Francis Butler Simkins (December 14, 1897-February 8, 1966) was a historian and a past president of the Southern Historical Association who made important contributions to the study of race relations. Born in Edgefield, South Carolina, Simkins received his B.A. from the University of South Carolina in 1918 and his M.A. (1921) and Ph.D. (1926) from Columbia University. He spent most of his academic career as a professor of History at Longwood College in Farmville, Virginia.
He published eight history books, numerous scholarly articles and an abundance of miscellaneous work including book reviews and encyclopedia articles. His obituary in the Journal of America History in 1966 said that Simkins was "an emancipated critic of the old order" and that "he came to stress the distinctive characteristics of 'the everlasting South,' and to question the validity of much that passed for progress in the modern South." As a scholar who questioned conventional thinking he helped lay the foundations for the civil rights movement. Yet when events in the 1960s challenged the traditional in the south, Simkins discovered much he thought should be preserved, and he became a spokesman for tradition.
Simkins' most famous work is "Pitchfork Ben Tillman", a biography of the American politician, Benjamin Tillman, who served as governor of South Carolina from 1890 to 1894 and as a United States Senator from 1895 until his death.
"The Francis B. Simkins Award" is given by the Southern Historical Association every third year for best and first (for that author) book about the South .
Many of Simkins’ ideas and interpretations are still fresh today. He is one of the most important interpreters of the American South, presenting southern history as a significant part of American history.
The contributions of Simkins in the field of southern history were enormous:
In addition to the Dunning Prize, Simkins held research fellowships at the Social Science Research Council and the John Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, delivered the Fleming Lectures at LSU and the Centennial Lectures at the University of Mississippi. He was president of the Southern Historical Association in 1953-54.