Monday, January 21, 2008

Tales From South Carolina Politics

A lone swing on the Mansfield Plantation in South Carolina.
Tales From South Carolina Politics
Edmund F. “Ned” Brown, IV

Arrived last week from New York to work for Sen. Barack Obama in the South Carolina primary- more on that later ...

First stop was the Mansfield Plantation, which I recently discovered in my internet research. What a find! The plantation is located just north of Georgetown, S.C., and within 15 minutes of Pawleys Island- both places have excellent restaurants (Franks, Louis’ and the Rice Paddy). All I knew about Mansfield was that it was on 1,000 acres and was originally a working rice plantation.

Turning off the highway, you wend your way along a nearly 2-mile private dirt road surrounded by unspoiled woods. Passing through the brick gates, the drive is framed with two centuries old live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. On both sides are 10 of the original slave quarters houses- a few restored, most not.

Caretaker Cliff and Becca
Coming to the main house, the drive is bounded by camellia bushes (pink, white and red) and all in full bloom; what a change from New York. One of the reasons I was interested in Mansfield Plantation was that they are dog friendly. Normally, I travel with my 2 Westies, Oliver and Olivia, but for this trip, they opted for 5 days at doggie camp in New Jersey. I was first greeted by Becca, the plantation’s chocolate Lab, who was abandoned to the property when she was a pup. You must first pass Becca’s smell test upon arrival, which I apparently did. Not only is Mansfield dog friendly, I learned that they do have 2 cat friendly rooms, and one guest brings her parrot for frequent stays.

Kathryn Green is the innkeeper and has 3 dogs of her own (including Becca). Kathryn was formerly an industrial engineer for a textile company, and accidentally fell into innkeeping 12 years ago when her plant closed and moved operations to Mexico and Jamaica. Kathryn first gives you the history of the plantation.

The property was acquired by the Parker family in the late 1600’s and developed into a working rice plantation. Nearly 280 acres of former rice paddies cover the back part of the property. In 1912, the Parker family sold the property to the Tuttles, who then sold to the Montgomerys and then to the Smiths. What is remarkable is that in 2004, John and Sally Parker, direct lineal descendants of the original owners, reclaimed the plantation. John Parker is a Mercedes-Benz dealer in Ashville, N.C., and uses Mansfield as their weekend home.
Passing through the brick gates of Mansfield Plantation.
Guests stay in one of the 3 outlying brick houses: the old schoolhouse, the guest cottage, or the old kitchen. All of the houses are exquisite examples of Federal architecture. The interior moldings, installed largely by the Montgomerys, are some of the finest of period examples you will find anywhere. I stayed in one of the guest house rooms (Man) and Woodward is the adjoining room. I found them to be the best with 4-poster king size beds.

Breakfast is served in the main dining room on a 14’ long Chippendale table. The food is a fine example (and ample) of Low Country cooking. What struck me during my brief stay at Mansfield is that it is not so much a stay at a B&B as it is firsthand elegant plantation living that anyone (especially New Yorkers) would want to experience.
The main house at Mansfield.
The old slave village is hidden underneath giant live oaks draped in Spanish moss.
Before I left for Charleston to work for the Obama campaign, I took a walk to the rear of the property overlooking the rice paddies where there is a swing love seat suspended from an old live oak tree. I couldn’t believe what I next saw: 2 American bald eagles and their eaglet were “breakfasting” their kill along the banks. As I approached, they took off — too late to get a pic for NYSD. Cliff, the caretaker, told me that the parents left a couple of weeks ago, but the offspring stuck around. Now, they had reunited.

And so was my stay at Mansfield Plantation. Don’t expect much to do there but relax, walk the grounds and read; and experience how life was nearly a century ago. For more information on Mansfield Plantation, click on or contact Kathryn Green at 866-717-1776. And now, on to politics ...
The guest cottage at Mansfield.
The South Carolina Primary

Why am I working for Obama? I've worked in 4 prior presidential campaigns, and nothing compares to the scope and enthusiasm with the Obama campaign. My involvement has little to do with politics. What Sen. Obama has grasped is a sea-change that is occurring. The political pundits say that Obama is attracting primarily the young and the "liberal affluents"; I see that assessment as too narrow. Speaking with my baby-boomer pals, most of us were too young to work for Sen. Robert Kennedy when he ran for President in 1968. Kennedy tapped into the last great change within the Democratic Party coming out of the Vietnam War, and also when Sen. Eugene McCarthy dropped out of the primary.

Coincidentally, years later when I first worked in Washington, DC, I roomed with and worked for Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy, II, Bobby Kennedy's eldest son (1-800-JOE-FOR-OIL), and we would occasionally talk about politically important periods. Ironically, we now have 2 qualified Democratic candidates, one African-American and the other a woman, running at the same time. In Sen. Obama, I see a genuine and consistent message of: change, hope and inclusiveness.
Aviva Kempner, Molly Fitzmaurice, and Myra Moffett — all D.C. based volunteers at Obama HQ in Charleston, S.C.
Other Boomers feel the same way: like Myra Moffett, a friend of NYSD’s Carol Joynt, who left husband Toby (and a former U.S. Congressman), a son, 2 dogs and a pile of dirty laundry back in Washington D.C., to work the primaries in New Hampshire, South Carolina and then onto another Super-Tuesday state to work for Barack Obama.

So, now I have traveled to South Carolina, volunteering to help get out the vote for the January 26th primary — nothing glamorous, just calling people, knocking on doors and driving people to the polls. But in 25 or 30 years, I want to be able to tell my grandchildren that I was there, on the ground working for a candidate who represented change at an important juncture in politics and world opinion about the United States. I was there, a white upper middle-class male, working to make a good man, who happened to be black, President of the United States.

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