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Rivers family papers

Identifier: Mss 0199

Collection Overview

The Rivers family papers span the years 1800 to 2011, with the bulk of the material concentrated in the years of 1920 to 2007. The collection is composed primarily of correspondence, programs, publications, newspaper clippings, journals, photographs, slides, scrapbooks, audiovisual material, genealogical material, and personal files belonging to and concerning the Rivers family. The papers particularly concern L. Mendel Rivers' legislative work as a member of Congress from the first district of South Carolina and as the chairman of the House Committee on Armed Services.

The Rivers family papers are primarily comprised of material created by L. Mendel Rivers' wife Margaret Middleton Rivers and their children Margaret Rivers Eastman (Peggy), L. Mendel Rivers, Jr., and Marion Rivers Ravenel Cato. The papers present a unique perspective on L. Mendel Rivers' congressional service through family journals, personal letters, home movies, audio recordings, interviews, slides, photographs, family scrapbooks, his wife's poetry, memoirs, published books, and other unique sources.

Reflected throughout this collection is the congressman's deep concern for the armed services and security of the United States. In particular his dedication to ensuring the well-being of military personnel and their families by pushing through an armed services pay raise, his influence and opinions concerning the Vietnam War, his efforts to strengthen the armed forces (particularly through the creation of a nuclear-powered navy), and his efforts to strengthen Charleston's economy by bringing many military-related industries to the first district.

Notable correspondents and those pictured include: Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and Herbert W. Bush, Vice-President Spiro Agnew, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamera, General William Westmoreland, General Douglas MacArthur, General Curtis LeMay, Chiang Kai-shek, President Park Chung Hee of South Korea, Madame Chiang Kai-shek, Senators J. Strom Thurmond and Fritz Hollings, Speaker of the House John McCormack, Representatives Carl Vinson, Mendel J. Davis, and Frank Boykin, J. C. Long, General Mark W. Clark, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, Mayors of Charleston Joseph P. Riley, Sr. and J. Palmer Gaillard, Jr., President of the College of Charleston Theodore S. Stern, evangelist Billy Graham, former world heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, and actress Eva Gabor Jameson.


  • Creation: 1800-2011
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1920-2007


Language of Material

Materials in English

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research, with the following exception: Series 12. Born digital files, 1999-2001. Access is restricted to materials in this series. Materials are currently unprocessed. Materials are not available in their original format and must be reformatted to digital access copies.

Copyright Notice

The nature of the College of Charleston's archival holdings means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. Special Collections claims only physical ownership of most archival materials.

The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

Historical Note

L. Mendel Rivers (1905-1970) served as a member of Congress from the first district of South Carolina from 1941 to 1970 and was the House Committee on Armed Services chairman from 1965 to 1970. Rivers was instrumental in several aspects of the administrative policy of the Vietnam War. He helped define the terms of the draft, and he aided in securing funding for military activities. He is generally credited with helping to build the "nuclear navy" and with supporting the development of the "C5-A" aircraft. Rivers acquired a reputation as a defender of the military and as a "war hawk." He prided himself on his reputation as a champion of the ordinary service man.

Rivers was also active in the fight to save segregation. He was a strident defender of the racial status quo. In 1948, he was the first South Carolina Congressman to declare himself a "Dixiecrat" and openly support J. Strom Thurmond's candidacy for the presidency. He bolted the Democratic Party again in 1952 when he supported Dwight D. Eisenhower in the presidential election. Rivers felt that the Democratic Party had adopted a "liberal" civil rights platform in the contest. Although he publicly supported the Democratic Party for the remainder of his career, numerous sources charged that he had secretly aided George Wallace's "independent" campaign for president in 1968. Also, in a 1956 questionnaire, Rivers was the only South Carolina congressman to declare himself a member of the White Citizens' Council.

Throughout his nearly three decades in Congress, Rivers was never seriously challenged in either the Democratic Primary or the general election. He was instrumental in the development of numerous defense industries in his district, especially the tremendous growth of the Charleston Naval Base. Rivers also fought to make the College of Charleston a state institution in the late 1960s.

Margaret Middleton Rivers, also known as "Marwee," married L. Mendel Rivers on September 1, 1938, and together they had three children. She was an active writer of poetry, family history, and the memoirs Mendel and Mendel and Me, about her husband L. Mendel Rivers. She later remarried to Alvin H. Hughey in 1980.

Their eldest daughter, Margaret Middleton Rivers Eastmen, also known as "Peg" or "Peggy," was born in 1939. She has written several books about Charleston's local history as well as contributioning to the memoirs Mendel and Mendel and Me. Peg married Robert Eastman in 1962.

Their second child, Marion Rivers Ravenel Cato, was born in 1943. She also wrote a memoir about her father entitled Rivers Delivers. She married Rene Ravenel in 1975 and was later remarried to Wayland H. Cato, Jr. in 1998.

Their youngest child, L. Mendel Rivers, Jr., was born in 1947, and served as a Democrat in the South Carolina House of Representatives representing Charleston from 1972 to 1974. He also served as a family court judge, lawyer, and columnist for The News and Courier. Mendel Jr. also contributed to the writings about his father in the books Mendel and Mendel and Me.


28.0 linear feet (21 cartons, 1 document box, 1 oversize box, 25 audiocassettes, 36 compact discs, 5 DVDs, 3 reel-to-reel audio tapes, 2 optical disc drives)


Correspondence, programs, publications, newspaper clippings, journals, photographs, slides, scrapbooks, audiovisual material, genealogical material, and personal files belonging to and concerning the Rivers family. Materials primarily relate to L. Mendel Rivers' service in Congress from 1941 to 1970, the writings of his wife Margaret Middleton Rivers, and their three children Margaret Rivers Eastman, Marion Rivers Ravenel Cato, and L. Mendel Rivers, Jr. Topics of particular interest include the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the Charleston Naval Yard, and the life and career of Congressman L. Mendel Rivers.

Collection Arrangement

  1. Correspondence, 1922-2008
  2. Personal files, 1800-2007 (bulk 1940-2007)
  3. Programs, 1938-2007 (bulk 1962-2007)
  4. Publications, 1927-2002
  5. Newspaper clippings, 1941-2002
  6. Margaret Middleton Rivers' journals, 1927-2001
  7. Photographs, 1912-2000 (bulk 1930-2000)
  8. Slides, 1950-1969
  9. Scrapbooks and photo albums, 1927-2000
  10. Genealogy, 1869-2011
  11. Audiovisual materials, 1946-1987
  12. Born digital files, 1999-2001

Acquisitions Information

Materials donated in 2000 by Margaret Middleton Rivers. Materials donated in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2011 by Margaret Rivers Eastman. Materials donated in 2002 and 2003 by L. Mendel Rivers, Jr. Materials donated in 2007 by Marion Rivers Ravenel Cato. Materials donated in 2008 by Dorothy Middleton Anderson.

Related Material

Related materials in Special Collections include the L. Mendel Rivers Papers (Mss 0094) and the L. Mendel Rivers Papers (Mss 0198).

Processing Information

Processed by Matthew Kruse, January 2015.

Inventory of the Rivers Family Papers, 1800-2011
Processed by: Matthew Kruse; machine-readable finding aid created by: Matthew Kruse
Description rules
Language of description
Script of description
Funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) supported the processing of this collection and encoding of the finding aid.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Special Collections
College of Charleston Libraries
66 George Street
Charleston South Carolina 29424
(843) 953-8016
(843) 953-6319 (Fax)