In 1935 he was elected Speaker Pro Tem of the S.C. House of Representatives. Two years later he was chosen Speaker of the House. He held this position from 1937 to 1973 with the exception of the period from 1947 to 1951, when he did not oppose Governor Strom Thurmond’s candidate for Speaker, C. Bruce Littlejohn. In 1951 Blatt was reelected Speaker of the House by a vote of 113 to 9. He held the position until stepping down in 1973.
Legislator. Blatt was born in Blackville on February 27, 1895, the second son of Nathan and Mollie Blatt. His father, an Orthodox Jew who had emigrated from Russia in 1893, ran a store in Blackville. Blatt attended the University of South Carolina from 1912 to 1917, graduating with a law degree. He was admitted to the bar in June 1917, and in December 1917 he joined the law firm of future governor J. Emile Harley. During World War I, Blatt served in France from 1918 to 1919. On March 18, 1920, he married Ethel Green. They had one son.
Blatt’s political career began in 1930, when he ran for a seat in the S.C. House of Representatives from Barnwell County. He was defeated in the run-off primary but was elected without opposition two years later. This marked the beginning of a political career in the House that would span six decades. In 1935 he was elected Speaker Pro Tem. Two years later he was chosen Speaker of the House of Representatives. He held this position from 1937 to 1973 with the exception of the period from 1947 to 1951, when he did not oppose Governor Strom Thurmond’s candidate for Speaker, C. Bruce Littlejohn. In 1951 Blatt was reelected Speaker of the House by a vote of 113 to 9. He held the position until stepping down in 1973. He remained in the House of Representatives, however, where members gave him the honorary designation of Speaker Emeritus.
As a political leader, Blatt was a conservative. He defined good government as a mixture of progressive action and judicial restraint, all exerted toward balance, for the right thing in the right amount of time. As a legislator, he was a strong supporter of public education. He supported the establishment of a three percent sales tax for education, the technical education system, and educational television. He advocated efforts by the state to expand the physical facilities of the state’s colleges and universities. He also served on the Barnwell District Board of Education from 1927 to 1962 and the University of South Carolina Board of Trustees from 1936 to 1948. He supported the state hospital and resisted efforts to reinstitute Prohibition in the state. He was a strong proponent of industrial development and was supportive of the establishment of the Savannah River Site as well as the development of the state’s ports. He felt that industry and government should cooperate in order to achieve development. As such, he was a leader in the passage of the state’s right-to-work law in 1954. He also was a proponent of highway improvements. Not only did South Carolina develop many roads in rural areas, the state also developed its interstate highway system more quickly than was the case with most states.
Blatt died on May 14, 1986. At the time of his death he was the longest-serving state legislator in the United States, having served for more than fifty-three years. The man who considered himself “just a darn good country lawyer” was buried next to Holy Apostle Episcopal Church in Barnwell.
Blatt, Solomon. Papers. Modern Political Collections, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia.
Cauthen, John. Speaker Blatt: His Challenges Were Greater. Columbia, S.C.: R. L. Bryan, 1965.
Renick, Timothy D. “Solomon Blatt: An Explanation into the Conservative Racial Views of a Jewish Politician in the Deep South, 1937–1986, with an Accompanying Guide to the Solomon Blatt Papers.” Master’s thesis, University of South Carolina, 1989.