The Life and Legacy of Bill Workman

William Workman

William D. Workman, Jr. comparing the size of the U.S. Constitution and the federal budget’s Appendix volume.

We’ve written several posts about the life and times of William D. Workman, Jr. Today, I want to pause to acknowledge the anniversary of his death and to reflect on his life and legacy. Bill Workman, as he was known, passed away at the age of 76 on November 23, 1990. He was preceded in death by his wife, Rhea Thomas Workman, and parents, Major William Douglas and Vivian Watkins Workman. He was survived by his sister, Virginia Workman; son, William D. Workman III; daughter, Dee Workman; “and four grandchildren.”[1]
Workman is best remembered for his 1962 Senate campaign, his career as a journalist, and the books he authored. His Senate campaign, “though unsuccessful, is credited with establishing the structure for a viable Republican Party in South Carolina.”[2] As a newspaper journalist, he had a long and distinguished career, during which he covered politics, government, and other aspects of life in South Carolina for several papers, wrote a widely syndicated column, served as the editor of The State from 1966 to 1972, and “served as president of the S.C. Press Association in 1971.”[3] Workman also authored or contributed to a number of books. Arguably, the most important of these is The Case for the South, which provided a significant argument in favor of segregation and garnered national press coverage following its publication in 1960.[4]
William D. Workman, Jr. wearing a World War II-era U.S. Army uniform.

William D. Workman, Jr.

Perhaps less well known is Workman’s substantial record of service. He served on active duty with the U.S. Army from 1940 to 1945. After being demobilized, he continued his military career in the Army Reserve, rising to the rank of colonel and serving as “commanding officer of the 108th Infantry Division (Training).”[5] He was awarded the Legion of Merit upon his retirement in 1965.[6] In 1966, Workman was appointed to “the state’s Constitutional Revision Committee,” whose “1969 report led to significant changes in the operation of local and county government.”[7] His other significant leadership roles included service as “president of the Association of Citadel Men in 1952-1953,”[8] and as a member of the James F. Byrnes Foundation’s board of directors from 1972 to 1985.[9] [10] The Byrnes Foundation funds college scholarships for South Carolina residents who “have lost either one or both parents.”[11] He and his wife “were founding members of Trenholm Road United Methodist Church and were active members of its adult Sunday school class, which they frequently taught.”[12]
Dee Workman and William D. Workman stand shoulder to shoulder on the stage of the 1962 South Carolina Republican Convention. They are smiling and appear to be looking toward each other.

Dee and William D. Workman, Jr. at the South Carolina Republican Convention. Columbia, SC. March 17, 1962. “Dick” Beebout/The State & The Columbia Record

Bill Workman effectively harnessed his considerable intelligence and energy not only to build a successful career as a journalist, but also to make substantive contributions to the development of a two-party system in South Carolina, the protection of the United States, the modernization of the state government, and the success of the private organizations with which he was affiliated. Democrat John West, who chaired the Constitutional Revision Committee while serving as Lieutenant Governor and had known Workman since World War II, said after his passing, “[h]e was a great citizen and a great friend….South Carolina is better for his having been here and serving the state as he did.”[13]
[1] Charles Wickenberg, Jr., “Journalist, GOP Crusader William Workman Dies,” State (Columbia, SC), Nov. 24, 1990.
[2] Colleen Bradley and Kelly Gilbert, “Biographical Note,” William D. Workman, Jr. Papers (PDF finding aid), (2002) : 3,
[3] Wickenberg, “Journalist, GOP Crusader William Workman Dies.”
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Bradley and Gilbert, “Biographical Note,” 3.
[8] Wickenberg, “Journalist, GOP Crusader William Workman Dies.”
[9] Bradley and Gilbert, “Biographical Note,” 3.
[10] “The James F. Byrnes Foundation,” Byrnes Scholars, accessed November 22, 2017.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Wickenberg, “Journalist, GOP Crusader William Workman Dies.”
[13] Ibid.
Reprocessing and digitization of the William D. Workman, Jr. Papers photographs has been made possible by a grant from the National Historic Publications & Records Commission.

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