"F" is for the Farmers’ Association

Nov 11, 2020

Credit SC Public Radio

"F" is for the Farmers’ Association. The Farmers’ Association was the vehicle for Benjamin Ryan Tillman’s political ambitions in the mid 1880s. Farmers’ clubs or agricultural improvement groups already existed across the state. Tillman hoped to unite them in supporting his goals of agricultural, educational, and governmental reform while challenging the ruling conservative wing of the Democratic Party. Tillman canvassed the state, speaking at local clubs and getting editorials reprinted in newspapers. The response was substantial. By 1887 the Democratic Party and the Farmers’ Association groups met at the same time or association representatives simply took control of party proceedings. Tillman’s grasp of the gubernatorial nomination in 1890 proved the effectiveness of his local organization. Although the Farmers’ Association had initially claimed distance from politics, in reality it helped propel Tillman to the governorship.