Agriculturalist, entrepreneur. “Bill” Camp was born on March 14, 1894, near Gaffney in present-day Cherokee County. He was the sixth of eight children born to the middle-class farmer John Clayton Camp and Mary Jane Atkins. Camp grew up immersed in the upland cotton culture. He attended public schools in Gaffney and entered Clemson Agricultural College in 1912. At Clemson, Camp majored in agronomy with special emphasis on cotton breeding, graduating in 1916. On December 14, 1921, he married Georgia Anna App. The marriage produced two sons. Georgia died in 1943, and on January 18, 1956, Camp married Louise Wise. Camp’s second marriage produced three children.
After graduation, Camp worked briefly in the South Carolina lowcountry studying Sea Island cotton. In 1917 he joined the United States Department of Agriculture’s Cotton Section. Seeking a fabric for aircraft manufacture, the agency sent Camp to California to conduct cotton experiments. With the boll weevil ravaging the South, the agency hoped to foster cotton culture west of the Rocky Mountains. Camp introduced the long-staple Pima variety in California’s San Joaquin Valley and as far south as Arizona. Camp’s efforts bore fruit, and soon thousands of acres were thriving. Later he recommended another variety, Acala, which was also planted widely. For bringing a promising crop to the state, Camp was hailed as California’s “Cotton Man.”
In the 1930s Camp went to Washington as a policy maker with the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. Returning to California in 1936, he acquired land near Bakersfield and launched his own farming operation. Camp prospered, amassing a considerable fortune. A generous man, he endowed institutions in California as well as in his native South Carolina. Camp received honorary doctorates from several colleges, including his alma mater, Clemson University, in 1982. He died on August 1, 1986, in Bakersfield, California.
Briggs, William J., and Henry Cauthen. The Cotton Man: Notes on the Life and Times of Wofford B. (“Bill”) Camp. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1983.