During the Fourth of July holiday, most people’s thoughts center on cookouts, vacations and fireworks. This Tiger thinks about history. In his book, The Age of Lincoln, this respected historian explores Abraham Lincoln’s experience with issues such as immigration, civil rights, race relations and faith – all issues that remain evident today.

We are where we are today because of our history. We can’t begin to look for solutions without understanding our past – and perhaps learning from it.

Meet Vernon Burton.

Title: Professor of history, Pan African studies, sociology and anthropology, and computer science; director of the Clemson CyberInstitute

Years at Clemson: Seven

What I do at Clemson: I teach, research, write, and encourage and foster digital humanities projects.

What I love about Clemson: That it is so student-oriented. We’re working to become a great research university, and still very interested in keeping students as the top priority.

What was a defining moment for you at Clemson:  Not so much one a-ha moment, just a good feeling that I have about walking or biking to work on a beautiful campus, at the office seeing my fellow faculty members all hard at work and enjoyable to be with, and teaching and meeting with students who are eager to learn.  And I especially enjoy the excitement and love of Clemson students for their university.

Accomplishment I’m most proud of: Arranging for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to visit and speak at Clemson. Also, when I was faculty in residence in 2012, I conducted a workshop together with a good friend of mine, sociology professor Jim Loewen, on racism. It was well attended and the students paid good attention.  And hopefully, it made a difference.

Where I see myself in five years:  It is difficult for a historian to look five years hence; we concentrate on looking backward.  But I imagine I will be teaching and writing, attempting to explain and understand the American South, and trying to make a difference in my native South.  And, in addition to doing history, I hopefully will be out in the boat, catching bass for my wife‘s, children’s, and grandchildren’s breakfast!

Last thing I watched on TV: House of Cards

Guilty pleasure:  Ice cream

One thing most people don’t know about me:  Most people think I was born in Ninety Six, SC, but I was actually born in Royston, Georgia, although my parents had lived in Ninety Six for some time before I was born. My dad did not like the governor of Georgia, Eugene Talmadge, so he took my mother, who was in labor, to Georgia so that I could be born in Georgia near the family farm.  Then as an adult, I was supposed to run against Gov. Talmadge’s son for governor. Unfortunately, before I was a year old, Herman Talmadge assumed the governorship of Georgia, and, as they say, the rest is history.


 Want to nominate a colleague to be featured in Meet a Tiger? Contact Jackie Todd at jtodd3@clemson.edu.