The South Carolina Good Roads Association (SCGRA) was a catalyst for change in transportation policy and road construction in the late 1890s and the first four decades of the twentieth century. Seventy promoters of good roads from all parts of the state founded the organization at Columbia on November 10, 1897. General Roy Stone, director of the U.S. Office of Road Inquiry, encouraged its formation, as he did similar organizations in other states. The SCGRA originally emphasized the construction and maintenance of quality sand-clay, stone, or macadam farm-to-market roads, and it had strong backing from various railroads, especially the Southern Railway. But by the 1920s it focused more on the promotion of professionally built and maintained hard-surfaced intrastate and interstate trunkline highways.
The SCGRA chose Colonel Jonathan P. Thomas and C. C. Wilson, a civil engineer from Columbia, as its first president and its first secretary, respectively. The association met at least annually in January or February, usually in Columbia, with the governor, state legislators, and other state and national officials often attending and actively participating in the program, especially in its early years. Good-roads promoters, civil engineers, and dealers connected with road-materials and road-building equipment were prominent members.
The SCGRA was among the first South Carolina organizations to advocate professionally built and maintained roads, a state highway commission, and a powerful state highway department at a time when the general public was slow to accept these innovations. The SCGRA had strong ties to other South Carolina and regional good-roads organizations, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Public Roads (founded in 1893), American Automobile Association (founded in 1902), American Association for Highway Improvement (1910–1917), and the American Association of State Highway Officials (founded in 1914).
Hilles, William C. “The Good Roads Movement in the United States, 1880–1916.” Master’s thesis, Duke University, 1958.
Moore, John Hammond. The South Carolina Highway Department, 1917–1987. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1987.
Preston, Howard Lawrence. Dirt Roads to Dixie: Accessibility and Modernization in the South, 1885–1935. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1991.
Suttles, William L. “The Struggle for State Control of Highways in South Carolina, 1908–1930.” Master’s thesis, University of South Carolina, 1971.