Governor Benjamin R. Tillman | History of SC Slide Collection

Born near Trenton, in Edgefield County, Governor Benjamin R. Tillman (1847-1918) attended a local "field school" and Bethany Academy. During the 1890s, farmers began to organize a national movement to combat economic hardships created by depressed agricultural prices. Tillman became a leader in the South Carolina Farmer's Alliance, which in 1890 issued a manifesto calling for an economic reform convention. (See "Leaders Of The Farmer's Movement In South Carolina") In a bitterly contested election, Tillman was elected governor in 1890. During his administration, he sponsored legislation setting up a state liquor dispensary system (See The Official Dispensary Liquor Label), supported the founding of the Winthrop Normal and Industrial College for Women, and increased taxes for educational purposes. Finally, Tillman supported the calling of a constitutional convention, which met in 1895. He was a delegate to this convention, serving as chairman of the committee on suffrage which pushed through an educational qualification for voting (See Postcard, 1910, and The Constitution Of 1895) An opponent of South Carolina College, he helped to obtain a bequest in the will of Thomas G. Clemson, who left Fort Hill, the Calhoun Plantation, and an endowment of $80,000 for the establishment of an agricultural and mechanical college, which evolved into Clemson University. In 1914, Tillman was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he served until his death in 1918. As a senator, he took a leading role in sponsoring legislation favored by farming organizations. He came to be referred to as "Pitchfork Ben" because of his vigorous and uncompromising defense of farm interests.(See Senator Ben Tillman's "Cow Cartoons")

Courtesy of the South Caroliniana Library.

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