2018-09-14 / Front Page

Remembering Rachel Haynie

By Pat McNeely


Rachel Haynie Rachel Haynie Rachel Haynie wrote from her heart about everybody and everything that crossed her path— from the return of General Wade Hampton’s silver and the firefly show at Congaree Swamp to the life story of Dr. Charles Townes, the Furman graduate who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1964 for inventing the laser.

She chronicled everyday life in hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles ranging from the Big Apple and African American dolls to the 40th birthday of the Robert Burns Society, and even though she didn’t draw or paint, she accumulated a respectable collection and frequently wrote about exhibits and artists.

Her papers, consisting of hundreds of notes, images, and transcribed interviews, have been donated to the South Caroliniana Library where they will be preserved and catalogued and available to researchers, genealogists, and historians for years to come. More than 200 of her articles are catalogued on line at the Richland Library and are available in the Local History Room.


Rachel Haynie Rachel Haynie Although her family carried home her most treasured art and books, her collection of more than 300 books was donated to the Richland Library. The remaining collection of framed prints and original art and art books was donated to the Trenholm Art Guild, which sold them in a silent auction to establish an award in her honor.

Many of the artists in the Guild are featured in a DVD that she wrote and produced called Columbia: Wherefore Art? Although she wrote 12 books, the one closest to her heart was Our Zoo Day written in 2012 for her grandchildren Penelope and Kate. She called the Riverbanks Zoo adventure a “special book for special girls” and signed it “Grandma Bunny, ‘who loves them very much.’”

When possible she dedicated her books to her granddaughters and her “beloved son Doug.”

The cornerstone of her other 11 books is the trilogy of Townes books, which includes Charles H. Townes and A Beam Straight to the Stars. The book was completed to commemorate his 99th birthday celebration Rachel attended on the University of California-Berkeley campus in July 2014.

The second book in the trilogy is Charles H. Townes: Beam Maker , which contains a dozen biographical essays on his life, and the third is First, You Explore: the Story of the Young Charles Townes, a children’s book about Townes growing up on a small farm in Greenville.

She was deeply affected by the great loss of history, art, and artifacts caused when General William T. Sherman’s troops burned Dr. Robert W. Gibbes’s house, which was on the site of Baptist Hospital in Columbia. The home was a massive museum of art, documents, rare books, Revolutionary War artifacts, fossils, and South Carolina and American history.

The destruction struck such a deep emotional chord with Rachel she wrote Reconstructing Dr. Gibbes’ Study: A Biography of Loss. When she gathered a group of Gibbes’ descendants at the Richland Library to talk about the book in 2015, she told them she wrote the book because she was angry about the senseless destruction of so many historic treasures.

“And I’m still angry,” she told them that day.

Another of her favorites was a book written for the Legends of America series, South Carolina Myths and Legends, which explores unusual phenomena, strange events, and mysteries in South Carolina’s history. Stories include tales told to Ferdinand de Soto in the 1540s about a secret source of gold the Spaniards never found, Civil War graffiti, lost Confederate gold, and the mysterious appearance of horses from a noble Spanish equestrian bloodline on the beaches of South Carolina.

Rachel wrote a similar book called Myths and Mysteries of South Carolina filled with stories about the Mars Bluff Atomic Bomb, Submerged Mysteries of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, and Gold Mining in South Carolina.

As a spin-off from a chapter in South Carolina Myths and Legends, Rachel wrote Port of Brunswick’s Audacious Aviator: Paul Redfern. He was a Columbia pilot who became famous for making the first solo flight across the Caribbean. Redfern disappeared in 1927 on a record-setting 4,600-mile flight to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Numerous efforts were made to find him, and dozens claimed he had been spotted, but he and his plane were never found.

Rachel always saw numerous story possibilities and sometimes a book in everything. When excitement rose in September 2005 about the recovery of a rare WWII plane that had crashed into Lake Murray, Rachel’s mind was buzzing.

The rescue of the plane attracted media attention from around the world. “There had to be one story for me,” Rachel said.

She claimed her story when she learned the only member of the ditched plane’s crew who was still alive was living in Oregon. Not deterred, Rachel drove across the country to interview Hank Mascall.

So Rachel had her story, which she turned into a book, Stalled, a narrative scrapbook collecting glimpses into an Oregon military couple’s WWII honeymoon in Columbia.

Deeply intrigued by aviation history in the midlands, Rachel wrote Cornfield to Airfield: A History of Columbia Air Base for the 70th anniversary of the base’s opening. She blended military facts with stories from neighbors whose farmland was bulldozed for taxiways. The book contains more than 100 images by WWII photographer William A. Hamson who served on the base during the war years.

She joined forces with Dr. John Hammond Moore to interview dozens of men and women who served during WWII and to write and edit Capital Salute: DDay Plus 70: Remembrances by Greater Columbia, S. C., WWII Veterans. She wrote about Claude Buckley’s art in America Goes for Broke: Allegorical Currency Paintings. The series developed from a challenge taken up after the late industrialist and philanthropist Roger Milliken asked to see art depicting how the rich in America keep getting richer and the poor even poorer.

Rachel’s last book was to be Mrs. Sloan’s Dancing School. During Rachel’s last days, she expressed regret she had not finished the book and was wondering about ways her research and images could be used in some way to finish the book— “perhaps in an e-scrapbook or something similar,” she had mused.

Since she had accumulated a vast amount of research, her colleagues and fellow authors from the Midlands are joining forces to try to finish her last book, which will be dedicated to her “beloved son, Doug” and her grandchildren, Kate and Penelope, and will be the last gift “with love from Grandma Bunny.”

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