September 23, 2009

New Discoveries in the Gasque Papers

“The next time you hear anybody say a Congressman does not have anything to do, you can just deny that fact. It is the hardest work I have undertook.” --Allard H. Gasque, March 14, 1924

Check out an updated finding aid for the Gasque Papers that includes added material and highlights documents and subject areas previously unknown to even the archivists here at SCPC.

Gasque represented SC’s 6th Congressional District. His collection is dominated by constituent correspondence from 1923 to his death in 1938. These letters provide insight into issues such as patronage, veteran’s affairs, and post office politics. The patronage letters take up the most space and show the sacristy of jobs from 1923-1938.

Much of Gasque’s mail concerns the selection of local post masters. He could select from among the three individuals scoring highest on a federal exam to fill any openings for these desirable, remunerative, and hotly contested positions. Letters of recommendations from locals highlight the political ramifications of an appointment and the political battles that waged between potential appointees. Gasque fumed over the local corruption and was frustrated by his inability to influence patronage.

Veterans, their widows and families held a special place in Gasque’s heart. Correspondence poured in from Civil War widows and from veterans of the Mexican American, Indian, Spanish American, and First World wars. Gasque supported a number of pieces of legislation to aid widows and families, as well as assisting veterans with pension claims.

Gasque suffered from heart troubles and illness throughout his career. Get well letters poured in after he suffered a major heart attack in 1935. He lost his battle with heart disease just hours after the close of the 75th Congress in 1938. His wife served his remaining term and his long time secretary, John Lanneau McMillan, was elected to Gasque's former seat and served through 1972. McMillan's papers are also held by SCPC.

--contributed by Debbie Davendonis Todd

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