Republican pioneer Ray Harris of Darlington, S.C., passed away this week. He served as state Party chairman from 1968 to 1971 and as its Executive Director from 1965 to 1968. In 2001, he graciously sat for an interview as part of our oral history project documenting the rise of the Republican Party in South Carolina.
Harris became politically active in 1962 when he volunteered in Bill Workman’s campaign against incumbent U.S. Senator Olin Johnston. Many credit Workman with creating the framework for a statewide Party apparatus, and in his interview Harris recounted his efforts to organize Darlington County: “[M]ost of the time was taken at night or late in the afternoon, knocking on doors. But that was the only way you were going to build a Party. That was my grassroots organizational training to become executive director of the Party and then state chairman.”
As director and then chair, Harris noted, “my mission was to organize this Party at the grassroots level, in every county;” this at a time when South Carolina remained a solidly Democratic state.
I encourage anyone interested to read these fascinating recollections of his life in politics.