Obituary for Francis Butler Simkins

The State [Columbia, SC]; February 10, 1966.

Death Stills Pen of F. B. Simkins

FARMVILLE, Va.--Dr. Francis Butler Simkins wrote with loving care of the life and the movement that surrounded turn-of-the-century "Pitchfork Ben" Tillman of South Carolina.

But, according to contemporary colleagues' tributes Wednesday, Dr. Simkins he and Tillman stood miles apart on speaking out.

Dr. Simkins, an Edgefield County, South Carolina, native, died Wednesday.

While Tillman did not hesitate to be outspoken, Simkins wrote of Tillman in one of several Southern history books that the late senator and governor:

"Despite avowals of frankness and simplicity, (he) craftily couched his accusations [] in such nebulous language that he usually managed to escape embarrassment when out-raged disputant called him to account."

The quotation comes from Dr. Simkins' 1944 book, "Pitchfork Ben Tillman--South Carolinian." According to Dr. Simkins colleagues in Columbia, S. C., Wednesday, however, Simkins himself was more direct than Tillman, his subject.

"The man was never afraid of expressing an opinion and had a big order of intellectual courage. He never hesitated to present his point of view," Charles E. Lee, director of the South Carolina Archives Department, said.

Mrs. Albert D. Oliphant, well known in her own right as writer of grade-school state history books, put it this way.

"Any one who has ever heard Dr. Simkins lecture would never forget his staccato, passionate utterings and his whimsical sense of humor. He was an individualist a non-conformist always amusing and absolutely fearless in what he said.

Dr. Daniel W, Hollis, professor of history at the University of South Carolina recalled Dr. Simkins like to get up at . 4:30 a.m. and work on his writings.

Calling him "The outstanding historian old South Carolina history," Dr. Hollis said, "He was sometimes irascible and liked to talk for effect." He said Simkins' "South Carolina During Reconstruction" is considered by historians the outstanding monograph in that field.

Funeral services for the nationally-known historian will be conducted in Farmville at 11:00 a.m. at St. John's Episcopal Church.

Dr. Simkins was a brother of Mrs. Clint T. Graydon of Columbia and had visited in Columbia frequently for social and research purposes. He was the son of the late Samuel McGowan Simkins and Sarah Lewis Simkins of Edgefield.

He was educated in the public school in Edgefield and at the University of South Carolina. He was awarded a doctorate by Columbia University, and his thesis was a book entitled "The Tillman Movement of South Carolina."

Dr. Simkins did extensive research on the history of the Negroes in Brazil with Dr. Gilberto Freyre in the early 1920's. He then collaborated with Dr. R. H. Woody on an authoritative study of reconstruction in South Carolina.

Later books by him included "Pitchfork Ben Tillman" (the life of Benjamin R. Tillman) "Women of the Confederacy" (with Dr. James H. Patton), "The South Old and New," a textbook history of Virginia and "The Everlasting South."

He was a former president of the Southern Historical Association and a frequent contributor to many historical journals.

Dr. Simkins had served as professor of history at Longwood College in Farmville for many years. He also had served on the staff of Randolph-Macon College and Louisiana State University, and he had lectured at historical symposiums throughout the nation.

Survivors are his widow, the former Margaret Lawrence; a son, Francis Butler Simkins, Jr.; two sisters, Mrs. Clint T. Graydon and Miss Jeanie Wardlaw Simkins of Columbia; a brother, J. Elliott Simkins Jr. of Columbia; two nephews, Augustus T. Graydon of Columbia and John Elliott Simkins Jr. of Tacoma, Wash., and two nieces, Mrs. Marvin L. McCrory and Mrs. John R. T. Major of Columbia.


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