Attorney, legislator, historian. Pope was born in Kinards, Newberry County, on July 28, 1913, to Thomas Harrington Pope and Marie Gary. His father, a physician, moved the family to the town of Newberry in 1920. Pope graduated from the Citadel in 1935 and took his law degree at the University of South Carolina in 1938. In 1936, at the end of his first year in law school, he won his first election to the state House of Representatives from Newberry. In the House he immediately gained a reputation for independence, supporting bills to restructure state government, to create a state police system and a board of regents for state colleges, and to end child labor. He supported Solomon Blatt’s candidacy for Speaker, and Blatt took a special interest in Pope’s career. Reelected in 1938, Pope resigned his seat in 1939 when he was named counsel to the state Unemployment Compensation Commission.
With America’s entry into World War II, Pope, a National Guard captain, was called to active duty. He served in North Africa and Italy with the 107th Antiaircraft Battalion. By the end of the war, he had earned a promotion to lieutenant colonel. When one of Newberry’s seats in the General Assembly became vacant in the spring of 1945, local supporters arranged his election in his absence. Pope returned to take his seat in time for the 1946 session, putting him one step ahead of the large number of veterans elected that summer. Speaker Blatt had come under fire in the gubernatorial campaign that summer, and under pressure, he stepped aside from the Speaker’s chair after several challengers, including Pope, stepped forward.
When the legislature convened in January 1947, Pope faced Spartanburg attorney Bruce Littlejohn in a contest for Speaker of the House. Newly elected governor Strom Thurmond campaigned openly for Littlejohn, who won the election. Two years later, when Littlejohn left the House to become a judge, Pope succeeded him as Speaker. His tenure was short as well, for he left the House to run for governor in 1950. Soon after Pope announced, James F. Byrnes entered the race, and Pope lost badly to the senior statesman. He never again ran for public office.
Pope resumed his law practice and remained active in legal, business, and military circles. He retired as a brigadier general in the National Guard in 1957 and served as president of the South Carolina National Guard Association. A supporter of Newberry College, he chaired the state Foundation of Independent Colleges. He was president of the South Carolina Bar Association in 1964 and served on the State Ports Authority from 1958 to 1965 and on the Commission on Archives and History from 1965 to 1975. His interest in local history led him to write the two-volume History of Newberry County (1973, 1992).
Pope was married to Mary Waties Lumpkin on January 3, 1940. They had three children. Pope died on August 23, 1999, and was buried in Rosemont Cemetery, Newberry.
Pope, Thomas H., Jr. History of Newberry County. 2 vols. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1973, 1992.