An inspirational account of a political maverick advocating the public good against overwhelming odds
After more than a decade in the South Carolina legislature, Eugene N. Zeigler, Jr., made a name for himself in politics through his spirited campaign for the U.S. Senate in 1972 against incumbent Strom Thurmond and a subsequent candidacy in the state's 1974 Democratic gubernatorial primary. Unsuccessful on both fronts, Zeigler nonetheless distinguished himself as a man of passionate convictions in the value of public service. In his memoir, When Conscience and Power Meet, Zeigler recounts these and other defining moments from a life spent pursuing the public good, often against insurmountable opposition, knowing that the only reward might be the satisfaction of a contest well fought.
A native of Florence, South Carolina, Zeigler represents a vanishing breed of public servant—the classically educated progressive rising from modest small-town roots and driven by a genuine sense of noblesse oblige to better his community, state, and country. He has enriched his memoir with frequent ruminations on the events of his life: the making of a humanistic scholar, the role of duty in shaping character, and the uncertainties of experience contrasted with the certainties of principle. As a naval officer in World War II, he served aboard four aircraft carriers in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. On return from combat, Zeigler began his remarkable legal career in Florence. He later served in the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1961 and 1962 and in the State Senate from 1967 to 1972. A champion of progressive social and cultural interests, Zeigler organized the Big Brothers Association of the Pee Dee, founded the Florence Fine Arts Council, was elected president of the Florence Museum, and served on the South Carolina Council of Arts and Humanities, the South Carolina Commission on Human Affairs, and the State Board of Corrections.
Throughout his long career, Zeigler has frequently faced the frustration of being on the verge of high office or important reform, yet ending up on the losing side or having played just a minor role in victory. Undaunted by these near misses, he takes satisfaction in the effort over the results. Zeigler shuns the title "politician," seeing himself instead as an ombudsman or advocate for the public interest, an approach more leaders might adopt. Through his inspirational and exceptionally literate recounting of his persistent struggles to better the lives of all South Carolinians, we gain an insider's perspective on contemporary Southern politics as well as a hearty endorsement of the value of staying true to one's convictions despite the odds.
A graduate of the University of the South and Harvard Law School, Eugene N. Zeigler, Jr., is a true renaissance man who has pursued many careers and interests as attorney, public servant, naval officer, educator, scholar, playwright, and gardener. Zeigler is the author of Florence: A Renaissance Spirit; Barnwell Blarney, or Colonel Frank Remembered; and Refugees and Remnants: The Story of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Pee Dee and Saint John's Episcopal Church, Florence, South Carolina.
"Zeigler's account of his days as South Carolina's aggressive reformer and liberal conscience packs a powerful punch. He grappled with giants—Strom Thurmond and Marion Gressette, among them—and won his fair share of the encounters. Zeigler could quote Burke and Macaulay from the floor of the state senate, then mix it up with the best of them in political in-fighting. His charm, wit, and intellect were matched by his feistiness, persistence, and tenacity. His book is not about championing lost causes; it tells of a political warrior who won important struggles for his state and community, and whose influence is very much with us still today."—Philip G. Grose, author of South Carolina at the Brink: Robert McNair and the Politics of Civil Rights