James H. Thomason Library

Brief History of the Library

On a beautiful fall day in 1974, Jim Thomason spoke a few simple words at the library dedication, and the entire Presbyterian College student body gave him a standing ovation. "I didn't have even the smallest chance to get a formal education, which caused hardship for me," he said. "We hope the students and others will use this library to the fullest extent."

Laurens County native, James H. Thomason, Sr. and his wife, Sarah, a retired English teacher, had contributed very generously toward its cost. After owning businesses and selling real estate in Laurens and Greenville, Thomason's greatest investment successes came through the New York Stock Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade. He also engaged in tree and cattle farming near Mountville, S.C.

In recognition of his interest in Presbyterian College, a bronze plaque at the entrance of the library bears this inscription:

"Generous benefactor of higher education, sharing with youth his enthusiasm for learning . . . Laurens County native, astute business leader . . . a gracious man of good will and integrity, faithful to his trust as churchman, citizen, humanitarian."

C. Hugh Holman, distinguished alumnus, author, and Kenan professor of English at the University of North Carolina, delivered the dedication address. He spoke warmly of what the PC library had meant to him when he was a student at Presbyterian College and made an eloquent appeal for diligence in the quest for knowledge.

Before the new building was opened, the library had shared space with the college administration (in what is now the Smith Administration Building) under crowded conditions that were neither attractive nor conducive to study. The "old library" also served as a community library since the building was actually owned by the city of Clinton, having been built with government money in the 1940's. After some delicate negotiations, the college bought the building from the city. The city then applied this money to the building of a new library for Clinton that was then tied into the state library system. The new municipal library next to the Clinton City Hall opened in 1973, a year before Jim and Sarah Thomason cut the ribbon that opened the new college library.

A collection of Caroliniana is housed in the Dillard-Elliott Room, which memorializes James Dillard, an early Laurens County physician, and Charles B. Elliott, a Columbia attorney who also taught law at the University of South Carolina. Caroliniana holdings include gifts from the personal collections of the college's founder, William Plumer Jacobs, Frank Dudley Jones, late professor of South Carolina history at PC who nurtured the library collection in its early years, and J. Isaac Copeland, late curator of the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This collection now numbers approximately 3,000 items and includes some rare original editions.

In 2004, ground was once again broken at the James H. Thomason Library. A 15,000 square foot addition to the existing building houses an expanded Archive & Special Collections area and Media Center.

The library has always been an important part of the Presbyterian College program. The collection is intended to provide PC, as a teaching institution, with a lean, muscular collection while cooperatively partnering with other institutions to provide access to electronic resources. The James H. Thomason Library is a facility in which students and faculty can work in pleasurable surroundings, and in an atmosphere that encourages serious study.

 

Lennart Pearson

Library Director Emeritus

Presbyterian College

1968-1997

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