Robert E. McNair was governor of South Carolina from 1965-70.

McNair is often remembered for presiding over a tumultuous time in the state’s history, one punctuated by conflict over segregation and the War in Vietnam, but with the benefit of time it’s clear that his lasting legacy was his dedication to transforming the education system in the South Carolina.

Included in that legacy was the creation of Francis Marion University (then College). McNair signed the bill bringing FMU into existence in 1969.

Adding another university to the state system was part of McNair’s recognition that large sectors of South Carolina were unprepared to be productive members of the shifting and growing world economic landscape. That led him to institute an array of bold measures designed to prepare the state for its demanding future.

Francis Marion University has honored McNair’s legacy, and his support, by naming the McNair Science Building after him, and, more recently, by creating the McNair Center for Research and Service at FMU, and, the McNair Scholarship, FMU’s most prestigious academic scholarship.

McNair was born in 1923 in the town of Cades, South Carolina, not far from FMU..

McNair served in the U.S. Naval reserves from 1942-1946. He served in the Pacific Theater during World War II and won the bronze star for rescuing sailors from a burning ship struck by Japanese forces.

Upon his return, McNair attended the University of South Carolina where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1947 and a law degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1948.

In 1951, McNair was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives; where he served until 1962, when he was elected lieutenant governor of South Carolina.

McNair became governor of South Carolina in 1965 when Governor Donald Russell resigned. After finishing Russell’s term, he was elected governor in the 1966 election.

McNair left public office in 1971 to practice law.

Photo of Robert McNair