George Bell Timmerman, Jr., Governor

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George Bell Timmerman, Jr.

Death: November 29, 1994 (82)
Immediate Family:

Son of George Bell Timmerman, Sr. and Mary Vandiver Timmerman
Husband of Helen Miller Dupre

Managed by: Private User
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About George Bell Timmerman, Jr., Governor,_Jr.

George Bell Timmerman, Jr. (August 11, 1912 – November 29, 1994) was the 105th Governor of South Carolina, from 1955 to 1959.

Born in Anderson County, he was raised in Charleston and graduated from the Citadel. After receiving a law degree from the University of South Carolina, he practiced law with his father in Batesburg. Timmerman enlisted in the US Navy as an officer with the entry of the United States in World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Returning to South Carolina after the war, Timmerman ran as a Democrat for Lieutenant Governor in 1946 on the same ticket as fellow veteran Strom Thurmond. He was elected for a term beginning in 1947 and re-elected in 1950 for another four-year term. In the gubernatorial election of 1954, he faced nominal opposition in the Democratic primary and ran unopposed in the general election becoming the 105th Governor of South Carolina in 1955. In 1956 he was the favorite son presidential candidate of South Carolina at the Democratic National Convention.

After leaving the Governorship in 1959, Timmerman was appointed as a judge to the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in 1967 and served until 1984. He died 10 years later on November 29, 1994.


Governor. Timmerman was born in Anderson on August 11, 1912, the son of George Bell Timmerman and Mary Vandiver Sullivan. The family moved to Batesburg when Timmerman was a child. He attended the Citadel from 1930 to 1933 and earned a bachelor of laws degree from the University of South Carolina in 1937. In 1935 Timmerman married Helen DuPre, but the union would produce no children. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy. After returning home, Timmerman practiced law in Lexington and became involved in politics. He was elected lieutenant governor in 1946 and was reelected in 1950.

In 1954 Timmerman planned to do what no previous lieutenant governor had ever accomplished: advance to the governor’s office by the election route. Seven earlier aspirants had failed to win the governorship in this manner. Timmerman, who had served as lieutenant governor longer than anyone else in the state’s history, triumphed in a landslide, carrying forty-one of the state’s forty-six counties.

Timmerman took office at a crucial juncture in South Carolina history. In 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously issued its landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, which ruled that racially segregated schools were “inherently unequal.” Assuming his office in 1955, Timmerman was presented with the opportunity to lead the state forward in the area of race relations. However, Timmerman resolutely opposed integration, as had Strom Thurmond and James Byrnes, his predecessors as governor. Reaffirming the status quo, he told the state Senate in 1954 that “the ‘separate-but-equal’ policy provides a fair and practicable basis for race relations in South Carolina.” The 1956 session of the legislature has been called the “Segregation Session” for its hostile posture on civil rights, including legislation barring National Association for the Advancement of Colored People members from public employment.

While Timmerman did nothing as dramatic as standing in the schoolhouse door to block entry by African Americans, he certainly did nothing to ease the transition to integration. He ordered Clemson to reject a $350,000 grant from the Atomic Energy Commission because that agency required a nondiscrimination commitment. Timmerman denounced the widely read publication South Carolinians Speak and its call for moderation in race relations. He criticized Billy Graham for endorsing “racial mixing” and forced the evangelist to relocate a crusade slated for the State House. He pressured three African American educational institutions (S.C. State College, Allen University, and Benedict College) to reject integration. Timmerman also urged the S.C. Department of Education to revoke accreditation for Allen’s education program. Ironically, when the department submitted to the governor’s demands, it gave African Americans legal grounds to seek admission to the University of South Carolina.

After his term as governor ended in 1959, Timmerman returned to private life and resumed his law practice. In 1967 the legislature elected him judge of the Eleventh Circuit Court, where he served until 1984. In September 1994 Timmerman was involved in an automobile accident, and he succumbed to his injuries on November 29, 1994.

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