Narciso Gener Gonzales

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Narciso Gonzales
Obelisk honoring Gonzales near the State House
Born Aug. 5, 1858
Edisto Island, South Carolina
Died 19 January 1903
Columbia, South Carolina
Nationality American
Ethnicity Cuban American
Occupation Newspaper editor

Narciso Gener Gonzales (August 5, 1858 – January 19, 1903) was born in Eddingsville, Edisto Island, South Carolina.[1] He and his brother, Ambrose E. Gonzales, were the founders of The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina.

Gonzales was the son of Colonel (CSA) Ambrosio José Gonzales and Harriet Rutledge Elliott. His father was a Colonel in the Confederate Army who played an instrumental role in the defenses of South Carolina during the American Civil War. Prior to this his father was a Cuban revolutionary leader, who opposed oppressive Spanish rule. His mother was the daughter of the wealthy South Carolina rice planter, state senator and writer, William Elliott.

Although his formal education ended at the age of seventeen, Narciso Gonzales became a telegraph operator in 1875 in order to help support his extended family. He worked in railroad depots in Varnville, South Carolina, Savannah, Georgia, and Valdosta, Georgia. While working as a telegrapher and handling news reports, he developed an interest in journalism and state politics. In 1880, he left the telegraph office in Valdosta to become a reporter for the Greenville, South Carolina, Daily News.[2]

While working in Varnville in 1876, Narciso Gonzales had written a report on a local uprising of plantation workers and telegraphed it to the Charleston, South Carolina, Journal of Commerce. This came to the attention of the editors of a rival newspaper, the Charleston News and Courier. Shortly after going to work for the Greenville Daily News, Gonzales accepted a position as the Columbia, South Carolina correspondent for the News and Courier.

In 1891, Narciso Gonzales and his brother Ambrose E. Gonzales (1857 - 1926) founded The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina. The paper supported a number of progressive causes; its editorials called for an end to lynching, reform of child labor laws, and women's suffrage. The paper was also frequently critical of the policies of Benjamin R. Tillman, who had been elected governor of South Carolina in 1890.[3]

Gonzales was shot on January 15, 1903, by James H. Tillman (nephew of "Pitchfork" Ben Tillman), the Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina, and died four days later. Tillman escaped punishment, however. The jury was considered rigged and highly partisan considering Tillman shot Gonzales in broad daylight in the presence of many eyewitnesses. He was acquitted ostensibly on a shaky self-defense theory, but in reality because the jury believed Tillman was right in taking justice into his own hands. Gonzales had waged a crusade against Tillman in his newspaper, helping ensure Tillman's defeat in the 1902 South Carolina governor's race.

A memorial cenotaph for Gonzales was later erected on Senate Street across from the State House in Columbia, purportedly on the route Tillman regularly walked home.


  1. ^ Antonio Rafael de la Cova, Cuban Confederate Colonel: The Life of Ambrosio Jose Gonzales, Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 2003, 133.
  2. ^ Jepsen, Thomas C., "Two 'Lightning Slingers' from South Carolina: The Telegraphic Careers of Ambrose and Narciso Gonzales." South Carolina Historical Magazine, October 1993, 271-275.
  3. ^ Jones, Lewis Pinckney (1973). Stormy Petrel: N. G. Gonzales and His State. Columbia, S.C.: South Carolina Tricentennial Commission, University of South Carolina Press. pp. 109–285. ISBN 0-87249-253-2. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Jones, Lewis Pinckney (1973). Stormy Petrel: N. G. Gonzales and His State. Columbia, S.C.: South Carolina Tricentennial Commission, University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 0-87249-253-2. 

Manuscripts Department Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill SOUTHERN HISTORICAL COLLECTION : #1009 ELLIOTT AND GONZALES FAMILY PAPERS