Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department


Committee Chair/Advisor

Grubb, Alan

Committee Member

Andrew, Rod

Committee Member

Grant, Roger


This thesis is designed to determine the roles played by three different men in the founding of the Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina: Thomas Green Clemson, Richard Wright Simpson, and Benjamin Ryan Tillman. It examines primary sources generated by each man and attempts to reconstruct the events of the fall of 1886 through 1918 to validate the claims of Simpson and Tillman of their roles in realizing Clemson’s dream of founding an agricultural and mechanical college following Clemson’s death in 1888. Each played a vital role in the founding and establishment of Clemson College and derived much personal satisfaction from their parts in the school’s existence. Tillman has traditionally been credited with the founding of Clemson University due to his involvement in the passage of the Act of Acceptance while other equally important individuals, particularly Simpson, have been largely ignored in favor of Tillman and his personal version of events. This work attempts to find the truth and properly recognize the actions and accomplishments of each man. This study also serves to explicate the related historiography to better understand how memory choices made in the years following Tillman’s death in 1918 have influenced popular recollections of the founding and early years of Clemson College. While prevalent thought in the Clemson community teaches that Clemson University would not exist without Ben Tillman, this is, in my view, only a partial truth. In reality, Clemson University owes its founding and survival to several individuals, chief among them Thomas Green Clemson as the benefactor, Richard Wright Simpson as the brilliant legal scholar, and Benjamin Ryan Tillman as the enthusiastic advocate. Without any of the three, Clemson University would not exist as it is known today.

Included in

History Commons



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