Education

Candidate who edited neo-Confederate magazine not recommended for SC higher ed job

Mecklenburg County prosecutors agreed to amnesty for a 28-year-old Davidson man accused of defacing a Confederate memorial in Cornelius in 2017. Police charged Maxwell Montague Sommer with misdemeanor injury to real property.
Mecklenburg County prosecutors agreed to amnesty for a 28-year-old Davidson man accused of defacing a Confederate memorial in Cornelius in 2017. Police charged Maxwell Montague Sommer with misdemeanor injury to real property. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Oran Smith, who once edited a neo-Confederate magazine called Southern Partisan, will apparently not become executive director of South Carolina’s Commission on Higher Education.

The search committee considering candidates for the position has recommended Rusty Monhollon, who is an administrator with the Missouri Department of Higher Education.

Smith and Monhollon were two of three finalists for the job. The third was Mary J. Broadwater, assistant divisional counsel with Laureate Education Inc. in Baltimore, Maryland.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, the search committee said it had deemed all three finalists “highly qualified.” The statement said the full commission is expected to consider the search committee’s recommendation on Friday, May 31, at 2 p.m.

Smith’s bid to lead the commission sparked controversy after The State reported he spent a decade editing a magazine called Southern Partisan, from 1989 to 1999. The Southern Poverty Law Center credits the magazine with jump-starting the “neo-Confederate” movement.

The magazine published articles that defended the South’s secession from the union and cited biblical justifications for slavery. One author published in its pages went on to promote a “white genocide” conspiracy theory that was cited by the Charleston church shooter who killed nine people in a racially-motivated slaying.

Smith told The State in an interview that his interest in the Civil War was historical, and his views changed after the killings in Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church. He even wrote on op-ed in The State calling for the Confederate flag to be removed from the State House grounds.

At the time Smith was with the magazine, Southern Partisan was co-edited by Richard Quinn, who now faces perjury charges for his role in the State House corruption probe.

Smith serves as a trustee for Coastal Carolina University at the same time he works as a senior fellow at conservative think tank Palmetto Promise Institute.

Four people explain why they are passionate enough about the Confederate flag to protest either its removal or its position on the S.C. State House grounds.

Bristow Marchant is currently split between covering Richland County and the 2020 presidential race. He has more than 10 years’ experience covering South Carolina. He won the S.C. Press Association’s 2015 award for Best Series on a toxic Chester County landfill fire, and was part of The State’s award-winning 2016 election coverage.

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