Former historians donate books to create library for University Historian’s office

Otis Pickett (right) poses with former Clemson historians Paul Anderson (left) and Jerry Reel (center). Photo courtesy of Brenda Burk

Former Clemson University historians Jerry Reel and Paul Anderson are passing the torch of studying and sharing Clemson’s history by donating books to create a library for the University Historian’s office. Their donations will help their successor, University Historian Otis Pickett, and future university historians carry on their work.

Reel was Clemson’s first official historian, named in 2002, and he has donated more than 200 books on topics ranging from local history to national historic events that made an impact on the University, such as the Civil Rights movement and World War II. He also donated notes and other papers as well as a collection of video interviews he conducted with various faculty, staff and university leaders.

“What historian doesn’t want to see their work picked up and continued by others?” Reel said. “Otis’ efforts are a dream for me.”

Reel began his career at Clemson in 1963 as a lecturer in the history department. He worked his way up to full professor over the years, and was well known for teaching History 1000, which was a one-credit-hour class on Clemson history. He held a variety of administrative positions during his time at Clemson, including vice provost and dean of undergraduate studies and senior vice provost. He was named an Honorary Alumnus in 2000 and was awarded the Clemson Medallion, the University’s highest honor, in 2014.

Anderson, who served as historian for two years, donated a collection of books as well, including several books that were given to him by the late Ernest “Whitey” Lander Jr., a long-time history professor who retired in 1983.

“We can’t fall into the notion that the University’s history is somehow separate from state and local history, even world history,” said Anderson. “Clemson is a microcosm of the whole world, and these books represent that.”

Anderson joined the faculty in the history department in 2000 and was named historian in

The library in the University Historian’s office

2019. He was named Alumni Master Teacher in 2004 by the Student Alumni Council. Anderson currently serves as director of football academics and freshman transition for Clemson football.

Pickett was named University Historian in 2022. He said the books and other materials donated by his predecessors will be very helpful to him. Pickett has also continued to build upon Reel’s work by teaching the History 1000 class on Clemson history again. It was a class that Pickett took himself from Reel during his time as an undergraduate.

“Who can really fill Dr. Reel’s shoes? Nobody can,” Pickett said. “He spent his entire professional life doing research and gathering archival materials about this institution. I never could have conceived of doing this job if it wasn’t for him and the work he did.”