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“T” is for Tillman, Benjamin Ryan (1847-1918)

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“T” is for Tillman, Benjamin Ryan (1847-1918). U.S. senator, governor. In the 1880s Tillman presented himself as the leader of the “Farmers” movement and championed Clemson’s bequest to the state and the Farmer’s Alliance. In 1890 he won the governorship. As governor Tillman made reforms that were more symbolic than substantive. Tillman’s most important contribution to South Carolina’s political life came with the Constitutional Convention of 1895 that contained a suffrage clause that was the key to disenfranchising South Carolina’s black voters. In 1895 he entered the U.S. Senate where he achieved notoriety for his attacks on racial equality, corporate power, and imperial expansion. During his last decade in Congress, Benjamin Ryan Tillman, the former ardent foe of federal power and champion of “the farmers” helped steer millions of federal military dollars to South Carolina.

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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.