Walter Edgar served as professor of history at the University of South Carolina for 40 years until his retirement in 2012. Born in Mobile, Alabama, he earned his bachelor’s degree from Davidson College and his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of South Carolina. He has held four distinguished professorships at the university, and in 2001 he was named a distinguished alumnus of the school.
Edgar’s many scholarly articles and books established a new look at the state’s history. As Carole Click of the Post and Courier put it, “Edgar gently promoted the audacious notion that women, Native Americans, African-Americans, Upstate mill workers and woodsmen ought to have as significant a place in the great mosaic of the state’s history as the powdered-wigged Lords Proprietors, the Revolutionary War heroes and Civil War generals who straddle the historical imagination.”
Edgar promoted that vision within the University of South Carolina and beyond. He was the founder and first director of the university’s Public History program, and in 1980 he was named director of the Institute for Southern Studies, a research institute reflecting Edgar’s interdisciplinary approach to the South’s history. He held this position until his retirement. He embraced the role as the state’s public historian in his popular South Carolina Educational Radio series “Walter Edgar’s Journal” and “South Carolina A to Z.”
He has been a prolific scholar, writing and/or editing a dozen books, as well as 60 essays and articles. His most popular books are South Carolina: A History and the South Carolina Encyclopedia, for which he served as Editor in Chief.
He holds honorary degrees from four colleges, and he has been inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame and the South Carolina Higher Education Hall of Fame. He has also received the Governor’s Award in the Humanities.
-- Kendra Hamilton