Author, historian. Rogers was born on June 15, 1922, in Charleston, the son of George Calvin Rogers, a school administrator, and Helen Bean. He attended the Craft School and the High School of Charleston. After receiving an A.B. degree from the College of Charleston in 1943, Rogers enlisted in the army and served during World War II as a meteorologist. His tour of duty in Great Britain nurtured his interest in the study of history. After his discharge, Rogers enrolled in the University of Chicago to study American and British history. He earned an M.A. degree in 1948 and a doctorate in history in 1953. His interest in and affection for English ways influenced his choice of research topics throughout his life.
Rogers began teaching at the University of Pennsylvania in 1953. In 1958 he joined the history department of the University of South Carolina (USC), where he remained for the rest of his career. Rogers’s first book, Evolution of a Federalist: William Loughton Smith of Charleston (1758–1812), published in 1962, was a biography of a prominent South Carolina planter-politician. This study demonstrated Rogers’s knowledge of political biography, elite culture, and the politics of the new American nation, subjects that informed his life’s work. In 1965 he joined a documentary editing project, the Papers of Henry Laurens, which was sponsored by the South Carolina Historical Society and housed at the USC history department. From 1971 to 1981 Rogers was chief editor, and the project published nine volumes of Laurens’s letters, business papers, and political records. In addition to the Laurens volumes, Rogers published Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys in 1969. His History of Georgetown County, South Carolina (1970) was the first modern history of a South Carolina county. It received an award for merit from the American Association of State and Local History and has been a model for other county histories. In addition to these and other books, Rogers published more than forty articles, essays, and introductions. The South Carolina Historical Magazine was his main vehicle of scholarly publication. He published twelve articles in the magazine and was its editor from 1965 to 1970. One of his articles, “Names Not Numbers,” published in a 1988 issue of the William and Mary Quarterly, voiced his lifelong scholarly interest in personalities and events and admonished historians not to neglect the human and idiosyncratic elements of their subjects in favor of statistics and thesis-driven studies.
Rogers was a distinguished teacher and administrator. He was chair of the USC history department from 1983 to 1986 and served on the boards of the South Carolina Tricentennial Commission, the South Carolina Archives and History Commission, and the South Carolina Historical Society. Rogers retired from USC in 1986 and continued to write and publish on South Carolina history for another decade. He was awarded an honorary doctor of letters from the College of Charleston, was a member of the American Antiquarian Society, and in 1997 was inducted into the South Carolina Academy of Authors. He died on October 7, 1997, and was buried in Charleston’s Magnolia Cemetery, the resting place of the South Carolina historians William Gilmore Simms, William James Rivers, Yates Snowden, and Anna Wells Rutledge.
Chesnutt, David R., and Clyde N. Wilson, Jr., eds. The Meaning of South Carolina History: Essays in Honor of George C. Rogers, Jr. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1991.
Obituary. Charleston Post and Courier, October 9, 1997, pp. B1, B6.
———. Journal of Southern History 64 (February 1998): 187–88.