Book Review: New Politics in the Old South: Ernest F. Hollings in the Civil Rights Era by David T. Ballantyne.

AuthorRoper, John Herbert
PositionBook review

Ballantyne, David T. New Politics in the Old South: Ernest F. Hollings in the Civil Rights Era. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2016. xiii + 206 pages. Hardcover, $34.99.

Extreme racism and the mass terrorism that attaches to it did not emerge suddenly and without prelude in June 2015 when White supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine African Americans during a prayer service in Charleston, South Carolina. Indeed, the tragedy of racist violence has often destroyed the terms of otherwise successful Governors of South Carolina--especially if their words and actions contributed to the massacres.

A wonderful, and teachable, exception came in January 1963 at the end of the gubernatorial term of Ernest Frederick (Fritz) Hollings, the subject of this fine political study by British historian David T. Ballantyne. The shining moment for Hollings, and for all South Carolina governors thereafter, came in his State of the State address, as he completed his term and welcomed in his successor, the scholarly (and moderate segregationist) Donald Russell. Hollings' speech affirmed that the African American Harvey Gantt was to integrate Clemson University after a federal court ruling that Governor Hollings had fought. Although he could have dodged the issue by leaving everything for incoming Governor Russell, Hollings used his address to the general assembly to call for order, decorum, and harmony in the face of the 'fact of the land,' as he termed the Earl Warren Supreme Court decision.

The result was a peaceful and successful integration of a Deep South university, which was accomplished in the same month that Mississippi's Ross Barnett and Alabama's George Wallace gave infamously racist and inflammatory speeches prior to the campus violence at their flagship schools. The difference is traceable to the very real distinction between Hollings on the one side and Barnett and Wallace on the other, as the difference played out in Alabama and Mississippi, which suffered racial violence not only on their university campuses but in many other aspects of state life as well. In narrating this felicitous story, Ballantyne does not overpraise, describing Hollings as a 'moderate segregationist' who fought integration in the courts and then accepted it by ushering in moderate integration 'with dignity.'

Ballantyne also aptly describes Hollings as 'transformative' and 'a modernizer' because he attracted heavy industry and high-wage service businesses with the...

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