University founder Thomas Green Clemson was born in Philadelphia and educated in the United States and Europe. A champion of formal scientific education, he had a lifelong interest in agricultural affairs and farming.
He came to the South Carolina Foothills when, in 1838, he married Anna Maria Calhoun, daughter of South Carolina's famous statesman, John C. Calhoun.
In the post-Civil War days of 1865, Thomas Clemson looked upon a South that lay in economic ruin, once remarking "this country is in wretched condition, no money and nothing to sell. Everyone is ruined, and those that can are leaving."
Thomas Clemson's death on April 6, 1888 set in motion a series of events that marked the start of a new era in higher education in South Carolina. In his will, he bequeathed the Fort Hill plantation and a considerable sum from his personal assets for the establishment of an educational institution that would teach scientific agriculture and the mechanical arts to South Carolina's young people.
In November 1889, Gov. John Peter Richardson signed the bill accepting Thomas Clemson's gift, which established the Clemson Agricultural College, with its trustees becoming custodians of Morrill Act and Hatch Act funds made available for agricultural education and research purposes by federal legislative acts.
Although he also is remembered for other accomplishments, Thomas Clemson made his greatest historical contribution when his life became intertwined with the destiny of educational and economic development in South Carolina.
Clemson College formally opened in July 1893 with an enrollment of 446. From the beginning, the college was an all-male military school. It remained this way until 1955 when the change was made to "civilian" status for students, and Clemson became a coeducational institution. In 1964, the college was renamed Clemson University as the state Legislature formally recognized the school's expanded academic offerings and research pursuits.
More than a century after its opening, the University provides diverse learning, research facilities and educational opportunities not only for the people of the state — as Thomas Clemson dreamed — but for thousands of young men and women throughout the country and the world.
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