Historian, scholar, broadcaster. Edgar was born in Mobile, Alabama, in 1943, the son of Charles Ernest Edgar, Jr., and Amelia Moore Edgar. He attended the University Military School in Mobile and later received an A.B. from Davidson College (1965) and an M.A. (1967) and a Ph.D. (1969) in history from the University of South Carolina. Edgar served in the U.S. Army from 1969 to 1971, including a year on an advisory team in Vietnam. Afterward he was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and assigned to work with The Papers of Henry Laurens. For several years he was the editor of the Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House of Representatives. In 1972 he joined the History Department faculty at the University of South Carolina, where he was the founder and first director of the university’s highly acclaimed Public History Program. In 1980 he was named as the director of the Institute for Southern Studies, a position he held until 2012. He held four distinguished professorships: Carolina Trustee Professor; Claude Henry Neuffer Professor of Southern Studies; George Washington Professor of History; and Louise Fry Scudder Professor of Liberal Arts. In 2001 he was named a distinguished alumnus of the University of South Carolina.
Edgar is a prolific scholar who has written or edited more than a dozen books and sixty articles and essays. These include South Carolina: A History; Partisans and Redcoats: The Southern Conflict That Turned the Tide of the American Revolution; and The South Carolina Encyclopedia. Foremost among these is South Carolina: A History, the first comprehensive history of the state published in fifty years. For The South Carolina Encyclopedia, Edgar planned, supervised, and edited articles by nearly six hundred contributors prior to its publication by the University of South Carolina Press in 2006. In 2000 South Carolina ETV Radio began broadcasting Walter Edgar’s Journal, a weekly radio series where Edgar interprets South Carolina and southern history, culture, and life. In 2007 South Carolina ETV Radio began broadcasting Edgar’s South Carolina from A to Z.
After leaving active duty in the United States Army, Edgar continued his military career in the Army Reserves. He served in both the 120th Army Reserve Command and the 108th Division (IT), and he retired as a colonel in 1995. His military decorations include the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, and the Meritorious Service Medal (5 oak leaf clusters). In addition he served as an adjunct faculty member of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and, after his retirement, as a member and chair of the Civilian Advisory Board for the Command and General Staff College.
Edgar is active in the community and has served as president of a number of organizations including the South Carolina Historical Society, Historic Columbia Foundation, Friends of the Richland County Public Library, South Caroliniana Society, South Carolina Historical Association, and Columbia Kiwanis Club. In addition he has served on the boards of the Davidson College Alumni Association, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, USC Educational Foundation, Columbia Museum of Art, Governor’s Mansion Foundation, and Palmetto Conservation Foundation. A staunch Episcopalian, he is a member of Trinity Cathedral, where he has served on the vestry, taught adult and youth classes, and been a delegate to diocesan conventions. He is a member of the Forum Club, Komos Club, Centurion Society, and St. Andrew’s Society of Columbia. He is an honorary member of the Society of the Cincinnati.
Edgar has received honorary degrees from Davidson College, the Citadel, Coker College, Coastal Carolina University, and Newberry College and was a member of Blue Key and Omicron Delta Kappa. He was awarded the Order of the Palmetto in 1998, and in 2010 he became the third individual to be named a laureate of the Lightsey Society and was inducted into the South Carolina Higher Education Hall of Fame.
In August 1966 Walter Edgar wed fellow history graduate student Harriette Elizabeth (Betty) Giles of Swansea, South Carolina. They had two children, Elizabeth Rean (b. 1974) and Amelia Moore (b. 1976). Betty Edgar died in July 2005, and in February 2007 he married Cornelia Danforth Gibbons of Columbia.
“At USC, Edgar Is History: Retirement Won’t End Professor’s Love of Sharing S.C. Stories.” The State, May 27, 2012.
South Carolina Hall of Fame. “Dr. Walter Edgar.” South Carolina ETV. Accessed June 18, 2012. http://www.scetv.org/index.php/sc_hall_of_fame/show/walter_edgar/
Walter Edgar. South Carolina Hall of Fame Files. South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, S.C.