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Getting to know...Mark Byrnes

When Mark Byrnes was in fifth grade, his classroom had disintegrated into a handful of groups who had taken to firing spitballs at each other. For whatever reason, the students decided that Byrnes had the talent and the temperament to bring peace to the classroom.

“I’m still not sure why…I guess I just put out some kind of vibe,” laughs Byrnes. “They chose me to draw up a treaty, and so I wrote one out. But to me it wasn’t official unless it was crumpled and yellowish, like the replica copy of the Declaration of Independence my parents gave me. So I colored it yellow using a crayon and crumpled it up a little for effect. That was an early tip off that I was destined to be a history geek.”

Byrnes now teaches byrnes180history at Wofford College. He has taught at seven other colleges, the last of which was a private military college in Vermont, before arriving in Spartanburg.

Byrnes took to his new home right away, and was convinced that it had taken to him just as quickly. Spartanburg’s Byrnes High School generates several headlines in the local sports section, and Byrnes the Professor has a collection of them in his office for all to see…
“Byrnes Overcomes Rough Start”
“Byrnes Puts Power on Display”
“Byrnes Hardly Sweats”
“Byrnes Keeps Getting Better”

“My all-time favorite is ‘Byrnes Rolls, Gets Last Word,’” he says, tongue in cheek. “One of the best things about living in Spartanburg is all of these headlines. I get to pretend they are about me.”

In reality, the only sport Byrnes plays is tennis, and that is on a “very, very casual” basis. He loves watching sports, though. An avid New York Giants and New York Mets fan, he has both NFL Sunday Ticket and MLB Extra Innings.

If you want to stoke his competitive side, whip out the board game Trivial Pursuit. Just expect him to go for as many history questions as possible.

“Give me the yellow!” he says. “When I was a kid, my parents would always stop at all of the historical sites while we were on vacations. My parents also liked to read a lot. I guess history has always been second nature to me.”

History and live music.

“My favorite thing to do is go see live bands,” he says. “I guess I picked up the habit at UT in Austin. They had a place called the Cactus Café right on campus. When I first moved here I went to Greenville a lot for music, but it’s kind of nice that you can see several of those bands here in Spartanburg now, because of a place called The Showroom.”

Byrnes is a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen. “It’s kind of the law when you’re from New Jersey,” he says. “You have to be.”

When not watching live bands or teaching at Wofford, you’ll usually find Byrnes at home with his dog Riley, a three-year old “All-American mutt.” They’ll be watching Damages, Grey’s Anatomy, the Daily Show or the Colbert Report, most likely.

“I’ve never sat through an entire reality program,” he claims. “And I’m one of the few human beings who will only watch a movie once. Unless it’s The Graduate, Dr. Strangelove or the original version of The Producers, I don’t usually do it.”