Benjamin Tillman: Wikis


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Benjamin R. Tillman

In office
1890 – 1894
Preceded by John Peter Richardson III
Succeeded by John Gary Evans

United States Senator
In office
1895 – 1918
Preceded by Matthew Butler
Succeeded by Christie Benet

Born August 11, 1847 (1847-08-11)
Trenton, South Carolina
Died July 3, 1918 (1918-07-04) (aged 70)
Washington, D.C.
Nationality American
Political party Democratic

Benjamin Ryan Tillman (August 11, 1847 – July 3, 1918) was an American politician who served as governor of South Carolina, from 1890 to 1894, and as a United States Senator, from 1895 until his death in office. Combative, vitriolic, and Tillman's views were a matter of national controversy.

Tillman was a member of the Democratic Party. Tillman also served on the first Board of Trustees at Clemson University after assisting with its founding. [1][1]



Tillman, of English descent, was born near Trenton, South Carolina. He left school in 1864 to join the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War, but was disabled by an illness that later caused the removal of his left eye and thus never fought for the Confederacy. During Reconstruction, he became a paramilitary fighter in the struggle to overthrow the Republican coalition in the state. He was present at the Hamburg Massacre in July 1876, during which a federal militia was overthrown and its arms seized by a group of armed citizens led by Tillman's fellow "Red Shirts."

Governor of South Carolina

U.S. Senate

Tillman was elected to the United States Senate in 1894, succeeding Senator Matthew Butler, who had also been directly involved in the Hamburg Massacre. Tillman would be re-elected three more times, and would hold office from 1895 to his death in 1918. A hotheaded and temperate debater, Tillman became known as "Pitchfork Ben" after a 1896 Senate speech in which he made several references to pitchforks, and threatened to "poke old Grover with a pitchfork" to prod him into action.

During his Senate career, he was censured by the Senate in 1902 after assaulting John L. McLaurin, another Senator and his counterpart from South Carolina.[2] As a result, the Senate added to its rules the provision that "No senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator."[3] He was also barred from the White House.[4]

He became the chairman of the Committee on Revolutionary Claims (57th through 59th Congresses); served on the Committee on Five Civilized Tribes of Indians (61st and 62nd Congresses); and the Committee on Naval Affairs (63rd through 65th Congresses). During World War I, impatient with the Navy's requests for larger battleships every year, he ordered the United States Navy to design "maximum battleships," the largest battleships that they could use.

Tillman took the lead in railroad regulation, though his foe Republican President Theodore Roosevelt out-maneuvered him in passage of the Hepburn Act of 1906. Tillman was the primary sponsor of the Tillman Act, the first federal campaign finance reform law, which was passed in 1907 and banned corporate contributions in federal political campaigns.

Tillman was the younger brother of George Dionysius Tillman (1826 - 1902), a U.S. Representative from South Carolina, serving from 1879 to 1893 (with one interruption).

Senator Tillman died in office in Washington, D.C. and is buried in Ebenezer Cemetery, Trenton, South Carolina. A statue of him is outside the South Carolina State House.[2] Tillman Hall at Clemson University is also named in his honor as an early trustee of the university.


  • Burton, Orville Vernon (1985). In My Father's House Are Many Mansions: Family and Community in Edgefield, South Carolina. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-1619-1.   New social history; online edition
  • Kantrowitz, Stephen (2000). Ben Tillman and the Reconstruction of White Supremacy. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-2530-1.  
  • Stephen Kantrowitz. "Ben Tillman and Hendrix McLane, Agrarian Rebels: White Manhood, 'The Farmers,' and the Limits of Southern Populism." Journal of Southern History. 66#3 (2000) pp 497+. in JSTOR; online edition
  • Logan, Rayford W. (1997) [1965]. The Betrayal of the Negro, from Rutherford B. Hayes to Woodrow Wilson. New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80758-0.   This is an expanded edition of Logan's 1954 book The Negro in American Life and Thought: The Nadir, 1877-1901.
  • Simkins, Francis Butler (1926). The Tillman Movement in South Carolina. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.   online edition
  • Simkins, Francis Butler (2002) [1944]. Pitchfork Ben Tillman, South Carolinian. Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 1-57003-477-X.  
  • Simon, Bryant (1998). A Fabric of Defeat: The Politics of South Carolina Millhands, 1910-1948. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-2401-1.   online edition
  1. ^ Founding
  2. ^ Herbert, Bob (2008-01-22). "The Blight That Is Still With Us". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-22.  

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
John Peter Richardson III
Governor of South Carolina
1890 – 1894
Succeeded by
John Gary Evans
United States Senate
Preceded by
Matthew Butler
United States Senator from South Carolina
1895 – 1918
Succeeded by
Christie Benet

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