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“G” is for Gary, Martin Witherspoon (1831-1881)

South Carolina A to Z

“G” is for Gary, Martin Witherspoon (1831-1881). Soldier, politician. A native of Abbeville District, Gary graduated from Harvard University and read law in Edgefield. With the outbreak of the Civil War he joined Hampton’s Legion as an infantry captain. He served until the war’s end, participating in every major engagement in which the legion fought. By the end of the war, he was a brigadier general and commanded a cavalry brigade. Capitalizing on his military reputation, he resumed his law practice in Edgefield. In the 1876 gubernatorial campaign, he advocated the “Edgefield plan” that pitted race against race and advocated the use of electoral fraud, physical intimidation, and even murder to keep Blacks and other Republicans from voting. Martin Witherspoon Gary organized clubs of white Democrats (the Red Shirts) to put his plan into action.

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.