As Asheville readies for a visit by Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, it seems fitting to recall another Romney’s visit to the Carolinas some 35 years ago. George Romney, Mitt’s father, was governor of Michigan when he toured South Carolina’s Williamsburg County on September 27, 1967. The senior Romney was several months shy of announcing his run for the Oval Office. In fact, according to an account of his visit in The Charlotte Observer, he denied a published report that he planned to seek the Republican nomination, telling reporters “I haven’t decided yet.” Observer reporter Jack Bass reported that Romney was seeking to understand why blacks were migrating north. “Everywhere the reply was–lack of jobs,” Bass wrote.
In Williamsburg County, at the time South Carolina’s poorest county, Romney visited with 84-year-old “sharecropper” Joe Chandler (pictured above) and his relatives. Five of Chandler’s seven children had followed a familiar route for blacks of Williamsburg County and had moved north to Rochester, N.Y.
Romney’s visit was captured on film by Don Sturkey, a 36-year-old photographer for the Observer. Sturkey shot eight rolls of film that day as he followed Romney on his tours of Florence-Darlington Technical Education Center, a renovated downtown shopping mall, Williamsburg Memorial Hospital and Baxter Laboratory, the county’s major employer. The images below are the cropped photo as it appeared in the Observer and the uncropped original.