- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 7, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster on Tuesday paid tribute to one of his ancestors and the agency that preserves more than three centuries of the state’s vital government records, saying it was a thrill to hold historic documents like the state constitution in his own hand.

“When you see them, and you see the signatures, you realize how much goes into the negotiation and the battles to and fro that result in a magnificent document like that being agreed to,” McMaster said by phone after a visit to the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, which recently celebrated its 110th anniversary.

McMaster was South Carolina’s attorney general for eight years and served as U.S. Attorney. He was elected lieutenant governor in November.

On Tuesday, he toured the agency’s document vault, which contains South Carolina’s original state constitution and other historic documents.

“The constitution is the source of all authority, and we’ve got to remember that,” McMaster said.

The former prosecutor’s family has had an association with the agency since its inception. McMaster’s great-uncle, Fitz Hugh McMaster, was a member of the state House and worked to pass the act that helped create the agency.

In 1902, Fitz Hugh McMaster marshaled an effort in the General Assembly to give the Secretary of State authority to take charge of the state’s historical documents, store them and hire someone to catalog them, according to the agency.

McMaster jockeyed for a friend, A.S. Salley Jr., to get the job, and in 1905, Salley became the first agency leader. Salley, of the Charleston Historical Society, led the department until 1949, according to Archives.

Archives director W. Eric Emerson said he was thankful for the McMaster family’s appreciation for South Carolina’s rich past.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to all of those who came before us and worked to make the Department of Archives and History what it is today,” Emerson said.

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Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP

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