The law enforcement agency which provides security for South Carolina’s Statehouse in Columbia confirmed Tuesday that a statue of former Gov. Benjamin Tillman had been defaced with red paint.
Lt. Kelly Hughes, a Highway Patrol trooper who works with the state Department of Public Safety said an officer spotted what appeared to be red paint on the statue’s right leg around 10:00 am Tuesday morning. Paint was also splashed on the pedestal. Division of General Services crews worked to remove the stains on Tuesday afternoon.
Hughes said it appeared someone had thrown a small balloon containing red paint at the statue.
Tillman was perhaps the most controversial figure to ever govern South Carolina, leading the state from 1890-1894 and serving as U.S. senator after that until his death in 1918. The Democrat pushed for segregationist principles and helped eliminate the last vestiges of voting rights most African-American men obtained after the Civil War.
The vandalism was the third security breach on the Capitol grounds in slightly more than three days. On Saturday, a protester climbed a flagpole holding the Confederate battle flag and removed the flag briefly before her arrest. On Monday, several pro-flag and anti-flag protesters got into a brawl in front of the flag. Officers arrested an Irmo man for his role in the fight.
Additional officers and DPS vehicles were visible at the Statehouse Tuesday.
Tillman was instrumental in the founding of what is now Clemson University and creating the first federal ban on corporate campaign funding (known as the “Tillman Act”). However, it is his connections with Edgefield County’s “Red Shirts” that garners the most negative attention. He was indicted (though never prosecuted) for his role in the Hamburg Massacre roughly 15 years before becoming governor and his allies had a reputation for voter intimidation and violence during election campaigns. He was also a key figure in creating the 1896 state constitution that effectively ended most black voting in South Carolina.