Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department


Committee Member

Dr. Rod Andrew

Committee Member

Dr. Vernon Burton

Committee Member

Dr. Alan Grubb


This thesis examines the genesis and characteristics of the politics of Martin Witherspoon Gary, a controversial individual who achieved prominence during the Reconstruction era (1868-1876) in South Carolina. Although his significance has been acknowledged in the recent historiography of the subject, few works have covered Gary and his politics extensively. Prior historians have succeed largely in establishing Gary as nothing more than a caricature in South Carolina history; either a noble savior or contemptible villain depending on their own partiality to Gary's politics. By utilizing state newspapers from the era, the contrasting portrayals of Gary in secondary sources, and Gary's own collection of personal papers, this thesis expands upon the recent historiography of Reconstruction South Carolina by discussing the importance of Gary's politics at length and from his own perspective. I suggest that upon closer examination of Gary and his politics, we find tangible evidence of a rupture in South Carolina's traditional 'conservative' ideology that has often gone understated. This rupture hallmarks the beginnings of a 'die-hard' legacy of postbellum white supremacy in South Carolina that challenged the views of moderate conservatives and continued to endure after Gary's death with the ascendancy of one of his most ardent followers, Benjamin Ryan Tillman.



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