Newsmax TV & Webwww.newsmax.comFREE - In Google Play
Newsmax TV & Webwww.newsmax.comFREE - On the App Store
Skip to main content
Tags: ravenel | south | carolina | confederate flag | bush | perot

Remembering Former S.C. Rep. Arthur Ravenel Jr.

Arthur Ravenel
State Sen. Arthur Ravenel, R-Mount Pleasant, sits at the end of the dock of his house in Mount Pleasant, S.C., and talks about his career, July 28, 2004. (Lou Krasky/AP)

John Gizzi By Tuesday, 31 January 2023 04:52 PM EST Current | Bio | Archive

​When former Rep. Arthur Ravenel Jr., R.-S.C. was laid to rest on Jan. 20, the overflow crowd leaving the French Huguent Church in Charleston heard "Dixie" played as the recessional hymn.

Hearing a hymn of the Confederacy spoke volumes about Ravenel, who died at age 95. His ancestors were Confederate soldiers, and Ravenel was a champion of their hymn and battle flag — topics that generated increasing controversy and emotional debate in recent years.

In 2015, the "Stars and Bars" was finally removed from the statehouse grounds following the mass shooting at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church by a white supremacist.

Without apology, Ravenel spoke out for leaving the flag in place.

But was he in any way racist? In no way, shape, or form.

Having switched from Democrat to Republican in 1960, then-State Rep. Ravenel moved from the all-powerful ruling party in the Palmetto State to that which was then holding meetings in the apocryphal telephone booth.

In contrast to the segregationists he had dealt with as a Democrat, newly minted Republican Ravenel attended meetings of blacks and spoke out for civil rights.

As a contractor and realtor, he also worked hard to arrange affordable mortgages for black homebuyers who were unable to put down substantial down payments.

When the 1st District's U.S. House seat became open in 1971, Ravenel was one of three Republicans seeking nomination in a special election. Nationally-syndicated columnists Evans and Novak highlighted the race, pointing out Ravenel's own outreach to black voters. Ravenel lost the primary to dentist James B. Edwards, who went on to lose the special election but later won a state Senate seat, and in 1974 became South Carolina's first Republican governor since Reconstruction.

While conservative on most issues, Ravenel could occasionally go against the grain. He was a rapid champion of environmental causes, as the Post and Courier noted, "whether it was protecting sea turtles or protesting deforestation that threatened bird life."

In 1992, rumors were mounting that Ravenel would become the first Republican member of Congress to bolt President George H.W. Bush's re-election campaign and support independent Ross Perot. I decided to call his office.

"This is Aw-thaw Ravenel, June-yuh" sprang from the phone, his signature low country accent obvious and right down to the "junior" with which he always identified himself because, he explained, it made him feel young.

He then went on to voice his complaints about Bush breaking his "no more taxes" pledge and, echoing Perot, declared that trade policies under Bush had led to American jobs being "sucked down to Mexico."

But he stopped short of endorsing Perot over Bush, and never did.

Ravenel was, as Robert Penn Warren wrote of Huey Long, "a remarkable set of contradictions."

Two years later, he sought the governorship. Many of the contradictions in his background had made enemies within the Republican Party. Backed by the then-powerful "religious right" in the South Carolina GOP, state Rep. David Beasley beat Ravenel in the primary and went on to win in the fall.

"Arthur then served in the state Senate again and then won a seat on the local school board at age 85," said Republican National Co-chair Drew McKissick, who was also the South Carolina Republican chair. "He loved his country and his party and truly wanted to serve. I remember his TV commercial for his last congressional re-election where he looked at the camera and exclaimed, "I've been for you, now I need you to be for me — again! Thank ya!"

A retired U.S. Marine who enlisted at age 18 in the twilight days of World War II, the young Ravenel earned his bachelor of science degree from the College of Charleston and won his first term in the state House of Representatives in 1952 at age 25.

"The man who never gave up" is how Ravenel came to be known. After changing parties, he lost three subsequent bids for the state Senate, a race for Congress, and a bid for mayor of Charleston. In 1980, he finally made it to the state Senate.

"My retail political association with Arthur came during a stump meeting in a cow pasture in rural Georgetown," former Rep. John Napier, R.-S.C., then running for Congress, told Newsmax. "In his unique way, he broke into a brilliant rendition of 'The Song of Marion's Men,' by William Cullen Bryant. It was without flaw and captivating to the crowd. He knew how to connect with an audience as well as anyone. I heard him do it time and time again."

Unnecessarily, Napier added: "Arthur was unpredictable."

Perhaps a better characterization of Ravenel was that of Huey Long about himself: "Oh, hell. Say that I'm sui generis [of its own kind] and let it go at that."

© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

​When former Rep. Arthur Ravenel Jr., R.-S.C. was laid to rest on Jan. 20, the overflow crowd leaving the French Huguenot Church in Charleston heard "Dixie" played as the recessional hymn.
ravenel, south, carolina, confederate flag, bush, perot
Tuesday, 31 January 2023 04:52 PM
Newsmax Media, Inc.

Sign up for Newsmax’s Daily Newsletter

Receive breaking news and original analysis - sent right to your inbox.

(Optional for Local News)
Privacy: We never share your email address.
Join the Newsmax Community
Read and Post Comments
Please review Community Guidelines before posting a comment.

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

America's News Page
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
Download the NewsmaxTV App
Get the NewsmaxTV App for iOS Get the NewsmaxTV App for Android Scan QR code to get the NewsmaxTV App
America's News Page
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved