South Carolinians for Eisenhower was formed by Columbia attorney Douglas McKay to support the candidacy of the Republican presidential nominee Dwight Eisenhower. Its ranks included anti-Truman Democrats, independents, and former Dixiecrats. It secured fifty thousand signatures on petitions to place on the ballot a slate of electors pledged to Eisenhower that was separate from that of the regular Republican Party. The McKay-led organization was joined by another group of Eisenhower supporters headed by William A. Kimbel of Myrtle Beach, who was the state’s liaison with the Republican-oriented national Citizens for Eisenhower.
Well financed, South Carolinians for Eisenhower sought with some success to organize the state down to the precinct level. In many counties local Democratic officials worked for the independent slate. When Governor James F. Byrnes endorsed Eisenhower and the candidate addressed 55,000 spectators from the steps of the State House on September 30, 1952, South Carolinians for Eisenhower gained enormous impetus. It looked for a time as if the Eisenhower independents might carry the state.
The outcome of the presidential election was indeed close. Forty-six percent of the state’s vote was cast for Eisenhower by way of the independent slate and three percent on the regular Republican ticket, giving Eisenhower forty-nine percent of the vote. The Democrats won a narrow fifty-one percent statewide victory. The near triumph of South Carolinians for Eisenhower in 1952 provided undisputed evidence that the possibility existed of establishing a competitive Republican Party in the state in the years thereafter.
David, Paul T., Malcolm Moos, and Ralph M. Goldman, eds. Presidential Nominating Politics in 1952. Vol. 3, The South. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1954.
Fowler, Donald L. Presidential Voting in South Carolina 1948–1964. Columbia: Bureau of Governmental Research and Service, University of South Carolina, 1966.
Kalk, Bruce H. The Origins of the Southern Strategy: Two-Party Competition in South Carolina, 1950–1972. Lanham, Md.: Lexington, 2001.
South Carolinians for Eisenhower. Records. Modern Political Collections, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia.