Bernard Baruch was far from the stereotypical South Carolina native of the late 1800s.
Born in 1870 in Camden to Jewish immigrants, Baruch would move to New York at age 10 and go on to blaze a path in history that would involve making millions on Wall Street by age 30 and becoming an economic adviser and presidential confidante during both world wars. His nickname, “The Park Bench Statesman,” was given to him to denote his time in Washington D.C.’s Lafayette Park and in New York’s Central Park, where he was known to sit next to people on benches and discuss government affairs.
In 1905, Baruch purchased Hobcaw Barony, a 17,000-acre plantation in Georgetown, S.C., where he would go for hunting season. Despite donating to black colleges in South Carolina and making sure there were beds designated for black patients in the Camden hospital he built there in 1912, Baruch was not considered to see himself as an equal to African-Americans, according to a 2014 ETV documentary, “The Baruchs of Hobcaw.” In fact, at his Hobcaw estate, his black estate workers did not have running water or electricity – despite the fact that his daughters had both of those luxuries in their playhouse on property.
“Bernard managed the place like a patriarch, offering to pay for the education of the African-American children who grew up in its villages, but refusing burial rights to employees who moved away,” said Dale Rosengarten, historian and curator in special collections at the College of Charleston library.
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Baruch died at his home in New York in 1965 at age 95. Hobcaw, now privately owned by the Belle W. Baruch Foundation, is used by the University of South Carolina and Clemson University as an environmental research center.