DuBose, Louise Jones
DuBose returned to South Carolina in 1931, receiving her M.A. in psychology from the University of South Carolina. After graduation, she taught history at USC, and was nearly fired from her position at one point for her then-controversial interest in African American history and culture.
Poet, journalist, editor, educator. Louise Jones DuBose was born near Columbus, Georgia, to the Reverend Frank Dudley Jones of Clinton, South Carolina, and Catherine Wyman of Aiken, South Carolina. Her father served as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Clinton and as a member of the faculty of Presbyterian College. Her father’s university teaching– he taught history, psychology, and philosophy–inspired DuBose to pursue her own scholarly interests.
DuBose was interested in writing, research, and southern history early on; over time, she added regional music and photography to the list. DuBose preferred to be called “Ms. DuBose,” a new form of address, and prided herself on not being a “quiet woman.” She attended Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, and Chicora College for Women in Columbia, South Carolina, for a short period. In 1918 she began work with the State newspaper in Columbia and attended the University of South Carolina where she received her bachelor’s degree in 1920.
After graduation, DuBose moved to Columbus, Georgia, where she lived with her aunt Clara Gunby. She worked for the Columbus, Georgia Inquirer under her often-used penname Nancy Telfair, writing on everything from national news events to society happenings. She occasionally worked as a sports reporter as well, becoming the first woman in Georgia to report on a professional prize fight.
It was in Columbus that she began writing historical and biographical studies. Her first large-scale work, Women in Columbus 1828–1928, remains unpublished, housed in the Simon Schwob Memorial Library at Columbus State University. On the strength of that early effort, however, the Columbus Office Supply Company hired her, as Nancy Telfair, to write the centennial history of Columbus. For this book A History of Columbus, Georgia, 1828–1928, she produced a series of bio- graphical “sketches” of over 100 citizens and historical figures.
DuBose returned to South Carolina in 1931, receiving her M.A. in psychology from the University of South Carolina. After graduation, she taught history at USC, and was nearly fired from her position at one point for her then-controversial interest in African American history and culture. Ever the renaissance woman, she also served briefly on the faculty of the Naval Flight Preparatory School as an instructor of mathematics and navigation.
In 1934 she began work as assistant state director of the South Carolina Writers’ Project, under Mabel Montgomery. Part of the larger Federal Writers’ Project, a program designed in 1935 as part of the U.S. Works Progress Administration, the South Carolina Writers’ Project initially had a single goal in mind: to create a detailed guide to the state and its major cities. DuBose worked heavily on the South Carolina Guidebook (Oxford University Press, 1941). In a 1981 interview, she recalled time spent on the road conducting interviews, taking photographs, and checking that all directions provided in the guide were correct within a tenth of a mile. The guidebook itself was a collection of nineteen essays on the culture and history of South Carolina, and DuBose’s writing, although unaccredited, is thought to comprise the bulk of the collection. An occasional photographer, DuBose also worked on four “picture books” of South Carolina during her time at the SCWP: Peedee Panorama, Beneath Some Kinds of Sky, Ninety-Six, and Sea Islands to Sand Hills.
Louise DuBose also dabbled in writing for the theater. Although she produced several one-act plays including Page Boys and If I Could Only Tell You, her only dramatic work to find a publisher was The Woman from Off: A One Act Play (1936). Her play Silver Bullet won first prize in a competition sponsored by Columbia’s Town Theater.
Dubose’s exposure to South Carolina’s oral history inspired the non-fiction collection South Carolina Folktales (University of South Carolina, 1941), featuring animal tales, superstitious practices, and oral narratives passed down through generations in the state’s lowcountry. It is an extensive collection akin to Ambrose E. Gonzales’s The Black Border (The State, 1922) in terms of content and linguistic study.
DuBose became an authority on South Carolina folksongs and ballads, especially African American and religious music. She gave several invited lectures on the topic, occasionally joined by her daughter Rowena “Boo” DuBose, who performed many of the pieces.
DuBose’s poetry appeared in numerous periodicals including Bozart, American Mercury, Poetry, and the New York Times, and was reprinted in several anthologies. Windstar, her one and only book of poetry, was published in 1943 by Bostick and Thornley. She called the collection of sixty poems her “chiselings of infinity upon the granite rock of doom.” Her poetry achieved notable recognition nationwide, receiving awards from the Poetry Society of South Carolina and the Swope Prize for Nature Poetry (1950). Her interest in poetry influenced the formation of the Columbia Chapter of the South Carolina Poetry Society, and she became the director of the group in 1951.
In 1944 DuBose expanded her teaching at the University of South Carolina to include sociology and English. That same year she became associate editor of South Carolina Magazine. In October and November of 1945, DuBose took part in a “Goodwill Tour” promoting South Carolina and South Carolina Magazine, travelling 5,000 miles from Bangor, Maine, to Key West, Florida, in three weeks and meeting with cultural figures along the way. Her travelogue was published in the magazine.
Around the same time, DuBose began work with the University of South Carolina Press (established 1944), playing an important role in the company’s first releases; and in 1950 she became the third chief editor, a position she held for sixteen years.
From 1946 to 1949 DuBose produced over 250 radio scripts for a regular South Carolina series called Palmetto Landmarks. The topics ranged from cultural and historical events to local legends and places of regional interest.
In 1962 DuBose published her biography of fellow South Carolinian, artist Blondelle Octavia Edwards Malone. This volume entitled Enigma: The Career of Blondelle Malone in Art and Society, 1879–1951, As Told in Her Letters and Diaries (University of South Carolina Press) outlined the sometimes scandalous life of this singular artist and world traveler.
The next year DuBose served as supervising editor of South Carolina Lives: The Palmetto Who’s Who, A Reference Edition Recording the Biographies of Contemporary Leaders in South Carolina, with Special Emphasis on Their Achievements in Making it One of America’s Greatest States (Historical Record Association). This directory was designed, as she stated in the foreword, to recognize “the men and women responsible for South Carolina’s achievements.”
Dubose retired from the University of South Carolina Press and academia in 1966, but she remained busy with various clubs and philanthropic organizations. In 1975 she was invited to give a seminar at Columbus College on the role of women in the history of Columbus, Georgia, over forty years after her original study was written.
DuBose, who died on August 4, 1985, was posthumously inducted into the South Carolina Academy of Authors in 2001 in recognition of her many literary accomplishments.
Epps, Edwin C. Literary South Carolina. Spartanburg, S.C.: Hub City Writers Project, 2004.
Louise Jones DuBose, interview by Thomas L. Johnson, September 21, 1981, South Caroliniana Library Oral History Collection, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia.
Louise Jones DuBose Papers, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina.