John A. Carlos II

Robert L. Caslen is introduced as the 29th president of the University of South Carolina on July 22, 2019, at the South Carolina School of Law. The fight over the retired Army general's hiring led to protests, a major donor backlash and a heated board meeting. and John A. Carlos II/Special to The Post and Courier

How retired Army Gen. Bob Caslen was hired as the University of South Carolina's new president will linger for some time.

The fight over the former West Point superintendent led to student and faculty protests, a brief court battle, major donor backlash and a heated board meeting where Caslen was elected by a slim margin three months after he was passed over.

Here are a few noteworthy tidbits more than a week after Caslen won the $650,000-a-year job.

Caslen's wingman

Former state Rep. James Smith has been escorting Caslen around campus for meetings.

The pair chatted on the phone shortly before Caslen was hired July 19 and about the time Smith publicly supported the general to become USC's next president.

Smith is, what one insider calls, "an ideal sherpa" for Caslen.

He knows the school: Smith, a USC alumnus, has been the military program director for the university's online college since January.

He knows the state government: Smith spent two decades in the South Carolina Legislature before running for governor last year.

He knows the military: Smith is a major in the S.C. National Guard who spent a year fighting in Afghanistan. 

James Smith (copy) (copy) (copy)

James Smith. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

That has generated talk that Smith could have a role on Caslen's leadership team, perhaps as his chief of staff.

Word is that the pair have not talked about any elevated administration role, according to a source who is not authorized to speak to the media. 

Still, look for Caslen and Smith to continue pairing up when classes resume in mid-August and the new president starts making more appearances.  

Another candidate?

The Post and Courier has reported that Darla Moore, the Lake City financier who is USC's largest donor, was approached to become president after trustees decided to continue the search in April rather than hire Caslen by a split vote. 

But another name was suggested for president behind closed doors: USC trustee William Hubbard.

Hubbard, a Columbia attorney and former American Bar Association president, is the second-longest-serving member on the USC board.

His name was floated as interim president by the university's longest-serving trustee, Eddie Floyd, during the meeting in April.

"I thought he would do a good job," said Floyd, a Florence surgeon. "I have always respected William so much."

Hubbard said he did not seek the role and left the boardroom after Floyd suggested his name.

Trustees balked at the idea of naming one of their own as a university leader.

"It would look like an inside job," Floyd said.

Instead, the board voted to make USC Upstate Chancellor Brendan Kelly interim president. (Kelly never had the chance to take office formally.)

Hubbard said his consideration to become interim president did not lead to his vote of "present" on hiring Caslen.

His vote came from concerns that the board had not conducted another search before voting for a president.

Board vote broken down

A big question among those in the USC community has been who on USC's 20-member board voted for Caslen and who didn't.

Sixteen board members from different areas of the state are elected by the Legislature. The four other trustees are the state education superintendent, USC's alumni association president and two gubernatorial appointments.

Gov. Henry McMaster's trustees proved crucial. They both backed Caslen, giving the general a majority of 11 votes.

Still, four of the five longest-tenured trustees voted against Caslen.

Meanwhile, look for the eight trustees whose terms end next year to face challengers when their names go before the Legislature.

Here is how the USC trustees voted on hiring Caslen (along with their occupation, hometown, length of time on the board and the year their current term expires):


  • Dan Adams, chief executive of The Capital Corp. from Greenville, 1 year, governor's designee
  • Egerton Burroughs, former chairman of Burroughs & Chapin from Myrtle Beach, 11 years, 2020
  • Bubba Fennell, retired accountant from Greenwood, 7 years, 2020
  • Eddie Floyd, heart surgeon from Florence, 37 years, 2022
  • Dick Jones, attorney with Dobson Law Group from Greenville, 1 year, governor's appointee
  • Hugh Mobley, pharmacy owner from Lancaster, 8 years, 2020
  • Dorn Smith, heart surgeon from Kingstree, 9 years, 2022  
  • Molly Spearman, state education superintendent, 4 years, serves during her term in office
  • John von Lehe, attorney with Nelson Mullins from Charleston, 21 years, 2022
  • Gene Warr, attorney with Lucas Warr & White from Lamar, 16 years, 2020
  • Thad Westbrook, attorney with Nelson Mullins from Lexington, 9 years, 2022


  • Chuck Allen, attorney from Anderson, 11 years, 2020
  • Robert Dozier, My Carolina Alumni Association president, 2-year term ends in 2020
  • Toney Lister, attorney from Spartanburg, 25 years, 2022
  • Miles Loadholt, attorney with Motley Rice from Barnwell, 23 years, 2020
  • Leah Moody, attorney from Rock Hill, 10 years, 2020
  • Rose Buyck Newton, chairwoman of Bank of Clarendon from Bluffton, 1 year, 2020
  • Mack Whittle, former chief executive of Carolina First Bank from Greenville, 29 years, 2022
  • Charles Williams, attorney from Orangeburg, 9 years, 2022


  • William Hubbard, attorney with Nelson Mullins from Columbia, 33 years, 2022

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