Gubernatorial Candidate: I Had No Clue My Ancestors Owned So Many Slaves

A candidate for governor of South Carolina who once said she was “proud” of the Confederacy now claims she didn’t know her ancestors owned more than 60 slaves.

During a campaign speech at Bob Jones University earlier this month, Republican candidate Catherine Templeton touted her Southern heritage and her family’s involvement in the Confederacy.

Catherine Templeton gubernatorial candidate

During the speech, Templeton was vague about her slave-owning ancestors, telling the audience: “I think it’s important that my family didn’t fight because we had slaves. My family fought because the federal government was trying to tell us how to live. We didn’t need them to tell us how to live way back then and we don’t need them to tell us how to live today.”

But census records obtained by the Greenville News show her ancestor Hiram Clark Brawley was a plantation owner in Chester County in 1860 with 66 slaves.

That number was “pretty substantial,” Joseph McGill, a Charleston historian and founder of the Slave Dwelling Project, told the paper, adding that Brawley ranked in the top 35 slave owners at the time.

Templeton’s ancestor died in 1862 and his slaves were valued at $32,000, or $900,000 today, according to probate records verified by the paper.

Brawley’s son William managed the family’s plantation for two years after his father’s death, later serving in the South Carolina Infantry during the Civil War before being elected to Congress and then appointed as a federal judge in 1894.

Templeton’s father was named after him, she said in her February speech.

When asked about the records after a speech to the upstate Republican women at the Poinsett Club in Greenville last Tuesday, Templeton said she was unaware her family had owned slaves, the outlet reported.

“This campaign is about the future, not the past,” she said. “I embrace my family, warts and all.”

In a 2017 town hall meeting, Templeton promised she wouldn’t tear down Confederate monuments or “rewrite history.”

“I’m proud to be from South Carolina,” she had said. “I’m proud of the Confederacy.”

Templeton, who ran two state agencies under former Gov. Nikki Haley, is one of four Republicans challenging incumbent Gov. Henry McMaster in the June 12 primary.

Three Democrats are running for the chance to compete in the Nov. 6 general election.

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