other significant landmarks." This project was carried out in concert with the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

From June 27th to July 5th of 1970, Governor and Mrs. McNair traveled with a small party to London as part of a tour of European industries that had investments in South Carolina. While in London, the McNairs socialized with the Queen Mother and other dignitaries, and invited members of the royal family to visit South Carolina during the Tricentennial. The Queen Mother expressed interest in fielding entries in the first annual international steeplechase event, which was to be held in Camden as a major feature of the state's 300th anniversary. The royal family had already arranged to make artifacts of the colonial and revolutionary period available for display in South Carolina during the Tricentennial observance. These included a Francis Marion battle flag that was captured by the British at Savannah and a flintlock rifle that had once belonged to an upcountry South Carolina patriot. In September several British dignitaries visited the state to attend the Camden steeplechase and other Tricentennial events.

McNair participated extensively in the affairs of the Democratic Party at both the state and national levels. At a time when tensions were building between the national Party and Democrats in Southern states, McNair trod carefully in an effort to reconcile the South Carolina leadership with the progressive policies at the federal level. As a supporter of President Lyndon B. Johnson and Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, McNair raised the ire of some fellow Democrats, and they were not shy about letting him know. As one of his more polite constituents wrote in 1964, "Being a South Carolina Democrat believing in States Rights and the Constitution as written, I find Johnson‘s current views totally foreign to these principles." A straw poll conducted at a state Democratic Party workshop in August, 1966, showed that "Integration and race-related problems seem to represent the most important state-wide issue. People in South Carolina tend to equate the Johnson administration with racial integration and disorder.... The major national issues seem to be civil rights, the Viet Nam War and inflation, in that order. There is also concern about government spending. South Carolinians want to win in Viet Nam, and they want peace quickly.... They don‘t understand inflation, and it scares them. They don‘t mind government spending that benefits them, but they don‘t want federal strings attached."

Divisions within the state were growing and the Party was doing all it could to hold itself together. A January 2, 1968, letter from Party Chairman Earle Morris, Jr., included this pragmatic statement: "It is our opinion that we cannot run state races and a presidential campaign within the framework of one office, i.e., our State Headquarters. To combine both of these would, in my opinion, be unacceptable to some of our state nominees. We, therefore, feel that a separate campaign effort must be established for the presidential race if we are to keep South Carolina Democratic Party efforts together."

McNair served as a delegate to the 1968 Democratic National Convention, held August 26-29, in Chicago. In the months leading up to the convention, rumors drifted through South Carolina that, as a result of his dedication to the Democratic Party and his support of Vice President Hubert Humphrey, there was a possibility that McNair would receive the vice-presidential nomination. However, when the time came, Humphrey chose Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine. The Chicago convention is notorious for its protracted anti-war demonstrations and images of rioting protesters clashing with police surrounding the convention center. Mayor Richard Daley took a hard line against the protesters, refusing permits for rallies and marches, and calling for whatever force was necessary to subdue the crowds. This hard line was also evident on the convention floor itself, as some journalists were manhandled by security. After the convention, despite widespread castigation of Mayor Daley in the press, McNair wrote to thank him: "Congratulations on your success in keeping Chicago a safe city for delegates to the National Democratic Convention! While you are catching hell from the other side, I want you to know we support your stand on law and order 100%!" McNair himself was praised by his supporters for "the fine dignified manner in which you handled the South Carolina delegation" at the convention.

Throughout his terms in office, McNair was a faithful and determined advocate of the Democratic Party. He held Governor‘s Dinner fund-raisers; he served as chairman of the National Democratic Governors‘ Conference and vice-chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). He continued his support after leaving office. In 1971, he chaired the DNC‘s Task Force on National Growth Policy and Regional Development, served as a member of the new Democratic Party National Finance Council, and as Governor‘s Liaison to the DNC. In 1974, McNair chaired the Arrangements Committee responsible for planning the Democratic Party‘s midterm conference, held in Kansas City that December.

Following his term as governor, on January 19, 1971, McNair co-established and became senior partner in the law firm McNair, Konduros & Corley in Columbia. The firm evolved into The McNair Law Firm, with multiple offices in South Carolina and North Carolina. He also served on several corporate boards, including: AIRCO, Inc.; Crum and Forster; Georgia-Pacific Corporation; Southern Railway System; Bankers Trust of South Carolina; The R.L. Bryan Company; The Graniteville Company; and Investors Heritage Life Insurance Company of the South.


Donated by the Honorable Robert E. McNair.


Copyright of the Robert E. McNair Papers has been transferred to the University of South Carolina.

Processing Information

Processed by Jason Clayman, Kelly Gilbert, Herbert Hartsook, Dorothy Hazelrigg, Aaron Marrs, Deanna Moore, and Kate Moore, 1999-2000; Additions by Kate Moore, 2003 & 2005; additions by Katharine Klein, 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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