Bass, Robert Duncan

September 25, 1904–May 11, 1983

Bass gained his greatest professional fame as one of the nation’s leading scholars of the American Revolution in South Carolina.

Historian, professor of English literature. Bass was born on September 25, 1904, in Scranton, South Carolina (Florence County), to Fletcher Graves Bass, a farmer, and Bertha (Matthews) Bass. He graduated from Britton’s Neck High School in Marion County in 1922 and attended Columbia Presbyterian Theological Seminary from 1925 to 1927. He received a total of three degrees from the University of South Carolina at Columbia: a bachelor’s degree (1926), a master’s degree (1927), and a doctorate (1933) in English literature. On May 25, 1929, he married writer Virginia Wauchope, with whom he would have two children: Robert Wauchope and George Fletcher.

Bass began his professional career as an assistant professor of English literature at the University of South Carolina in 1927 and remained at the university until 1940. From 1934 to 1940 he also served in the United States Naval Reserve, eventually attaining the rank of commander. When the reserves were mobilized in 1940, Bass began his active duty service with the United States Navy. During World War II he was a professor of English literature at the United States Naval Academy (Annapolis, Maryland), and he continued teaching there until 1957. While at the Naval Academy, he conducted postdoctoral studies at the University of London and Cambridge University (1951–52), and Johns Hopkins University (1952).

In 1957 Bass returned to South Carolina, where he was a professor of English literature at Furman University (1957–63), Limestone College (1963–65), and Erskine College (1966–70). At Erskine he served as head of the Department of English until his retirement in 1970. His hobbies included amateur radio, and he owned and operated WCQG radio station.

Bass gained his greatest professional fame as one of the nation’s leading scholars of the American Revolution in South Carolina. He authored several books on the subject, including Swamp Fox: The Life and Campaigns of General Francis Marion; Gamecock: The Life and Campaigns of General Thomas Sumter; The Green Dragoon: The Lives of Banastre Tarleton and Mary Robinson; and Ninety Six: The Struggle for the South Carolina Backcountry.

Bass received a number of accolades for his books. The American Revolution Roundtable named Swamp Fox the best book of the American Revolution in 1959. In addition Bass received a certificate of commendation from the American Association of State and Local History. The Marion Museum honored both Bass and his wife by naming the Robert and Virginia Bass Library and Research Center in their honor. Bass died on May 11, 1983, in Marion, S.C.

Bass, Robert D., 1979. South Carolina Hall of Fame Files. South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, S.C.

“Dr. Robert Duncan Bass.” Find A Grave, Inc. Accessed June 18, 2012. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=27793067

“Robert Duncan Bass, (1904–1983).” Sandlapper Publishing, Inc. Accessed June 18, 2012. http://www.sandlapperpublishing.com/robert_bass.htm

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Bass, Robert Duncan
  • Coverage September 25, 1904–May 11, 1983
  • Author
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date September 25, 2020
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 2, 2016
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