istory can be both a virtue and a vice. As one of the oldest universities in the United States, the College of Charleston wears its age proudly, proclaiming its colonial-era founding date of 1770 far and wide so that the world understands that the same fires that stoked the greatest political experiment in human history also gave life to this revolutionary institution of higher learning.
The men and women associated with the university – founders, trustees, presidents, faculty members, students, graduates and donors – compose the remarkable human tapestry that is the College of Charleston. All have played a role – some major, some minor – in shaping the College we know today, from its physical appearance to its academic standing.
And several of these same men and women also made an impact on a national level, serving as influential figures in key moments of American history. However, the 25 history makers listed here are not necessarily heroes. Under closer scrutiny, especially across the ages, very few truly possess all of the virtues and traits we associate with a hero. Greatness of character is as rare as a cool July day in Charleston. In fact, many who may have been considered heroes during their own times would be justifiably branded villains today, since they represented and championed the prejudices and narrow viewpoints of their class and time.
This list of 25 notable people was put together by a committee of historians and longtime campus administrators who took as their charge to identify 25 people who left a mark in American history – that mark being either positive or negative, but a mark, nonetheless. In effect, they followed the guidance of early 20th-century alumnus author Ludwig Lewisohn (Class of 1905) to “drop the mask” and tell “the quite naked and, if need be, the devastating truth.”
These devastating truths reveal that the people of the College of Charleston have long had an impact on our nation’s history and that their contributions have pushed the country to be better and, at times, worse. But in their pushing, they made a difference and, thus, made history.
History Makers Selection Committee
Mark Berry editor and chief marketing officer
Tom Cunneff managing editor
Debra Gammons ’87 award-winning alumna and former staff member
Otto German ’72 retired staff member and former Cougars basketball player
Darcie Goodwin senior director of advancement communications
Tony Meyer ’49 retired faculty and staff member
Nan Morrison retired faculty member and the author of A History of the College of Charleston: 1936–2008
Ann Looper Pryor ’83 vice president, Alumni Affairs
1. Thomas Heyward Jr. (1746–1809), one of the founders and original members of the Board of Trustees at the College, was a patriot and outspoken critic of the Stamp Act. He was elected to the Continental Congress in 1775 and signed the Declaration of Independence. In 1778, Heyward also signed the Articles of Confederation on behalf of South Carolina. He joined the South Carolina Militia and was taken prisoner during the siege and capture of the City of Charleston in 1780. Heyward survived the war and lived out his days running his family plantation.
2. Ralph Izard (1741–1804), one of the founders and original members of the Board of Trustees, moved his family from London to Paris in 1776. There, he aided the American Revolution by serving as commissioner to the Court of Tuscany, seeking funds to build American warships and assisting in the negotiation of treaties with France. Izard returned to the U.S. in 1780 and two years later was selected as a South Carolina delegate to the Continental Congress. Izard became one of South Carolina’s first two senators in 1789, defending the institution of slavery, challenging the Bill of Rights, helping organize the federal court system and serving as the Senate’s president pro tempore during the Third Congress.
3. Charles Pinckney (1757–1824), one of the founders and original members of the Board of Trustees, served in the Continental Congress. He contributed to the final draft of the U.S. Constitution and lobbied for its ratification in South Carolina. During the American Revolution, Pinckney joined the militia and was captured when Charleston fell to the British; he remained a prisoner until June 1781. He held numerous public offices, including South Carolina governor three times and member of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he opposed the Missouri Compromise. During Thomas Jefferson’s presidency, Pinckney was appointed minister to Spain and helped negotiate Spain’s acceptance of the transfer of Louisiana from France to the U.S., but he failed to win cession of the Floridas (East and West).
4. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (1746–1825), one of the founders and original members of the Board of Trustees, stood with the American patriots. He joined George Washington’s Continental Army and was part of the successful defense of Charleston in the Battle of Sullivan’s Island and the failed defense of Charleston in 1780, when he became a prisoner of war. After the war, Pinckney advocated for a strong national government and was key in requiring treaties to be ratified by the U.S. Senate and in the compromise that resulted in the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade. At the S.C. Convention, Pinckney helped secure the ratification of the U.S. Constitution (of which he was a framer) and contributed to the S.C. Constitution. Pinckney ran for president twice (1804 and 1808) on the Federalist ticket.
5. Arthur Middleton (1742–1787), one of the founders and original members of the Board of Trustees, was a staunch patriot of the American cause in the Carolinas. He succeeded his father in the Continental Congress and was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Together with William Henry Drayton, he designed the Great Seal of South Carolina and served on the legislative committee that drafted the state constitution. Middleton served in defense of Charleston in 1780 and was taken prisoner. Upon his return, he built a large estate for his family – Middleton Place.
6. John Rutledge (1739–1800), one of the founders and original members of the Board of Trustees, served as the first “president” of South Carolina and its first governor. Rutledge served as a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress, which protested the taxes imposed on the colonies by the British. Rutledge was also a delegate to the 1787 Philadelphia Convention, where he helped frame the U.S. Constitution. In 1789, President Washington appointed Rutledge as one of the inaugural associate justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, and he later served as chief justice in 1795.
7. Edward Rutledge (1749–1800), one of the founders and original members of the Board of Trustees, attended the Continental Congress and was the youngest to sign the Declaration of Independence. Before that, under the instruction of South Carolina leaders, Rutledge was one of the loudest and most influential anti-independence voices in Congress. In 1776, he joined the Battalion of Artillery and fought in the Battle of Beaufort. The colonial legislature sent Rutledge back to Congress in 1779. He again left Congress in 1780 to defend Charleston and was captured and held prisoner. After the war, he held public offices, including that of South Carolina governor. Rutledge served on the committee that wrote the Articles of Confederation, which he felt were lacking (which proved to be true) and resulted in the U.S. Constitution.
8. Robert Mills, Class of 1800 (1781–1855), graduated from the College at age 19 and then followed his mentor, architect James Hoban, who was commissioned to design and construct the White House in Washington, D.C. Mills went on to create blueprints for a prison in New Jersey, resulting in what is considered to be among the most significant prison buildings in the U.S., and designed the nation’s first Washington Monument, located in Baltimore. He designed many federal buildings in the nation’s capital, including the Department of Treasury building, the U.S. Patent Office and the General Post Office, but he’s best known for the design of the iconic Washington Monument.
9. William Johnson (1771–1834) attended the College. Johnson was elected to the S.C. House of Representatives and was then elected by the legislature to the Court of Common Pleas, at the time the highest tribunal in the state. Johnson was the first appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Thomas Jefferson and the first member of the court not to be a Federalist. Justice Johnson developed a reputation as a frequent and articulate dissenter from the Federalist majority. He favored cooperation rather than antagonism between federal and state governments and economic regulation in the public interest. Some of his better-known rulings include defending the regulatory power of Congress over interstate and foreign commerce (Gibbons v. Ogden) and rejecting state nullification of federal statutes (Holmes v. United States).
10. Daniell Elliott Huger (1779–1854) attended and later served as a trustee of the College. He was elected to the S.C. House of Representatives, where he espoused the doctrine of representative democracy over the doctrine of instruction by constituents. He was elected judge of the Court of General Sessions and Common Pleas, serving for 11 years. In 1852, Huger was a delegate to South Carolina’s states’ rights convention, urging moderation in the continuing debate over sectional interests. Huger was also a U.S. senator in the early 1840s, assuming the role when John C. Calhoun resigned to run for president.
11. Dr. Joel Poinsett (1779–1851) served as a trustee of the College. A physician, botanist and lover of languages, Poinsett was appointed by President James Madison as consul in general to Chile and Argentina, where he investigated the prospects of revolutionists. He went on to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he called for internal improvements and advocated for the maintenance of a strong army and navy. Poinsett supported the Monroe Doctrine and was convinced that republicanism was the only way to guarantee a peaceful, free form of government. Poinsett served as the first minister to Mexico and signed the first treaty between the two countries, the Treaty of Limits, which recognized the U.S.–Mexico border. The poinsettia bears his name since he introduced the Mexican plant to the United States.
12. Charles Fraser (1782–1860) attended and later served for many years as a trustee of the College. He earned national and international acclaim for his miniature portraits and landscapes. Some of his famed clients included the Marquis de Lafayette and John C. Calhoun. Fraser was elected to the National Academy of Design as an honorary academician and was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1834. Fraser was also one of the early directors of the S.C. Academy of Fine Arts. Some of his paintings hang in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston has a dedicated collection of miniature portraits, containing many of his works.
13. Robert Hayne (1791–1839) was as a trustee of the College and served in the War of 1812. Hayne was elected to numerous public offices in South Carolina and later to the U.S. Senate. Hayne supported a nationalist agenda, but then became an advocate for states’ rights. He believed that tariffs would lead to the domination of the North over the South, and of the federal government over the state governments. Known for his fear of consolidation, Hayne espoused the states’ rights doctrine of nullification, believing that a state could prevent a federal law from being enforced within its borders. In 1830, Hayne and Daniel Webster argued over protectionist tariffs – a debate considered one of the greatest in U.S. Senate history. Later, he was instrumental in the building of railroads to expand trade and commerce and served as the first president of the Louisville, Cincinnati and Charleston Railroad Company.
14. John C. Frémont, Class of 1836 (1813–1880), is known as the “Great Pathfinder” for his contributions in exploring and investigating the West in the 1830s and 1840s. He mapped and surveyed routes because the West was greatly unknown. Frémont was instrumental in the U.S. conquest and development of California, where he served as a military governor and one of the first U.S. senators. Land he claimed in the Sierra Nevada foothills had rich gold ore veins, making him a multimillionaire. In 1856, Frémont became the first Republican presidential candidate before serving as a major general for the Union during the Civil War. In 1861, he issued a proclamation freeing slaves, which was later overturned by President Abraham Lincoln. Late in life, Frémont served as the fifth governor of Arizona.
15. William Porcher Miles, Class of 1840 (1822–1899), a graduate and math professor at the College, was an ardent states’ rights advocate, supporter of slavery and a Southern secessionist. He denied the concept of inalienable rights and maintained that liberty was an acquired privilege. Miles is notable for designing the most popular variant of the Confederate flag, which was originally rejected as the national flag, but was adopted as a battle flag by the Army of Northern Virginia under General Robert E. Lee. Miles served in public office, including as mayor of Charleston, where he implemented many social reforms, including a sewage system.
16. William Henry Trescott, Class of 1840 (1822–1898), a loyal secessionist, found himself in a crucially informed position in the U.S. government during the Civil War. He kept the secessionists apprised of secret military action, which seems materially to have assisted the movement. After the war, Trescott allied himself with the “Union and Cooperation” forces and argued for a cooperative approach to reordering economic and social relations of the South. He went on to devote himself to diplomatic missions and was instrumental in the revision of the treaty with China in 1880, as well as the commercial treaty with Mexico in 1882. He also served as a delegate to the Pan-American Congress in 1890.
17. J. Waties Waring, Class of 1900 (1880–1968), had a rich legal career, including service as a federal district judge. He made controversial decisions in South Carolina, including that of equalizing salaries of black and white teachers and desegregating the state’s law school. In 1951, Waring registered a vehement dissent to Briggs v. Elliott (1951) saying that segregation was “per se inequality,” something that formed the legal foundation for the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision (1954). Waring’s positions led to him becoming a pariah in South Carolina, and he ultimately moved to New York City, where he was active in a variety of civil rights efforts.
18. F.A. Silcox, Class of 1903 (1882–1939), obtained a master of forestry from Yale Forest School. He served with the Forest Service and took over as chief when the Great Depression was in full swing. Silcox was able to help millions of unemployed workers through the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Projects Administration in the national forests. Silcox’s contributions to the conservation movement were many. Especially significant was his success in focusing public attention on the conservation problems of private forest landowners. His career integrated forestry concerns with social progress and human welfare.
19. Burnet Maybank, Class of 1919 (1899–1954), held numerous elected local and federal government positions. He served as the mayor of Charleston during the Depression, with his supporters believing he could help the city deal with the financial crisis. Maybank revamped the city budget and retired much of the accumulated debt. He took advantage of New Deal programs and, with federal grants, he repaired public buildings and constructed a gym for the College. Maybank was also a key player in the Santee Cooper hydroelectric project. As a U.S. senator, Maybank helped shape the post–World War II economy, the development of a federal housing policy and defense appropriations. Maybank Hall, one of the main academic buildings on campus, bears his name – as do a highway and bridge on James and Johns islands.
20. Dr. Hilla Sheriff, Class of 1924 (1902–1988), graduated from the College in two years and pursued her medical degree from the Medical College of South Carolina (today’s MUSC). Considered the “Grand Dame of S.C. Public Health,” Sheriff opened a pediatrics practice in Spartanburg in 1929 and went on to establish the United States’ first family planning clinic associated with a county health department. Sheriff was awarded the Rockefeller Foundation fellowship, and in 1937 became the first American woman to earn a master of public health from Harvard University.
21. Dr. Hulda Wohltmann, Class of 1944 (1923–2014), was a pediatric endocrinologist and professor at MUSC. A pioneer in the treatment of Type I diabetes in children, she was one of six MUSC faculty members listed as “the Best Doctors in the U.S.” in 1981 and the only female among those honorees. Wohltmann was one of the principal investigators in MUSC’s landmark diabetes trial studying the effects of good glucose control on the development of diabetic complications in Type I diabetes. The results led to the development of new therapeutic strategies.
22. Dr. James Edwards, Classs of 1950 (1927–2014), a veteran of World War II, went on to become a dentist practicing oral and maxillofacial surgery. In the 1970s, he decided to run for public office and served as a state senator and governor of South Carolina. Edwards focused on planning and economic development issues, which resulted in his appointment by President Ronald Reagan as secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, where he emphasized the expansion of nuclear energy resources, decontrol of crude oil prices and the conservation and development of alternative fuels. Edwards then went on to serve as president of the Medical University of South Carolina, where he expanded the school into new areas of medical research.
23. Mendell Jackson Davis, Class of 1966 (1942–2007), served as an S.C. congressman, beating out fellow alumnus James Edwards ’50 for the spot. He worked to create comprehensive health care and increase the minimum wage. He sponsored the bill to bring the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier to Charleston. He also served on the committee that brought about the resignation of former President Richard Nixon.
24. Arlinda Locklear, Class of 1973 (1951–present), was the first Native American woman to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. After receiving her J.D. from Duke University, Locklear went to work with the Native American Rights Fund, the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit law firm dedicated to defending the rights of American Indian tribes, organizations and individuals. As an expert in Native American law and tribal recognition litigation, Locklear twice served as lead counsel in these Supreme Court cases, which ruled in favor of tribal parties seeking justice.
25. Dr. John Tisdale, Class of 1986 (1964–present), earned his M.D. from MUSC. He went on to be a physician scientist, focusing on research curative strategies for sickle cell disease through transplantation of allogeneic or genetically modified autologous bone marrow stem cells. He completed a study that demonstrated that bone marrow cells could be transplanted from HLD-matched sibling donors without completely destroying the patient’s immune system. Tisdale is now working to extend the concept with alternative strategies to include not perfectly matched donors. He and his team at the National Institutes of Health have set a goal to find a gene therapy strategy for sickle cell disease.