Senator McConnell’s Change in Political Office Bodes Well for Hunley


I just learned that on March 12, 2012, Senator Glenn McConnell became the new Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina. That was actually a major step down in power for the senator who was head of the South Carolina senate and arguably the most powerful man in South Carolina. The change in job & title was not something he sought, but rather the automatic constitutional result of the resignation of Lt. Governor Ken Ard who was convicted of ethics violations.

I think the change is great for South Carolina. This effectively makes Glenn McConnell a figurehead and hopefully will end his ability to threaten, manipulate and use other South Carolina politicians as sacrificial pawns and scapegoats to do his bidding. It also ends his 17 years of chairmanship of the South Carolina Hunley Commission. And, that’s what I really like.

As a senator, McConnell often exercised his political might and office in what I and certain others, who crossed swords with him, considered to be in violation of the South Carolina Constitution. In my case, he also knowingly and intentionally violated my rights under the United States Constitution.

I first met McConnell in relation to questions over what should be done with the wreck of the wreck of the Civil War submarine Hunley, which I had discovered in 1970. He asked me to appear before a South Carolina legislative committee (i.e. the Hunley Commission) to testify under oath about my discovery of the Hunley and my 1980 federal district court action under which I established salvage rights under the Law of Salvage and ownership under the Law of Finds. The committee was looking into my discovery because earlier that year (1995) novelist Clive Cussler had brought a lot of attention to the wreck by falsely claiming to have discovered the wreck in only 18′ of water.

Dr. E. Lee Spence deploying proton magnetometer at Hunley site in 1971

Lee Spence deploying proton magnetometer at the Hunley wreck site in 1971. Copyright 1971 by E. Lee Spence. All rights reserved.

I had furnished documentation to the committee before the meeting and my maps, documents and court records had been carefully reviewed by representatives of the office of the State Archaeologist and the office of the South Carolina Attorney General.

After my sworn testimony McConnell asked me about my prior written offer to donate my rights to the Hunley to the State of South Carolina. He wanted to know whether I was still willing to do that. I said I was, and the State’s Attorney General (Charles M. Condon) immediately approached me with a prepared document for me to sign, which I did. And, at McConnell’s further request, I agreed to lead an archaeological team out to the wreck site, which was in 27′ of water off Sullivan’s Island and at least a mile from Cussler’s claimed location. (Cussler later admitted to a reporter that he had lied about its location, but only did so after the reporter had gone to the wreck site with the State archaeological investigative team and realized it was in 27′ of water.)

Despite all I had done and everything I had agreed to, and despite the fact that the Hunley was where I had accurately marked it on maps that I had turned over to the State long prior to Cussler’s supposed discovery in 1995, McConnell still ended up crediting Cussler with the discovery. That was really absurd, because Cussler not only never dove on the wreck a single time, Cussler wasn’t even the director of the 1995 expedition. That expedition was directed by underwater archaeologist Dr. Mark Newell. Newell has given sworn testimony in which he says he used my maps and credits me with finding it first. Crediting Cussler was obviously not right and damages the true story of the Hunley. I am convinced that McConnell always believed me, but that he thought the truth mattered less than Cussler’s threat to write a $100,000 check to McConnell’s political opponent. At that time, that would have destroyed McConnell’s career.

map showing Hunley wreck site

This chart was marked/annotated by Lee Spence in 1979/1980 with the Hunley's correct location. If you look closely you will see the word "It" in quotes with an arrow pointing to an "X." The "X" marks the correct location of the wreck. © 1980 by E. Lee Spence

Under South Carolina’s Constitution, which prevents holding more than one State office, regardless of whether its for honor or for profit, McConnell’s swearing in as Lieutenant Governor means McConnell can no longer serve on the Hunley Commission.

Perhaps, one day the Commission will take it on themselves to undo some of the damage to the Hunley’s history and to correct for the injustice that McConnell did to me. In my mind, a bonus would be for McConnell to one day face the same fate as Ken Ard, I only hope that, if he is ever charged and convicted of any alleged crimes, he will not get mere probation or fines.

Dr. E. Lee Spence

PS: For those who don’t know more about me, although often described as a treasure hunter, I am a degreed, professional underwater archaeologist and shipwreck historian with many discoveries to my credit. You can look me up on Wikipedia, LinkedIn, and/or on Facebook.


See also: Hunley Commission & the South Carolina Constitution at and see:

“The Discovery of the Hunley by Dr. E. Lee Spence” or, “Who found the Hunley first, Spence or Cussler?” (

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