Preston Callison

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Preston Harvey Callison, Sr.

South Carolina State Representative
for Lexington County
In office
In office

Born January 22, 1923
Lexington, South Carolina
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Helen Elizabeth Leppard Callison (married 1949-2011, her death)
Children Four daughters:

Kate Johnson
Melissa Kremer
Rebecca Callison
Dale Callison
Preston Callison, Jr.
Seven grandchildren
Tolliver Cleveland, Sr., and Margaret "Maggie" Reel Callison

Residence Columbia, South Carolina

West Columbia, South Carolina
Jacksonville, Florida
Current: Eugene, Oregon

Alma mater University of South Carolina

University Law School

Occupation Attorney
Religion Southern Baptist

Military Service
Service/branch United States Army Air Corps
Battles/wars World War II

Preston Harvey Callison, Sr., sometimes known as Pres Callison (born January 22, 1923), is a retired attorney who represented his native Lexington County, South Carolina, as a Democratic state representative. His eight-year tenure extended for two nonconsecutive terms from 1965 to 1966 and 1969 to 1970. He resides in Eugene, Oregon.


Callison is one of five children born in Lexington, South Carolina, to Tolliver Cleveland Callison, Sr. (1884-1966), a former state attorney general,[1] and Margaret "Maggie" Reel Callison (1888-1960). He is predeceased by two sisters, Ruby Callison (1914-2013) and Helen Rawl (1919-2006), and two brothers, Tolliver Callison, Jr. (1917-1994), and Jack Reel Callison (1920-2005).[2] Callison's parents are interred at East View Cemetery in Edgefield, South Carolina.[3]

Callison graduated in 1942 from the University of South Carolina in Columbia and the university law school in 1947. His education was interrupted by forty months of service with the United States Army Air Corps in World War II

Callison was married in 1949 in Rutherfordton in Rutherford County in western North Carolina, to the former Helen Elizabeth Leppard (1927-2011), a Chicago native who held a master's degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Ph.D. in education from the University of South Carolina. She was a high school librarian in West Columbia and then Irmo, South Carolina. There are four Callison daughters, Kate C. Johnson of Eugene, Oregon, where Helen Callison died at the age of eighty-three and where Preston Callison still resided in 2013; Melissa C. Kremer of Rome, Georgia; Rebecca Callison and Dale Callison, both of Seattle, Washington, and son Preston H. Callison, Jr. (born 1961), of Jacksonville, Florida.[4]

Legal and political career

In 1947, Callison established the Columbia law firm which became Callison, Tighe and Rush, originally a real estate practice which in time also began to specialize in title insurance, commercial litigation, and employment law.[5] Callison was also the long-term legal advisor to the South Carolina Baptist Convention, the South Carolina Baptist Hospital, and the South Carolina Hospital Association, which he continued to represent long after retirement in 1988 from his law firm. He was the first "hospital attorney" in South Carolina, a role that he filled for four decades.[6]

In the state House, Callison served at times on the Education, Public Works, and Ways and Means committees.[6] In 1965, in his first year in the state legislature, Callison ran in a special election to fill South Carolina's 2nd congressional district] seat, which was based in the state capital, Columbia, and included Callison's home in Lexington. The position opened when second-term Democrat Albert William Watson, Sr. (1922-1994), switched his registration to Republican, resigned his seat, and ran for the remainder of his term as a member of the GOP. He left the U.S. House in 1971 after a losing gubernatorial race in 1970. In 1964, Watson supported Republican then U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, rather than U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas. Watson said that he would not "sit back and be bullied and browbeaten by the northern liberals."[7]

Callison described himself as "a Mendel Rivers Democrat," referring to Lucius Mendel Rivers (1905-1970), the U.S. representative for South Carolina's 1st congressional district who was known for his support of national defense measures through the chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee. Callison was considered a "moderate" by South Carolina standards because he urged compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, whereas Watson favored resistance to the new law. Watson gained the backing of elder Democratic figure James F. Byrnes, who called the congressional move against Watson "punishment and humiliation." In the special election, Watson secured $20,000 and the services of a national Republican field representative in what he termed "quite a contrast" to his treatment by his Democrat colleagues.[8] Watson defeated Callison with 59.1 percent of the vote.[9]

Since Watson's defection and subsequent special election victory, the 2nd has been in Republican hands. Numerous business executives relocated to the Columbia area from the North; other area growth came from upwardly mobile South Carolinians who took positions in insurance, banking, state government, and other enterprises and supported the GOP as they advanced financially. Combined with the growing tide of conservative Democrats switching parties, this has made the 2nd a Republican bastion. The district also then contained several African-American majority counties, including Orangeburg County.[8]

Callison is a recipient of the Order of the Palmetto in recognition of his longstanding work for the South Carolina Hospital Association.[6]


  1. Tolliver Cleveland Callison, Jr.. Retrieved on October 22, 2020.
  2. Ruby S. Callison: Laurens, South Carolina. Retrieved on May 30, 2014.
  3. Tolliver Cleveland Callison, Sr.. Retrieved on October 22, 2020.
  4. Helen Elizabeth Leppard Callison. Retrieved on October 22, 2020.
  5. About This Firm. Retrieved on May 30, 2014.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Preston Callison retires. South Carolina Hospital Association (November 24, 2009). Retrieved on May 30, 2014.
  7. Billy Hathorn, "The Changing Politics of Race: Congressman Albert William Watson and the South Carolina Republican Party, 1965-1970", South Carolina Historical Magazine Vol. 89 (October 1988), p. 228.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "The Changing Politics of Race," p. 230.
  9. SC District 2 - Special Election. Retrieved on October 22, 2020.