South Carolina Law Enforcement Division

This website contains a collection of newspaper clippings and documents that are the result of research in preparation for writing my second book, Driving Strom Thurmond, published in July 2015.  

                                                                                        Buddy Wilkes

Note:  additional SLED news articles at

"Remember - you do not make the facts, you discover and report them."

                                                                            J. P. Strom
                                                                            Chief of SLED, 1956-1987      

Cover notes:
Buddy Wilkes served as a peace officer for over 30 years in South Carolina, starting as a Deputy Sheriff in rural Fairfield County and ending as a Captain with the S.C. Law Enforcement Division (SLED). For decades SLED Agents drove U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond anywhere he wanted to go. During the Senator's last election campaign in 1996, it was Buddy's turn at the wheel. This book begins with a collection of humorous stories about the Senator as he traveled the state, then switches gears to take an unblinking look at the history of who and what influenced Strom Thurmond to become who he was.

Available at    

From the book, pages 48-49:

While writing this book, I thought it would be fitting and proper to give a nod to Strom Thurmond 
for creating SLED by Executive Order in 1947 while he was the Governor. I had known about this 
my whole career, but I had never actually seen the Order.

What I found confused me. According to information published during the administrations of 
numerous governors and several legislative sessions, SLED was created in 1935, twelve years 
before Strom Thurmond took office. I kept digging, and found that legendary SLED Chief J. P. Strom, 
Thurmond’s cousin, said the same thing. Even the Strom Thurmond Institute, the keeper of all the 
Senator’s records, reported the same.

In 1975, someone replaced the history of the creation of SLED with the version that is generally 
accepted today, that Strom Thurmond created it. This sparked an interest in me to take a look into
Thurmond’s history to see what else I didn’t know.

From the book, pages 132-134:

Someone changed SLED’s family tree to place Strom Thurmond at the top, and no one noticed.

In 1944, the S. C. Legislative Manual included an entry on SLED for the first time. From 1944 to 1974, 
the entries stated the same thing: SLED was created by Act 232 of the Legislature in 1935.

In November of 1957, SLED Chief J. P. Strom wrote an article for the FBI Bulletin describing 
SLED’s organization and crime-fighting techniques. Strom’s article started off by saying that SLED 
was created in 1935.

SLED’s first Chief, J. Henry Jeanes, served from 1935-1941 when he died in office. His death certificate 
lists his occupation as “Chief, S.C. Law Enforcement Division.”

In 1975, the Legislative Manual entry was changed to read that SLED was created in 1947 by 
Executive Order of then-Governor Strom Thurmond. Subsequent SLED documents state the same. 
Since then, the new birthday has been printed in newspapers and books, even The South Carolina 

Searching for the Executive Order has been like searching for Bigfoot, the only difference being that 
people have actually seen Bigfoot.

SLED doesn’t have it; neither does the S. C. State Archives. Neither does the Strom Thurmond Institute, 
the official repository of all things Thurmond.

The Institute went even further, stating in a letter to the author that “SLED was not created by a 1947 
Executive Order by Governor Strom Thurmond.” Archivists there concur that SLED was born in 1935.

It is interesting to note that so far, searches of documents generated during Thurmond’s term as Governor 
and his official biographical information have revealed no instance in which Thurmond himself claimed 
that he created SLED.

Nevertheless, the new birthday has become so widely accepted that the year 1947 is now cast into SLED 

If anyone captures Bigfoot, or the Executive Order, kindly contact the author.

Chiefs of SLED

J. Henry Jeanes, 1935-1941

G. R. Richardson, 1941-1942

S. J. Pratt, 1942-1943

A. Roy Ashley, 1943-1946

G. R. Richardson, 1946-1947

Joel D. Townsend, 1947-1949

Oren L. Brady, 1949-1956

J. P. Strom, 1956-1987

Robert Stewart, 1988-2007

Reginald Lloyd, 2008-2011

Mark Keel, 2011-

Sources:  Spartanburg Herald-Journal, June 3, 1935, January 27, 1943, March 2, 1967; SC Legislative Manual, 1944-2012.

This is the 1975 entry in the SC Legislative Manual for SLED.  Subsequent editions cite the same information.

SC Legislative Manual 1975 carbolic

For comparison, below is the 1974 entry in the SC Legislative Manual.  Previous editions, back to 1944, cite the same information.

Exhaustive searches of online archives for the Executive Order were fruitless.  To date, no period news articles or documents of Governor Strom Thurmond's administration reference the Executive Order.  Neither Thurmond's biographical sketches nor his final address to the General Assembly (similar to a President's state of the union address) mention that he created SLED.

The article below was written by Chief J. P. Strom, Thurmond's cousin, in 1957.

Chief J. P. Strom: SLED created in 1935

SLED's entry in the SC Legislative Manual, 1944:

SLED does not have the Executive Order:

FOIA Response - Edited.png

The SC State Archives does not have the Executive Order:
S. C. State Archives: never been able to find Executive Order

The Strom Thurmond Institute at Clemson University said that not only do they not have the Executive Order, but that it does not exist, and that Governor Strom Thurmond did not create SLED.  The author personally reviewed the correspondence and documents from Governor Thurmond's term and found nothing to support the claim that he created SLED.

The version of history that says Thurmond created SLED holds that he did so at the request of SC Sheriffs.  The article below, from The Florence Morning News, January 23, 1946, paints a different picture.

Greenwood Index-Journal, January 23, 1946

July 26, 1947, Greenwood Index-Journal

Strom Thurmond's biographical sketches contain his every accomplishment; one even lists that he was a member of The Strawberry Club.  None of these resumes say that he created SLED.

According to Governor Olin D. Johnston in 1936, South Carolina lagged behind the rest of the nation in creating a comprehensive state police agency. SLED existed, but it did not have a fingerprint identification unit like the FBI and other states.  Beginning that year, he and every subsequent Governor lobbied for moving the Identification Bureau from the Highway Patrol (under the control of the Legislature) to SLED/State Constabulary (under the control of the Governor).

After more than 10 years of lobbying by Governors and recommendations of one of its own committees, the General Assembly finally did move the ID Bureau to SLED.  This occurred in 1947, twelve years after the creation of SLED, during the administration of Governor Strom Thurmond. 

South Carolina is well-known for having a strong legislature and a weak governor, even now.  Some history books say this is a holdover from colonial days, when the rich plantation owners did not want to concentrate too much power in one man.  The governor in SC did not have the authority to move the ID Bureau from the Highway Patrol to SLED.  If he did, Governors Johnston, Maybank, and Thurmond would have simply done so.  

This is the actual resolution that moved the ID Bureau to SLED, an action completed by the General Assembly, not the Governor.  This was a zero cost solution in lieu of creating an official State Bureau of Investigation like virtually every other state had done.  


Act 232, Section 21, by which SLED was created.

Governor Olin D. Johnston, 1935-1939 and 1943-1945.  SLED was created under his Administration.  

There were only 3 members of the state constabulary when Act 232 was passed.

The article below refers to the new unit as the "liquor law enforcement division."  From the beginning, SLED was much more than that, given the Legislature's mandate to assist any law enforcement officer in the enforcement of all state laws.  

Jeanes to Head Liquor Officers.pngjeanes named chief 2.png jeanes named chief 3.png





Full report of the Committee:$b47178;view=1up;seq=9

J. Henry Jeanes, various references as Chief of the Law Enforcement Division of the State/Chief of the State Constabulary:

From page 35 of the Report:



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Johnston Mozingo Bill 1939 part 2.png

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1939 fight for creation of state police.png


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Strom Thurmond's friend Sue Logue arrested for hiring a hit-man to kill a neighbor.


April 4, 1942, Aiken Standard

October 27, 1942, Greenwood Index-Journal



roy ashley named chief.png

SC Legislative Manual, 1944, first listing for SLED.
Chief A. Roy Ashley
Governor Olin D. Johnston
Appropriation, 1944



The term "S. C. law enforcment division " used in 1945.
Greenwood Index-Journal, May 23, 1945



From Governor Thurmond's Inagural Address, January 21, 1947

January 23, 1947, Florence Morning News

Joel Townsend named Chief
Gaffney Ledger, January 30, 1947

February 18, 1947


October 1, 1948, Florence Morning News


Chief Townsend "stripped" of all powers as chief constable


In his last year as Governor, Strom Thurmond was still calling for the creation of State Bureau of Investigation, an accomplishment that eluded him.

February 28, 1950, The Gaffney Ledger, Cherokee County Senator George McKown





Greenwood Index-Journal, August 9, 1958


Chief J. P. Strom

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SC Encyclopedia, article by Hugh Munn, 2006

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