Brannon Traxler ’04 recalls how her grandfather got his start at Clemson
My maternal grandfather, Gaines Evatt, grew up on his parents’ farm in Central, South Carolina. He was the oldest child and the first to go to college. He started out at what’s now Southern Wesleyan University because the family was part of that church.
As the family story goes, my grandfather was working on the farm one day, and somebody from the church drove by and saw him and asked, “Why aren’t you at Clemson? You’re so smart. Why are you not there?” He said, “Well, we can’t afford it.” The church friend replied, “We’ll see what we can do about that.” They paid for my grandfather’s first semester, confident that he would get a scholarship from there. And he did.
Of course, nobody in the family is alive now who would remember who that friend from church was, but I do know that my grandfather walked the couple of miles to Clemson and back every day. He couldn’t afford textbooks, so he would do all his studying in the library. He would get up early and stay up late to work on the farm. In 1933, he graduated from Clemson A&M College with a math degree.
Two of my great aunts who stayed in Central passed away five years ago; when we were cleaning out their belongings, we found my grandfather’s Clemson class ring, which my mom didn’t even know he had. We also found his graduation ceremony program and a few other things. We have his diploma. He was the first person in our family to go to Clemson, and he helped all his other siblings to go to college and get their degrees. My grandfather was a junior high principal for most of his career, and he ended up getting a master’s degree from Duke some years later. He and my grandmother settled in Spartanburg and raised my mom and her brother.
I wore his ring to the 2017 National Championship game in Tampa, and now, I either wear it on a necklace or on my index finger or thumb at games. It’s become a superstition — a good luck charm.