2005-01-21 / Society

DAR regent causes archivist to take exam

By Rachel Haynie

The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) learned how the SC Department of Archives and History got its start a century ago during a recent meeting hosted by the USC DAR Chapter. Other regents and historians were invited from the Eleanor Laurens Pinckney, Granby, Ann Pamela Cunningham, Columbia, David Hopkins, and William Capers DAR chapters.

The USC Chapter’s January speaker, Dr. Charles Lesser, assistant director, of the SC Department of Archives and History, made a historic reference to a state DAR regent. In 1905, as the SC Legislature was deciding who would be the first secretary of the newly formed archives and history commission, Mrs. Sarah Aldrich Richardson offered herself as an opposition candidate for that position.

Lesser’s presentation to the DAR chapters’ members was taken from the book he is completing to commemorate the state archives and history agency’s centennial. Lesser explained that Richardson’s candidacy aborted when she was expected to stand an examination. Richardson’s candidacy probably altered the process of installing the state’s first professional archivist. After Richardson threw her hat in the ring, the commission decided to require all candidates to stand an examination to determine their fitness for the position.

“Fitz Hugh McMaster’s prediction that ‘Mrs. Richardson would decline indignantly to stand the exam’ required of all candidates proved right,” Lesser said. The successful candidate, Alexander Samuel Salley Jr., began a 44–year tenure as SC’s first archivist. Salley worked passionately as chief keeper, protector, and conservator of the state’s important records until 1949 he was forced to retire against his will at age 78. DAR members chuckled when they heard the governor who determined Salley was too old to continue in the post was Gov. Strom Thurmond. Lesser’s address to the DAR chapters at the SC Archives and History Center officially launched the agency’s centennial year of celebration.

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