You know him by the bow tie. The seersucker suit. The exquisite manners. The Southern courtliness. The radio voice. The indefatigable, even voracious interest in all things South Carolina.
— Claudia Smith Brinson, The State

walter bellingrath edgar

Born in Mobile, Alabama, Walter graduated from Davidson College in 1965. He received his M.A. (1967) and Ph.D. (1969) in History from the University of South Carolina. He holds honorary degrees from Davidson College, the Citadel, Coker College, Coastal Carolina University, and Newberry College and is a member of Blue Key and ODK. In 2008 he was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame. In 2010 he became the third individual named a Laureate of the Lightsey Society and inducted into the South Carolina Higher Education Hall of Fame. 

             After completing two years of active duty with the U.S. Army, he was awarded a Post-Doctoral Fellowship by the National Historical Publication Commission and assigned to work with the Papers of Henry Laurens. For several years he was the editor of the Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House of Representatives. In 1972 he joined the History Department Faculty at USC. He was the founder and first director of the University’s highly acclaimed Public History Program. In 1980 he was named director of the Institute for Southern Studies, a position he held until 2012. He held four distinguished professorships: Carolina Trustee Professor; Claude Henry Neuffer Professor of Southern Studies; George Washington Professor of History; and Louise Fry Scudder Professor of Liberal Arts. In 2001 he was named a distinguished alumnus of the University of South Carolina.

            During his forty-year career he taught a variety of history courses, but one of his favorites—an undergraduate course in South Carolina History (1670-1865)—was always over-subscribed. In recent years he offered an evening lecture series that attracted hundreds of patrons from across the state.

            Edgar is a prolific scholar and has written or edited more than a dozen books and 60 articles and essays. His articles and professional papers have been published in Europe as well as this country. His South Carolina: A History has sold more than 60,000 copies to date and achieved both public and scholarly acclaim. Among his other publications are The South Carolina Encyclopedia, Partisans and Redcoats, The Letterbook of Robert Pringle, and South Carolina in the Modern Age. He willingly shares his passion for South Carolina by speaking to civic, patriotic, and school groups across the state.

            A long-time member of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, he has served on the vestry, been a delegate to diocesan conventions, and a youth and adult church school teacher. When the Cathedral observed its bicentennial in 2012-2013, he and his wife Nela co-chaired the year-long celebration.

            He has been active in the community and served as president of the following organizations: South Carolina Historical Society, Historic Columbia Foundation, Friends of the Richland County Public Library, South Caroliniana Society, South Carolina Historical Association and the Columbia Kiwanis Club. In addition, he served on the boards of the Davidson College Alumni Association, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, USC Educational Foundation, Columbia Museum of Art, Governor’s Mansion Foundation, South Carolina Hall of Fame, and Palmetto Conservation Foundation. He currently is a Trustee of the Bellingrath-Morse Foundation and a member of the board of directors of the Mobile Carnival Museum and the Bellingrath Gardens and Home Foundation.

            From 1969 to 1971 he was a Captain in the US Army and served on an advisory team in Quang Tri Province, Vietnam. Upon completion of his active duty, he joined the US Army Reserves, served with both the 120th Army Reserve Command and the 108th Division (IT), and retired as a Colonel in 1995. His last reserve assignment was as Chief of Staff of the 108th Div. (IT) in Charlotte. His military decorations include the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, and the Meritorious Service Medal (5 oak leaf clusters). In addition he served as an adjunct faculty member of the US Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and, after his retirement, as a member and chair of the Civilian Advisory Board for the Command and General Staff College.

            Since 2000, he has hosted “Walter Edgar’s Journal” and since 2007, “South Carolina from A to Z” on SC ETV Radio.

            His hobbies are gardening and squash [the game, not the vegetable]. He raises heirloom camellias and has a stack of blue ribbons that he has won at the South Carolina State Fair for his flowers. He still plays a competitive game of singles squash in Columbia and enjoys doubles at the Charleston Squash Club.

curriculum vitae

Walter's extensive academic achievements are detailed in his Curriculum Vitae

photo gallery

From childhood photos to current family portraits, Walter's life is highlighted in this photographic collection.