Pagett: Replace Tillman statue with one we can all be proud of: Carroll Campbell

Posted on April 1, 2014 

— I’ve revered the State House grounds from the first time I visited as a college freshman at the University of South Carolina. The lifelike bronze figures are impressive, and I am still in awe by the bronze stars on the west side of the capitol building identifying the location where Sherman’s artillery shells landed. It’s one thing to read about history, another to actually see it.

As my family and I approached the Tillman monument near Gervais Street on a recent visit, I was struck by how prominent a location he had relative to other monuments. Benjamin “Pitchfork” Tillman’s service to South Carolina as a governor and U.S. senator and his role in creating Clemson University cannot be denied. He was a leading advocate for the farmer. But he was also a fierce racist who advocated, in certain “justifiable” circumstances, violence against South Carolina’s black citizens. The positions he held put him in a different category from other men of his period who held similar views on race but weren’t able to transform their ideology to policy.

Isn’t there someone more appropriate to honor so prominently? Like former Gov. Carroll Campbell?

Campbell’s steady leadership during Hugo saved our Lowcountry. His bold vision to pursue BMW more than 20 years ago is yielding economic dividends to this very day. Whereas Tillman was consumed with the color black, Campbell was focused on the color green,

Landing BMW in South Carolina laid the groundwork for North Charleston landing Boeing. BMW proved to the world that South Carolinians were capable of performing high-tech, non-unionized manufacturing jobs. And now BMW has doubled down on its commitment to South Carolina, announcing Friday that it plans to invest $8 billion to expand the production facility in Greer, adding another 800 jobs to an existing Upstate workforce of 8,000.

Gov. Campbell deserves a statue at the State House. Let’s come together — black, white, Democrat and Republican — and move the Tillman statue to a less prominent location and replace it with one dedicated to Carroll Campbell, a man who brought us together and put us on a course to prosper in the 21st century. A man who truly embodied all that is great about South Carolina and its people.

James R. Pagett Jr.

Columbia

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