Thomas Green Clemson 200

The Man

Our University started out with one man and his dream for bettering educational opportunities for the state he came to call home.

Thomas Green Clemson was born into a wealthy Philadelphia family in July 1807. Though his father passed away when Thomas was only seven, his family was able to care for him and offer an outstanding education in both the United States and Europe.

While studying in Paris to become an assayer of mines, Thomas acquired a love of art in addition to his interests in intellectual life. He found a way to balance these two passions by working as a mining engineer and still indulging in painting and music.

He came to the Foothills of South Carolina in the 1830s and began to earn a reputation in his field. During a business trip to Washington, D.C., in the spring of 1838, he met the daughter of Senator John C. Calhoun. In November 1838, Thomas married Anna Maria Calhoun in the parlor of Anna's father's house, Fort Hill. The newlyweds lived in Philadelphia for the first two years of their marriage before returning to Calhoun's plantation in 1840. It was during this time in Thomas' life in which his lifelong interest in farming was born, due much to the influence of his father-in-law.

Farming was not the only influence Thomas received from John C. Calhoun; John also encouraged Thomas to become active in the federal government. Thomas served as the ambassador to Belgium under four U.S. presidents and in 1860 took an office under President Buchanan that later became recognized as the country's first secretary of agriculture.

Thomas outlived his wife and children, finishing out his days at Fort Hill imagining the possibilities for higher education in the state of South Carolina.