Liz Patterson: A Personal Tribute

Liz PattersonLiz Patterson will be sorely missed.  As you’ve already read in the memorial blog post, she and her family have been generous donors in developing our Olin Johnston collection and then her own congressional collection.

Son Pat has been quoted frequently on his mother since her passing.  He has stressed exactly what I would highlight in describing her life — her devotion to service and helping people.  As a young woman, she worked with the Peace Corps, Vista and Head Start.  Later, she served on Spartanburg County Council, in the South Carolina Senate, and in Congress.

Early in my tenure as Curator of Manuscripts at the South Caroliniana Library, Mrs. Patterson came to USC to speak to a women’s studies class about her life, and I was asked to introduce her.  Along with the others in the audience, I was enchanted by her humility, intelligence, and humanity.  And I heard a story that I have retold innumerable times.

Liz PattersonMrs. Patterson wanted the class to appreciate how unusual it was in 1986 for a woman to run for Congress.  She played an early television ad designed to introduce her to the voters of the 4th District.  More than that, it served an important yet subtle purpose as well.  It showed a typical day in her life, beginning with getting her family fed and ready to start their days.  Then it showed her engaged in the serious work of government and on the campaign trail.  It concluded with a shot of the family in the evening gathered to play a board game.

She wanted the students to appreciate that, in 1986, to win the votes of the people, Liz had to convince men and women that she would be a good congresswoman, and at the same time would be able to continue to be a good wife and mother.  Public service would not interfere with her duties to her family.

Her audience was captivated and found her inspirational.  This great lady touched many lives.  We are all diminished by her passing.

By Herb Hartsook

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