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The Clemson story | History

One phrase that comes up again and again when talking to anyone related to the University is “the Clemson Family.” From the beginning it has been about family.

It’s because of the Calhoun and Clemson families’ generosity and vision for the future that Clemson University came to be.

Calhoun and Clemson family connections

John C. Calhoun and Floride Bonneau Colhoun Calhoun — John C. Calhoun moved to what is now called the city of Clemson in 1825 — and the blueprint for the region was forever changed. During his lifetime, John C. Calhoun served in the S.C. Legislature, the U.S. Congress and the Cabinet, and he twice served as U.S. vice president. It was his estate that ultimately became Clemson University after Mrs. Calhoun left it to their daughter Anna Maria, who then left it to her husband, Thomas Green Clemson.

Anna Maria Calhoun Clemson — Graceful and interested in politics, Anna married Thomas G. Clemson at age 21. Upon her death, it was her wish that her husband preserve her father’s house and use the land for a state agricultural college.

Thomas Green Clemson — Recognized as the father of this extended family, Thomas Clemson had a great impact on our country’s politics, serving as an ambassador to Belgium under four U.S. presidents and then as the first secretary of agriculture. It was after Clemson married into the Calhoun family that his interests in agriculture grew. Upon his death in 1888, he left his estate and his fortune for the betterment of education in South Carolina.

The establishment of Clemson Agricultural College

Clemson was founded in 1889 through a bequest from Thomas Green Clemson, a Philadelphia-born, European-educated engineer, musician and artist who married John C. Calhoun’s daughter, Anna Maria, and eventually settled at her family plantation in South Carolina. A longtime advocate for an agricultural college in the Upstate, Clemson left his home and fortune to the state of South Carolina to create the institution that bears his name.

In November 1889, Gov. John Peter Richardson signed a bill accepting Clemson’s gift, which established the Clemson Agricultural College and made its trustees custodians of Morrill Act and Hatch Act funds, federally provided for agricultural education and research purposes by federal legislative acts.

Initially an all-male, all-white military school, Clemson Agricultural College opened in July 1893 with 446 students. Clemson became a coeducational, civilian institution in 1955 and was the first traditionally white institution in South Carolina to desegregate in January 1963.  With academic offerings and research pursuits, the institution became Clemson University in 1964.