Joseph O. Rogers Jr.

Joseph Oscar "Joe" Rogers Jr. (October 8, 1921 – April 6, 1999), was an American lawyer from Manning, South Carolina, who served as a Democrat in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1955 to 1966, when he switched allegiance to the Republican Party. Rogers was the first serious Republican gubernatorial nominee in South Carolina in ninety years, but he was handily defeated in the 1966 general election by the incumbent Democrat Robert E. McNair.

Joseph Oscar "Joe" Rogers Jr.
United States Attorney for the
District of South Carolina
In office
August 11, 1969  December 18, 1970
PresidentRichard Nixon
Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from Clarendon County
In office
1955–1966
Succeeded byJoseph Warren Coker
Personal details
Born(1921-10-08)October 8, 1921
Mullins, Marion County
South Carolina, USA
DiedApril 6, 1999 (aged 77)
Columbia, South Carolina
Political partyDemocratic-turned-Republican (1966)
Spouse(s)Kathleen Brown Rogers (married 1949–1999, his death)
ChildrenPamela Rogers Melton
Joseph Oscar Rogers, III
Rev. Timothy Julian Rogers
ParentsLila McDonald and Joseph Oscar Rogers
ResidenceManning, Clarendon County, South Carolina
Alma materCharleston High School
College of Charleston
The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina
University of South Carolina School of Law
ProfessionLawyer
Military service
Branch/serviceUnited States Army
RankStaff sergeant
Battles/warsWorld War II

North African Theater of Operations

European Theater of Operations

Background

Rogers was born in Mullins in Marion County in eastern South Carolina, the son of the senior Joseph Oscar Rogers and the former Lila McDonald. The family moved to Charleston, where he graduated in 1938 from the former Charleston High School and enrolled thereafter at the College of Charleston. With the outbreak of World War II, Rogers left college to serve in the United States Army. A staff sergeant, he was stationed in the 758th Engineer Company, Seventh Army, the North African Theater of Operations, including Morocco, Algiers, and Tunisia, and then in southern France. After the war, he completed his undergraduate education at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina in Charleston and then in 1950 earned his law degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law in the capital city of Columbia.[1][2]

Rogers and his wife, the former Kathleen Brown of Hemingway in Williamsburg County in eastern South Carolina, married in 1949 and had three children, Pamela Rogers Melton, Joseph Oscar Rogers, III, an architect in Columbia, and the Reverend Timothy Julian Rogers. An active member of the United Methodist Church, Rogers served the congregation in Manning as Sunday school teacher, chairman of the administrative board, and lay delegate to the annual conference in 1968.[1]

Rogers was a member of the Masonic lodge, Rotary International, the American Legion, and a director of the Bank of Clarendon in Manning.[2]

Political career

Rogers established with Charlton Durant his law practice in Manning in Clarendon County, from which he served for six two-year terms in the state House. He was the vice-chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and served as well on the Education and Public Works committees. On three occasions, he was a member of the Conference Committee on the State Budget. Rogers also served as vice chairman of the South Carolina School Committee, often called the Gressette Committee, named for long-term legislator Marion Gressette. The fifteen-member committee was appointed by the governor to seek legal means to avoid forced racial integration of public schools. Marion Gressette said in retrospect in 1984 that the "real accomplishment" of the committee was the "prevention of violence such as occurred in some other Southern states." Rogers was also a member of the Reapportionment Study Committee and the House–Senate conference committee on reapportionment of the South Carolina State Senate.[2]

When the state government proposed to move its Alcoholic Rehabilitation Center to the Vocational Rehabilitation Department to qualify for federal funds, Rogers led a floor fight that stopped the transfer. Rogers told The State in Columbia that such a move was contrary to ethical principles.[3]

Rogers did not seek reelection to the state House in 1966. On March 7, he announced that he was joining the Republican Party, and later that month he was chosen in convention as the GOP nominee to oppose Governor McNair in the general election. Rogers's platform stressed local control of public schools and resistance to federal encroachment into the affairs of state government.[4] Rogers explained his philosophy regarding federal orders to desegregate public schools:

We oppose them [federal orders] on both grounds that they are an unwarranted and unwise invasion by the federal government of the education[al] function of the state and that they injure education by making education secondary in its own field. ... It is my opinion and conviction that we should move voluntarily in separate columns toward a common goal, I believe that the expression and hopes and dreams of both races are better realized through this voluntarily social agreement.[2]

Rogers also described his political philosophy as "close to Senator Thurmond's and has been for many years."[5]

Many harsh campaign accusations were hurled between Republicans and Democrats. McNair, a supporter of the national party, had succeeded to the governorship in 1965, upon the death of U.S. Senator Olin D. Johnston. At the time, Governor Donald S. Russell resigned, and McNair moved from lieutenant governor to governor. Under a prior agreement, McNair appointed Russell to fill Johnston's seat until a special election could be held in 1966. At a press conference Rogers described the unusual circumstances of McNair's rise to the governorship as "arranging a double promotion" in collusion with Russell. According to an article in The State newspaper, McNair responded by saying that hed "no apologies to anyone" for appointing Russell to the U.S. Senate. He advised Rogers and the GOP state chairman "to take a lesson in constitutional government."[5]

In the gubernatorial contest, Rogers polled 184,088 votes, compared to 255,854 for McNair.[5] In addition to the gubernatorial race, voters filled both of the U.S. Senate seats, the two remaining years of Johnston's term and a full six-year term for former Democratic Senator Strom Thurmond, who was elected for the first time in 1966 as a Republican. Former Governor Ernest Hollings unseated Donald Russell in the 1966 Democratic primary and then narrowly won the former Johnston seat over the Republican State Senator Marshall Parker, a former Democrat from Seneca, who had been an intrparty opponent of McNair in 1962 in the race for lieutenant governor.[5]

Rogers was a delegate to the 1968 Republican National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida, which nominated the Nixon-Agnew ticket. Thereafter, he was the successful Nixon campaign manager in South Carolina in the race against George Wallace of Alabama and Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, who was backed by Governor McNair.[2][6]

From August 11, 1969, to December 18, 1970, Rogers served under appointment of U.S. President Richard Nixon as the United States Attorney for the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina. His nomination was supported by most of the newspapers in South Carolina but actively opposed by the NAACP, Soon Senator Thurmond recommended to President Nixon that Rogers be appointed to a federal judgeship, but the nomination stalled, and an angry Rogers resigned as U.S. attorney and withdrew from further consideration for the judgeship. He blamed the inaction on the Nixon administration that he and Thurmond had helped to bring to power. Thereafter, Rogers resumed his legal practice in Manning[2] until his retirement in 1990. On numerous occasions into the 1990s, he was a Special Circuit Court Judge. A member of the Clarendon County Development Board, Rogers was named "Economic Ambassador" for Clarendon County in 1993.[2]

Rogers died at the age of seventy-seven. His papers from 1942 until his death in 1999 are in the South Carolina Political Collections of the University of South Carolina.[2] The Joseph O. Rogers Jr. Scholarship at the University of South Carolina School of Law bears his name.[7]

Rogers was awarded the Order of the Palmetto by later Republican Governors James B. Edwards and David Beasley.[8]

References

  1. "Joseph Oscar Rogers Jr". law.sc.edu. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  2. "Joseph O. Rogers Jr. Papers" (PDF). library.sc.edu. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  3. The State, September 25, 1966
  4. "Joseph O. Rogers Jr. (1921–1999)". library.sc.edu. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  5. "Robert E. McNair Papers" (PDF). library.sc.edu. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  6. In the 1972 campaign, the Nixon-Agnew ticket was managed in South Carolina by James M. Henderson, an advertising executive from Greenville, who had been the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor on Albert Watson's 1970 ticket.
  7. "Joseph O. Rogers Jr. Scholarship". law.sc.edu. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  8. "A Concurrent Resolution of Sympathy to Family of Representative Joseph Rogers Jr". scstatehouse.gov. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
Party political offices
Preceded by
Joseph Augustis Tolbert (1938)

Daniel H. Chamberlain (1876)

Republican nominee for governor of South Carolina

Joseph Oscar "Joe" Rogers Jr.
1966

Succeeded by
Albert Watson (1970)
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