Louise Pettus Stories

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Taken from a recent article in The Herald about Louise Pettus
By Sula Pettibon The Herald

Louise Pettus has spent a lifetime researching history in archives across the nation.

Much of that time has been at Ida Jane Dacus Library at Winthrop University, where she graduated in 1946 and taught for 22 years.

On Wednesday, Winthrop President Anthony DiGiorgio announced that Pettus has donated $400,000 to support the archives and special collections. To thank her, the university will name the department the Louise Pettus Archives.

"Honoring her is such a wonderful way to connect Winthrop's history with its future and with the new faces among us," DiGiorgio said during his annual opening address.

He called Pettus "an exceptional friend to Winthrop University -- an alumna and a chronicler of this institution's and this region's rich history."

Pettus, 80, who retired from Winthrop in 1989, has written a regular newspaper column and eight books. Book topics include the history of Lancaster County; Springs Industries, now called Springs Global; and the Catawba Indians. She edited the York County Genealogical and Historical Society's publication for 16 years.

Pettus said she learned to appreciate the archives department when she worked in the manuscript division at the University of South Carolina.

But her love of learning and research started long before then, she has said.

A native of Lancaster County, she learned to read at age 4. In school, she discovered if she fidgeted, she could get sent to the cloakroom where there were encyclopedias to explore.

Her parents selected Winthrop College and she ended up in history by flipping a coin.

She taught in Kershaw and then took a publishing job in New York but came home at age 22 when her father died. She later got her master's degree at USC and taught in Arizona and Florida. She came to Winthrop in 1967 and taught social studies, teacher training and history.

Her awards include the Keeper of the Culture Award from the Culture and Heritage Museums, the 2001 national history award medal from the Daughters of the American Revolution and Winthrop's Professional Achievement Award.

The Winthrop archives contains more than 1,250 collections that document local, regional and state history, women and women's history.

Soon a plaque in Pettus' honor will be placed there. It quotes Canadian archivist Arthur G. Doughty: "Of all our national assets, Archives are the most precious; they are the gift of one generation to another."

Pettus was moved when she saw it, she said.

"I almost cried."

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