The South Caroliniana Library has never had a better friend than Harvey Teal (1928-2020). When I arrived in 1983 as Curator of Manuscripts, the retired educator was an often daily presence conducting research in one of the several areas in which he became expert, discussing with Director Allen Stokes a lead to an important new collection, or generously sharing his broad expertise with other researchers.
Harvey’s connection to the Library dated back to his student days at USC when he was employed there. During my tenure at the Caroliniana, it felt like Harvey brought in about half of the material we acquired. His success was assured, thanks to a lifetime devotion to South Carolina history and a friendly gregarious nature that made him friends wherever he went.
He worked assiduously to broaden my knowledge of South Carolina history including tutorials about subjects as diverse as the work involved in harvesting turpentine and the vagaries of the Dispensary system. Among my favorite memories is a drive to Camden following the path of Sherman’s troops with a stop at the site of the Cleveland School fire that claimed the life of the father of former governor John Carl West, Harvey’s childhood friend. We lunched at a local diner where everyone knew Harvey, and ended our day with a visit with another of Harvey’s great friends, state senator Don Holland. When Political Collections was established, Senator Holland became a friend and then a donor of papers.
My favorite among Harvey’s collections is a great story in itself. Harvey had heard that Winthrop was having a garage-style sale and drove to Rock Hill hoping to find manuscripts. He brought back several cartons holding personal papers of the College’s founder, David Bancroft Johnson. These had been stored, if memory serves, in the campus home of Johnson’s widow. Extensive correspondence with leaders including Ben Tillman documented the founding and early years of the College. It was thrilling to arrange and describe these remarkable materials. I’ve often wondered what might have become of these treasures had Harvey not taken it upon himself to make that drive. And Johnson’s papers were just one of thousands of collections Harvey acquired for the University. Harvey was a grand gentleman and his passing is a great loss to South Carolina.