Governor James H. Hodges adopted education as a top priority. During his first year as governor, Hodges won approval for a referendum on a state lottery, provided $1 billion for school construction without raising taxes, and launched the First Steps to School Readiness early children education initiative. Mrs. Hodges also stressed the importance of education and launched the Reading With Rachel program, an immensely popular initiative, which was occasionally held at the Mansion and featured authors or celebrities like Hootie and the Blowfish.
Interestingly, Hodges and his wife had one of their first dates at the Mansion during the Riley administration when they attended an event honoring Mike Daniel. Unfortunately for the bulk of his term as governor, the Hodges family had lived in a rented home while the Mansion underwent a massive renovation. When the Hodges did move into the Mansion’s family quarters, renovation work was ongoing and not completed for some months. Mrs. Hodges’ noted, “It's nice with this renovation to have space upstairs to be able to have private, family time together. Because this is a hard-working building and there are things constantly going on downstairs and outside for lots of different reasons. It's good to have a place that our children can be children, and play games and enjoy time together if Jim and I are busy downstairs working. It's been a positive change in that regard for first families now and in the future, to have that private space.”
Governor Hodges said one of his highlights of being governor was “coming in here [the Mansion], and when you walk in the doors, and knowing the historical significance of the place, and realizing you're walking in the same shoes that people like Jimmy Byrnes, and Wade Hampton, and Dick Riley, and a whole host of others have walked in. It sends chills down your spine.”