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322 Dolly Hamby The Rise of Two-Party Politics in South Carolina John W. White • • • When Lottie “Dolly” Hamby (1918–2001) was born, South Carolina was an agrarian state with a political system dominated by rural elites. Democratic primaries were the only competitive elections and restrictive voting laws limited political participation. This one-party system was maintained by a combination of Jim Crow laws and corrupt registration practices that severely limited the voting rights of African American and poor white men. Women could not vote at all until 1920, when they were enfranchised by federal amendment, and after that these same restrictions kept many of them from voting as well. In the three decades after World War II, however, major economic and social changes led to significant changes in South Carolina politics. The state experienced unprecedented industrial expansion, striking changes in laws and customs in regard to race, and the emergence of the Cold War economy—all of which led to the birth of a competitive two-party political system for the first time in nearly a century. Dolly Hamby not only lived through this transformative period in South Carolina history but helped to bring about this profound shift in the politics of the state. As one of the founders of a small public relations firm established in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1951, she was in a unique position to influence the evolution of two-party politics in the state. The firm, known as Bradley, Graham and Hamby and operated by Hamby together with Jane Bradley and Cora Graham, was a crucial engine of change. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s this modest agency was a major conduit for marketing political alternatives to voters throughout the state. Hamby was the partner with the most influence over the agency’s political accounts. Dolly Hamby 323 The foundation for Hamby’s understanding of South Carolina’s political terrain was established during her childhood. Her mother, Lottie Hamby, was a graduate of Richmond College in Virginia and later taught French at Greenville Women’s College in South Carolina. Dolly’s father, Theodotus Capers Hamby, was a civil engineer and a graduate of North Carolina State University. When Dolly was six years old, her mother died and her father moved in with Hamby’s maternal grandparents, who helped to rear their granddaughter. From their home at 532 Harden Street in Columbia, Hamby acquired the love of politics she shared with her beloved grandfather, a Baptist minister and loyal southern Democrat. In 1928, to her grandfather’s delight, ten-year-old Hamby paraded around town with a homemade “Al Smith for President” sign on her bicycle. “That was my introduction to politics,” she later claimed.1 When Hamby was sixteen she was admitted to the University of South Carolina . As a University of South Carolina student she was active in student organizations and a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority. She graduated in 1938 with a bachelor’s degree in French. Two years later she returned and completed a year of course work toward a master’s degree, also in French. It appeared that Hamby would follow a career path similar to that of her mother. However, becoming an educator never appealed to her. “I signed up for four education classes to please my grandmother,” she remembered. Luckily she found an appealing alternative, her friendship with Bradley and Graham helping her launch a career in advertising.2 Hamby met Cora Graham at the University of South Carolina. She had known Jane Bradley before that. After graduation, Graham took a job working for Jane Cox Oliver at Cox Advertising and Bradley soon followed. Hamby did not join the advertising world until later. During World War II she worked for South Carolina Health and Welfare Services before taking a job conducting research at the University of South Carolina. After Graham and Bradley convinced Oliver that Hamby’s research skills could be a valuable asset, Hamby also joined Cox Advertising. The agency, however, had a difficult time maintaining a solid financial footing. In January 1951, having not received the customary Christmas bonus, Graham left the agency. Hamby, who later shared a home with Graham, was also frustrated and was set to return to work at the University of South Carolina when a Cox Advertising client suggested that Graham start her own agency with Hamby. Soon thereafter, Bradley, Graham, and Hamby each contributed $2500 toward the establishment of their own public relations company, and the firm was born.3 The...


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