Governor Robert E. McNair

Robert E. McNair: Governor of South Carolina, 1965-1970

Transforming SC education

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.

Photo of Robert McNair

Bill signed to create Marion State College, June 25, 196.

Marion State College

Included in McNair’s legacy was the creation of Francis Marion University, known then as Marion State 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.

McNair's Legacy at FMU

Francis Marion University has honored McNair’s legacy, and his support, by naming the McNair Science Building after him. More recently, FMU created the McNair Institute for Research and Service on campus, as well as the McNair Scholars Program, FMU’s most prestigious academic scholarship.

Mcnair with student in front of bookstore at fmu
Mcnair speaking


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.