Letters to President Robert C. Edwards

The influx of letters to Pres. R. C. Edwards' office from students and alumni in response to the ongoing protests of October 1969.

In response to the ongoing protests from Tigerama to the Confederate symbols at football games, Clemson President Robert C. Edwards began receiving letters from all across the South. Most letters, arriving to the university from October 27th to November 14th, came from Clemson alumni expressing their disappointment at the rumor that the campus administration had banned the band from playing "Dixie" and the cheerleaders running the 20-foot long Confederate flag onto the field. The majority of alumni letters included the same justifications for keeping the Confederate symbols: the outcry arose from a student minority, the symbols represent the regional spirit of Clemson University as a Southern institution, and the Confederate past held fewer connections to slavery in than the United States (Clemson University Special Collections).

In a few cases, the letters sent to Pres. Edwards contained overtly racist tones. One letter submitted by a graduate student lambasted the university administration stating the Confederate symbology controversy might "establish a precedent in academic affairs…that any minority group may demand that anything which offends it must be stricken from the academic community." The writer then mocks the minority status of the Clemson African American community by declaring himself a minority due to his unique name, birthday, and who his parents are. The letter concludes with the writer requesting the university modify the student body by "adding 10,000 beautiful girls between the ages of 18 and 26 years" because "the sight of 5000 male students" offends him. He furthermore requests Clemson to remove "all black students who find Dixie offensive" as he "finds them most offensive." In another instance, a writer argued "colored people" get whatever they want, and Joseph Grant’s release of the SLBI letter to the news media was in search of the publicity they crave.

Aside from the occasional personalized response to someone he had greater familiarity with, Pres. Edwards’ replied to most letters with a routine message. The return letters would first address where the complainant received the news that the Clemson administration had banned Confederate symbolism and how said outlet was inaccurate. This was followed up with a "I need not remind you that we daily face extremely complex and equally complicated problems, some of which appear to defy solution." (Clemson Special Collections) These letters would then conclude with Edwards imploring the complainant to not discontinue their support of Clemson "based upon garbled information." All-in-all, Edwards’ response letters are indicative of in reluctance to take any action in relation to the campus protests or the evacuation of African American Clemson students.