Burnet R. Maybank
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|Burnet Rhett Maybank|
|United States Senator
from South Carolina
November 5, 1941 – September 1, 1954
|Preceded by||Roger C. Peace|
|Succeeded by||Charles E. Daniel|
|99th Governor of South Carolina|
January 17, 1939 – November 4, 1941
|Preceded by||Olin D. Johnston|
|Succeeded by||Joseph Emile Harley|
|Mayor of Charleston|
|Preceded by||Thomas Porcher Stoney|
|Succeeded by||Henry Whilden Lockwood|
March 7, 1899|
Charleston, South Carolina
|Died||September 1, 1954
Flat Rock, North Carolina
|Spouse(s)||Elizabeth deRosset Myers (deceased)
Mary Cecil (until his death)
|Children||Burnet Rhett Maybank Jr.
Roberta Maybank Prioleau
Elizabeth Maybank Guerard
|Alma mater||College of Charleston|
Burnet Rhett Maybank (March 7, 1899 – September 1, 1954) was a U.S. Senator, the 99th Governor of South Carolina, and Mayor of Charleston, South Carolina. Maybank was the direct descendant of five former South Carolina governors: Thomas Smith, Rawlins Lowndes, Robert Gibbes, James Moore and William Aiken, Jr. and one U.S. Senator, Robert Barnwell Rhett. He was the first governor from Charleston since the Civil War. His son, Burnet Maybank Jr., went on to become lieutenant governor of South Carolina and a later candidate for governor. His grandson, Burnet Maybank III, is a notable lawyer.
Burnet Maybank was born to Dr. Joseph Maybank VI and Harriet Lowndes Rhett, the first of ten. He married Elizabeth deRosset Myers, daughter of Judge Francis Kerchner Myers and Roberta Atkinson Smith, on June 28, 1923. They had three children. After the death of his first wife Maybank married Mary Roscoe Randolph Pelzer Cecil. The second marriage produced no children. He has 10 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren.
Born in Charleston, South Carolina, into one of the cities most prominent and wealthy families, with ancestors who were planters, with five who served as governors of the state, Maybank graduated from the Porter Military Academy, now the exclusive Porter-Gaud School. He earned a degree from the College of Charleston. He served in the United States Navy during World War I.
Maybank established himself in business as a successful merchant in the cotton export business from 1920 to 1938.
He became interested in politics and public service. A lifelong Democrat, Maybank entered politics for the first time in 1927, when he was elected to a four-year term as alderman in Charleston. He rose to mayor pro tempore in 1930. He was elected mayor of Charleston in 1931, serving until 1938. As mayor, Maybank balanced the budget during the Great Depression. He cut his own salary from $6,000 to $3,600, and reduced local taxes. But, he gained federal financing under President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration for slum clearance, construction of public housing and other infrastructure, and support for unemployment payments. He was effective in guiding work relief and funds for civic improvements. He used a Works Progress Administration (WPA) grant to restore the historic Dock Street Theatre, and other grants went to such infrastructure improvements as the city docks and a city incinerator.
During this period Maybank was also appointed as a member of the State Board of Bank Control (1932–1933) and was chairman of the South Carolina Public Service Authority (1935–1939). It supervised a state-sponsored power project on the Santee River. This project, known as the "little TVA," was built to control floods as well as provide hydroelectric power for the state. Maybank was a conservative supporter of President Roosevelt's New Deal, which funded public works and job programs. But he opposed a share of the president's labor policies.
In addition, he was appointed by the governor as a member of the South Carolina State Advisory Board of the Federal Administration of Public Works from 1933 to 1934.
With the favorable publicity from the Santee project, a strong political base in Charleston, and support from his mentor, U.S. Senator James F. Byrnes, Maybank was elected as governor in 1938. As governor, Maybank tried unsuccessfully to create an adequate state police force, but he did supervise a vigorous prosecution of the criminal element in the state. He strictly enforced liquor and gambling statutes.
He fought the Ku Klux Klan, which had reached its peak of revival in the 1920s but was still active. Maybank expanded economic opportunities for blacks in the racially segregated society and tried to improve the quality of black schools in the state, which were historically underfunded. He did nothing to alter the disfranchisement of blacks due to provisions in the state constitution and electoral laws since the turn of the twentieth century.
In January 1941 President Roosevelt appointed Byrnes to the U.S. Supreme Court. Maybank won a special election to fill Byrnes's US Senate seat in September 1941, defeating former governor Olin D. Johnston with 56.6 percent of the vote. In 1942 Maybank was elected to the full six-year term, and in 1948 he was reelected without opposition, and served until his death in 1954.
Maybank was a powerful senator, part of the southern Democratic block. Maybank served as chairman of the Committee on Banking and Currency and as co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Defense Production. As chair of the Subcommittee on Independent Offices, under the Appropriations Committee, Maybank provided critical support to continue the U.S. nuclear weapons program in the early 1950s.
He introduced the "Maybank Amendment," which was tacked onto the 1953 Defense Appropriations Bill. The amendment relieved the Department of Defense from federal legislation to target a percentage of its expenditures to high unemployment areas. Shortly before his death, Maybank was voted as one of the "20 Most Influential Americans" by Fortune Magazine.
Maybank died of a heart attack at his summer home in Flat Rock, North Carolina in 1954. He was interred in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston. Senators and future presidents Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson, along with numerous other political dignitaries, attended his funeral in Charleston.
Maybank's sudden death two months before Election Day, threw open the 1954 Senate election in South Carolina. Strom Thurmond won as a write-in candidate against the nominee chosen by Democratic party leaders to replace Maybank.
Legacy and honors
- Numerous places have been named for Maybank throughout Charleston and the state. Some notable examples are Maybank Highway, the Burnet Maybank Bridge (over the Wappoo Cut in Charleston), and Maybank Hall at the College of Charleston.
- The Burnet R. Maybank Scholarship was established in his honor at the University of South Carolina Law School.
Bertie Bowman, who became a hearing coordinator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, published his memoir, Step by Step: A Memoir of Hope, Friendship, Perseverance, and Living the American Dream, in 2009. He noted the personal support he had received from Senator Maybank. A poor black farmer's son, he went to Washington from South Carolina in 1944 as a runaway at age 14 and went to Senator Maybank. He got the youth a janitor's position, and took a personal interest in Bowman (who then had no family in Washington). Gradually the young black man advanced while working for the Senate, as he describes in his memoir. In March 2009 Senator Maybank's granddaughter, Elizabeth Parker, traveled to D.C. to meet with Bowman for the first time. A month later, more of the Maybank family met Bowman and his wife, Elaine, in Charleston.
"You know, an old governor of yours, Burnet Maybank, once wrote an essay entitled, "Who Is the South Carolinian?" And here's what it said. He said, there's a deal—there is a deal of kindness about him, describing the South Carolinian. He feels favored when asked for personal assistance. A neighborly spirit prompts him to render service with a scorn for remuneration."
- Burnet Maybank Senatorial Papers, College of Charleston
- "Beneath the Magnolias," Time Magazine, 1954-09-13.
- Burnet R. Maybank at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Dictionary of American Biography
- Cann, Marvin. "Burnet Rhett Maybank and the New Deal in South Carolina from 1931 to 1941." Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Carolina, 1967
- U.S. Congress. Memorial Addresses. 83rd Cong., 2nd sess., 1954. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1955.
- SCIway Biography of Burnet Rhett Maybank
- NGA Biography of Burnet Rhett Maybank
- Burnet Maybank Senatorial Papers
- Burnet R. Maybank at Find a Grave
Olin D. Johnston
|Governor of South Carolina
Joseph Emile Harley
Charles W. Tobey
|Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee
|United States Senate|
Roger C. Peace
|United States Senator (Class 2) from South Carolina
Served alongside: Ellison D. "Cotton Ed" Smith, Olin D. Johnston
Charles E. Daniel