Havilah Babcock. Image from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
(1898-1964) Babcock was born in Appomattox, Virginia, the son of Homer Curtis Babcock and Rosa Blanche Moore. He earned an A.B. from Elon College in 1918, then pursued graduate studies at Columbia University, the University of Virginia (A.M., 1923), and the University of South Carolina (Ph.D., 1927). On June 3, 1919, he married Alice Hudson Cheatham. He briefly taught high school English in Virginia before joining the faculty at the College of William and Mary in 1921. In 1926 Babcock came to the University of South Carolina (USC) on a year’s sabbatical leave. He found the people, school, and state so hospitable that he stayed thirty-eight years, joining the English department and becoming a fixture at the university.
At USC, Babcock was an institution about whom truths and legends were freely circulated. His jovial bond with students made his courses the most sought after at the university, causing students to sign up a year in advance for his English 129 course entitled “I Want a Word.” In this vocabulary and semantics course, students learned of the charm and power of words as they listened to Babcock reveal their nuances and connotations.
Babcock used the outdoors as a canvas to draw a vast array of colorful characters, becoming a master of the hunting-fishing tale. His stories were replete with references to English and American literature. More than one hundred of his stories found their way into print in a variety of newspapers and magazines.
Babcock’s writings continued their popularity years after his death. Babcock died in Columbia and was buried in Appomattox, Virginia.