Friday, February 02, 2007

Edgars new SC Encyclodpedia reminds us of how thing used to be

My father recently gave me a copy of the Encyclopedia of South Carolina, edited by USC historian Walter Edgar. While there are a few things here and there I wish were included, overall the book is outstanding and a must read for anyone who wants to understand the history of our state.

One of the incidents recorded in the book came to mind with the recent story about our current Lt. Governor being deemed at fault in his airplane crash last year. Couple that story with the seeming endless stories about the Governor's clashes with legislature, and one would think SC politics was at its worst.

Well, Edgar's book shows it is not. In it, he mentions the death of The State's co- founder and editor, Narsico Gonazales at the hands of the current Lt. Governor, James Tillman.

Edgar's encyclopedia entry inspired me to do some research of my own.

It seems that Gonzales was an editor who strongly disliked the Tillman politics of the day, and especially the politics of Pitchfork Ben Tillman's nephew, then Lt. Governor James Tillman. James Tillman, by most accounts, was a notorious gambler, heavy drinker and just plain mean man. James Tillman ran for Governor in 1902, but lost his bid, and he blamed that loss on the editorials of The State.

On January 15th, 1903 with just a few days left on his term as Lt. Governor, Tillman shot Mr. Gonzales in broad daylight at the intersection of Main and Gervais, in front of the state capitol building. Mr. Gonzales died four days later from his wounds.

What transpired later was the stuff of legend. The Lt. Governor's lawyer was successful in moving the trial to Lexington County. There, after much controversy, the jury acquitted the Lt. Governor for the murder of Mr. Gonzales, basing its decision upon their belief that the Lt. Governor acted in self defense. The jury was packed with Tillman loyalists.

Lt. Governor James Tillman would never serve in public office again,and was an outcast in his own family. But, he did, to some people, get away with murder.

That little nugget of history ought to be considered by those of us who think that our politics today are so bad. At least people are not dying.

Take the time to read Walter Edgar's South Carolina Encyclopedia. It will educate you and give you some perspective on things if you take the initiative to research the stories of SC life the book opens one to.

While we may complain about out current officials not getting along, at least they are not shooting one another.


  1. One cracker shot another cracker. Who cares. You can bet your ass if a brother would have capped that cracker, he would have died.

    What do you have to say about that, Mr. Pale Ass Cracker McCarty?

    Still commenting here, no matter how the man tries to keep me from doing so.

    McCarty, you are pale ass irish cracker. I say, f you cracker ass irish cracker.


  2. I am one of those pale asses, you refer to, you dark assed negro.

    How do you like that, dark assed negro?

    I would say f you, but you probably would take that as a compliment.

    Give this pale ass cracker a break, your racist crap does nothing to enlighten us on the history of this state.

    FU Ty, hard and fast with a pale cxracker.

  3. ty, you gonna tell us all about how whitey is out to get you?

    i say f you ty, you limp, short sticked loudmouth. you couldn't turn on a lightblub even if your hand was on the switch.

  4. You left the fact that the editor had it coming.

    Who would not like to pop a cap in the ass of someone who writes editorials from the state, or for that matter, someone smartass who writes a blog making fun of people drinking and voting?

  5. Is there an equivalent to having Thomas Page Nelson and Cole Blease as your defense team? Then, Strom Thurmond's father as your judge?

    And that was the trial of the century in SC.


    One dark gringo with body armor

  6. With such shennaingans, it is no wonder that my great grandfather, whose home was on South Main (now occupied by one state office building) and whose pharmacy was in the block north of the site of Tillman's assination of Mr. Gonzales, often carried a revolver in his pocket during his commute. The incident, which has some similarities to Chappaquiddick, does, if I recall correctly, have a subtle commerative marker at the intersection of Sumter and Senate streets, a fine granite obelisk ... one wonders at a press that now engages in similar partisan sniping today, were that open and concealed carry laws did permit an atmosphere that would leave the domsetic press on the same level of apprehension that the third world press bears.

  7. I think we might call it progress that people are free to write what they think without getting shot.

  8. Yes anon, we call it progress, Salman Rushdi still has a fatwah on his life over his book _The_Satanic_Verses_, Chinese, Indian, Syrian and other Christians are executed with govenrmental approval and the US isn't thought to have a stomach for war.

  9. James Tillman lived in a time when it was commonplace to carry a weapon for self defense. It took 3 days to get to Charleston from Columbia by wagon and all day by train. There was no whizzing down I-26 at 80 mph with the windows up. Desperate people living in poverty in 1903 would kill you for your coat and the money in your pockets (and these were just the crackers I am talking about). Tillman was a political figure with a lot of enemies and reason to fear for his life. He had just lost an election and must have been pretty bummed out.

    Fortunately for him, if embarrasing to us, it was hard to find a white man in SC then who didn't owe something to the Tillman family, and a lot of favors were cashed in to get him off the hook, since it is said that N.G. Gonzales was seen by a witness to reach into his coat just before he was shot. The self-defense theory was weakened since Gonzales had only brought a plug of tobacco to what he did not realize was going to be a gun fight.

    It seems incredible to us now that someone could be so popular that they could beat a murder charge in the face of overwhelming evidence. Or does it? Also, was Gonzales a cracker or more of a tortilla?

  10. My father, born in 1919 some 16 years after the Gonzales incident, was named after James Tillman the way mothers in the 1930's named their children after movie stars. To the white farmer class with their farms slipping away, sold off piece by piece and with their fear of the political clout thought to reside in free blacks, James Tillman was something of a cult hero. It would be another 50 years before blacks had any meaningful political power and another 100 years before the death of the last self proclaimed segregationist to represent SC in the US Senate.