Historian. Alexander Samuel Salley, son of Alexander McQueen Salley and Sallie McMichael, was born on June 16, 1871, on his father’s plantation in Orangeburg County. He attended primary schools in Orangeburg and, from 1881 to 1887, Sheridan’s Classical School in the same city. He entered the Citadel in Charleston on October 1, 1887, and graduated from that institution on July 8, 1892. Late in 1892 Salley undertook the study of law, gaining admission to the South Carolina Bar in 1899. While studying law, he worked for the editorial department of the Charleston News and Courier. Fascinated by history, he also investigated local records and other primary sources, preparing his first monograph based on research in 1897. From that time forward he wrote continuously on South Carolina historical topics, producing countless articles and over one hundred monographs.
On October 1, 1899, Salley assumed the position of secretary, treasurer, and librarian at the South Carolina Historical Society in Charleston, a private organization concerned with the preservation of the state’s past. Simultaneously, the discovery in the State House of Revolutionary War records previously believed to be lost spurred Salley to advocate their preservation. His Sunday News and Courier articles included all sorts of historical matters, as well as plans for the custody and care of the newly found State House records. A South Carolina Historical Society–sponsored bill six years later passed the General Assembly, creating the funding and a full-time secretary for the previously nonfunded, functionless State Historical Commission and legislatively making the agency responsible for all state public records. Salley began as that secretary on April 1, 1905. For the next forty-five years Salley organized, filed, and wrote about South Carolina’s documentary heritage, the beginning of what is now the South Carolina Department of Archives and History. A pioneer in the nationwide archives movement, he was renowned for being a source of information that assisted scholars and citizens. Salley’s lasting contribution to South Carolina is the state’s rich historical traditions preserved in her priceless documents.
Salley died on February 19, 1961, and was buried at Sunnyside Cemetery in Orangeburg. He was survived by his wife, Harriet Gresham Milledge, whom he had married on July 11, 1918.