Harry R.E. Hampton

Congaree National Park

Quick Facts

Significance:
First to bring up the idea of preserving the Congaree floodplain and the old-growth bottomland forest found there.
Place of Birth:
Columbia, South Carolina
Date of Birth:
7/8/1897
Place of Death:
Columbia, South Carolina
Date of Death:
11/19/1980
Place of Burial:
Columbia, South Carolina
Cemetery Name:
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral Cemetery

Harry R.E. Hampton was the descentdant of one of the old families of South Carolina. Born in 1897, he grew up in a still very rural and very wild place. Growing up in Columbia and Charleston, he was able to see a state relatively unchanged by development. 

Hampton was an avid outdoorsman. He enjoyed spending time in the woods, hunting and fishing. But he was also fascinated with the places that he explored, and as a reporter for The State newspaper, he shared what he saw and discovered with his readers in his Woods and Waters column. 

A place Hampton regularly visited was a part of the Congaree floodplain known locally as the Beidler Tract. Owned by timber tycoon Francis Beidler for the harvest of cypress trees, it was also used by numerous hunt clubs, one of which Hampton belonged too. It was during his many trips into the Beidler Tract that he realized that it was unlike other floodplain forests he had hunted. Here, the trees were larger, and the diversity of life greater. With this realization, he decided that this forest must not fall to the saw as the others had. 

Hampton started a one man campaign to save the forest. He talked to other conservationists and got them on board. He wrote and talked to politicians, lobbying for them to set aside the land as a national park. But his advocacy raised opposition from forestry groups, and his voice was soon drowned out by many others. But his tenacity in fighting to save the Congaree floodplain did not go unnoticed.

Young men and women heard about this man and his fight to save the old-growth forest south of Columbia, and went to see it for themselves. They too saw what an amazing place it was, and added their voices to the call to preserve the forest. Inspired by Harry Hampton, they succeeded in their mission, and in 1976, Congaree Swamp National Monument was born.