Ben Robertson

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Benjamin Franklin Robertson, Jr. was a journalist, novelist, war correspondent, and author of the renowned Southern memoir Red Hills and Cotton: An Upcountry Memory (1942). Clemson native, a horticulture graduate (class of 1923), and writer for The Tiger. He was an honorary member of Gamma Alpha Mu local writers fraternity.

He attended the school of journalism at the University of Missouri, did free-lance reporting in Europe for several years, and worked in newspapers in Australia and Honolulu before joining the Associated Press. From the AP, he went to the New York newspaper PM. He resigned to join the New York Herald-Tribune. (The Tiger, "Hope For Clemson's Ben Robertson Small", Thursday 25 February 1943, page 1.)

In 1938, Robertson served as a political columnist for the short-lived Clemson Commentator, a semi-weekly that first published on June 6, and ceased printing on July 22, 1938. (1)

In January 1943, Robertson joined Wendell Wilkie and Eleanor Roosevelt in a series of talks in three large Canadian cities, urging a campaign for Russian relief. (The Tiger, Thursday 4 February 1943, page 1.)

An international journalist, Ben Robertson, 40, was killed while en route from the United States to his new job, chief of the New York Herald-Tribune's London bureau on February 22, 1943. His aircraft, a Boeing 314, Pan American "Yankee Clipper", NC18603, c/n 1990, (U.S. Navy BuNo 48224), crashes into the Tagus River near Lisbon, while on approach to Portugal by way of the Azores. Caught in a storm, the flying boat wrecked while attempting an emergency landing, having apparently hooked a wingtip on the water on a turn during approach. Also killed is actress Tamara Drasin; actress Jane Froman is seriously injured. Her story of survival will be made into the 1952 film "With a Song in My Heart" starring Susan Hayward.

A Liberty Ship, the SS Ben Robertson, named for him, was launched at Southeastern Shipbuilding Corporation, Savannah, Georgia, on January 4, 1944. Mrs. Julian Longley, Robertson's sister, of Dalton, Georgia, was sponsor for the new ship, part of a nationwide maritime program of naming Liberty ships for war correspondents killed in action. (2)


(1) "South Carolina Newspapers", compiled and edited by John Hammond Moore, University of South Carolina Press, 1988, Library of Congress card number 88-4779, page 191.
(2) The Tiger, "The Ben Robertson Is Launched at Savannah Shipyard January 7"[sic], Thursday 20 January 1944, Volume XXXIX, Number 6, page 1.

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