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UNIVERSITY SOUTH CAROLINIANA SOCIETY
MODERN POLITICAL COLLECTIONS 2001
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Charles D. Ravenel Papers, 1973-1996
Charles D. "Pug" Ravenel had the opportunity to radically change politics in South Carolina. In the mid-1970s, the political newcomer rose to the heights of political popularity. He introduced new voters into politics and raised the bar for other political hopefuls. Although his cam-paigns were not successful, Ravenel's method of using the media as an electoral tool was a first for South Carolina and changed politics within the state. "Mr. Ravenel brought to the South Carolina arena a vigor, perspective, intelligence, and charisma which we have rarely seen," said long-time Democratic Party leader Don Fowler.
Ravenel was born in Charleston on 14 February 1938 to Charles F. and Yvonne Marie Michel Ravenel. He earned the nickname "Pug" after break-ing his nose twice while playing baseball. He attended Bishop England High School, a private Catholic school, and was named most valuable player in the 1956 N-orth-South All Star football game. He studied at the prestigious Philips Exeter Academy for a year before going on to Harvard University. Following his graduation in 1961, Ravenel received a Corning Glass Works fellowship to travel to twenty-seven foreign countries in order to study economic conditions and politics.
Ravenel earned his MBA in 1964 from Harvard Business School and went to work for the Wall Street investment banking firm of Donaldson, Lufkin, Jenrette, Inc., where he counseled institutions in the management of their portfolios. In 1966 he accepted a one-year White House Fellowship to work as Special Assistant to the Under-Secretary of the Treasury, then returned to Donaldson, Lufkin, Jenrette. In 1972 Ravenel returned to Charleston where he helped establish the firm of Ravenel, Dawson, and Hastie, Inc., an investment banking firm primarily involved in assembling investment partnerships to purchase and hold undeveloped land.
Two years later, in 1974, Ravenel sought the Democratic nomination for governor, challenging the South Carolina political establishment and calling for a change in the old party line. Seven candidates vied for the nomination: businessman Maurice Bessinger, attorney John Bolt Culbert-son, Congressman William Jennings Bryan Dorn, businessman Milton Dukes, Lt. Gov. Earle Morris, former state senator Nick Ziegler, and Ravenel. A run-off was expected between Morris and Dorn because of their prominence within the state. Using television and personal appearances, however, Ravenel was successful in appealing to independent voters and non-voters. According to Senator Ernest F. Hollings, "Pug is the best thing that ever happened to our party. We were dying. He brought in fresh faces and fresh ideas" (News and Observer, Raleigh, N.C., 29 September 1974). His energetic style encouraged an unprecedented num-ber of citizens to vote in the primary and placed him in a run-off election against former Congressman Bryan Dorn. Ravenel's message of a "new" South Carolina appealed to the voters, and he won the Democratic nomination. At a press conference, Ravenel said-"It's not my campaign. It's a candidacy and effort and a spirit that belongs to hundreds of thousands of people. All I have done is give voice to a feeling that belongs to all of you."
A lawsuit challenged Ravenel's residency status. Although he always had ties to South Carolina, Ravenel had lived in the state for only two and a half years since graduating from high school. The state Supreme Court heard the case on 23 September 1974 and that same day ruled that Ravenel did not meet residency requirement under a strict interpretation of the state constitution. Dorn was named the Democratic candidate, but the momentum of Ravenel's campaign worked against the long-time politician, and James B. Edwards was elected the first Republican governor of South Carolina since Reconstruction.
In 1978 Ravenel unsuccessfully opposed Strom Thurmond for the U.S. Senate. The following year, he took a non-paying job as chairman of the Governor's State Employment and Training Council and chaired the state Democratic Party's membership committee. In December 1979 Ravenel accepted a presidential appointment to the U.S. Department of Commerce as associate deputy secretary. In October 1980 he left his federal job to run for the First District congressional seat being vacated by Mendel Davis. Ravenel lost to Republican state Representative Tommy Hartnett in a close election.
Ravenel served as executive vice president of the Drug Science Foundation at the Medical University of South Carolina from 1980 to 1982, working as a liaison between industries and academic institutions doing research. In 1982 Ravenel Eiserhardt & Co., a merchant bank, was established in Charleston to offer short-term loans to small businesses and real estate developers. It also acted as a holding company that had interest in other financial institutions. In 1984, as chairman of First South Savings Bank, the first stock-owned thrift institution in Columbia, Ravenel and a group of investors bought out Liberty National Bank, the only commercial bank based in Charleston at the time. He also led a success-ful buy out of Republic Bancorp of South Carolina. Through such means, Ravenel was attempting to provide the state with business institutions that could promote development and economic growth.
The Ravenel papers consist of five linear feet of material, 1973-1996, arranged in three series: personal papers, clippings, and photographs. Personal papers mainly consist of campaign records from 1974, 1978, and 1980. Files include financial information, press releases and newsletters, publicity, and voter research conducted by the Hart Research Association, Inc., for Ravenel's campaigns. Campaign ads, bumper stickers, and other campaign paraphernalia are included in the publicity files. The bulk of the collection consists of news clippings from local, regional, national, and international sources assembled by Ravenel's 1974 campaign staff. Together these offer a detailed account of the campaign.
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