Oran Smith, who once edited a neo-Confederate magazine called Southern Partisan, will not become executive director of South Carolina’s Commission on Higher Education, it was announced Thursday.
The body that oversees the Palmetto State’s colleges and universities announced Thursday that commissioners have chosen Rusty Monhollon to be the commission’s next leader instead. Monhollon is currently an administrator with the Missouri Department of Higher Education.
Smith’s bid to lead the commission sparked controversy after The State reported he spent a decade editing a magazine called Southern Partisan, from 1989 to 1999. The Southern Poverty Law Center credits the magazine with jump-starting the “neo-Confederate” movement.
The magazine published articles that defended the South’s secession from the union and cited biblical justifications for slavery. One author published in its pages went on to promote a “white genocide” conspiracy theory that was cited by the Charleston church shooter who killed nine people in a racially-motivated slaying.
Smith told The State in an interview that his interest in the Civil War was historical, and his views changed after the killings in Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church. He even wrote on op-ed in The State calling for the Confederate flag to be removed from the State House grounds.
For 17 years, Smith was the head of the Palmetto Family Council, one of those noxious so-called pro-family (but actually anti-LGBTQ) groups. The group was instrumental in banning marriage equality in the state via a 2006 referendum. This was overturned in the 2014 ruling of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Bostic v. Rainey. In 2015, Clemson Tigers football coach Dabo Swinney disassociated himself from PFC - refusing to attend a banquet sponsored by the group - because of its anti-LGBTQ activism.