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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

An Evening with Former South Carolina Governor James F Byrnes

Last evening, at the regular second Tuesday of the month meeting of the Lee County Historical Society, I was transported back in time to the early 1900’s by Dr. Joseph Taylor Stukes. Dr Stukes mesmerized me as he realistically portrayed James Francis Byrnes, one of the most powerful men in American domestic and foreign policy in the mid-1940s.

Only a few words into his performance, Dr. Stukes dressed in period costume, deftly transitioned me to a time and place where I found myself in the presence of former Governor Jimmy Byrnes who greeted me as if I were at his home by asking, “Have you met Maude?” Of course he was referring to his wife Maude Perkins Busch of Aiken whom he married in 1906.


Mr. Byrnes informed me that he had never advanced beyond the third grade, that he never attended college or law school, but that he became a lawyer by apprenticing and was admitted to the bar in 1903. He convinced me that he and many of his colleague’s were enthusiastic believers and participants of Bullbat time.


I was surprised to hear him say that he converted from Catholicism, becoming an Episcopalian when he married Maude in addition to his leaving the Democratic Party to become a Republican. The latter change occurred late in his political career.


What a history lesson! I’m finding it hard to end here because of my need to tell you everything I learned from the talented and knowledgeable Dr. Joseph Stukes. I strongly urge you to attend one of his ‘Impersonations’… you will not regret the opportunity.


The Lee County Historical Society and the Humanities Council of SC, sponsored Dr. Joseph Stukes but we must give the abundance of credit to the officers and members of our local Historical Society who made it happen.  Marion Messier, President; Linda Sutherland, Vice-president; Willene Smith, Secretary; Davis Kirkpatrick, Treasurer; Rev. Phillip Mixon, Chaplain; Jewell Tindall, Parliamentarian; Ralph DesChamps, Historian, Bobbie Adams and Betty Truesdale, both LCHS members, are to be commended for their tireless efforts and dedication to the preservation of our history. 

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