Skip to main content

Charles D. Ravenel Papers

 Collection
Identifier: SCU-SCPC-031
The Ravenel Papers consist of 5 linear feet of material, 1973 - 1996, arranged in three series: Personal Papers, Clippings and Audio-Visual Materials. The bulk of the Personal Papers were photocopied due to mold present in the originals.

Personal Papers mainly consist of campaign records, 1974, 1978, and 1980. Files include financial information, press releases and newsletters, publicity and voter research conducted by the Hart Research Association, Inc. for all campaigns. Also included in the personal papers are documents relating to the 1974 State Supreme Court case disputing Ravenel’s residency.

Clippings kept by Ravenel’s 1974 campaign staff make up the bulk of the collection and offer a surprisingly detailed account of the election process. These files consist mainly of articles relating to the 1974 campaign. The campaign office maintained an extensive collection of articles from international, national, regional and local newspapers. Feature articles are included along with editorials and local level responses to the campaign. Independent and county newspapers are well represented. Topical clippings files were kept on major campaign opponents by Ravenel’s office. Researchers should see both the topical files and the general files for materials on opponents.

Dates

  • 1973 - 1996

Creator

Access

Library Use Only

Extent

4 Linear Feet

Abstract

In 1974, Charles D. Ravenel, a political newcomer, became the Democratic Party's nominee for governor, but a dispute over residency qualifications kept him off the general election ballot. Campaigns for the U.S. Senate in 1978 and for Congress in 1980 were also unsuccessful. However, Ravenel's innovative style and charismatic manner reinvigorated the political system, and his method of using the media as a campaign tool was a first for South Carolina and changed politics within the state.

Biographical Note

Charles D. Ravenel had the opportunity to radically change politics in South Carolina. In the mid 1970s, this political newcomer rose to the heights of the Democratic Party, but never achieved office. His innovative style and charismatic manner reinvigorated the political system. He introduced new voters into politics and raised the playing field for other political hopefuls. Although his campaign was not successful, Ravenel’s method of using the media as a campaign 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 Don Fowler, Chairman of the Democratic Party.

Charles D. “Pug” Ravenel was born February 14, 1938 to Charles F. and Yvonne Marie Michel Ravenel in Charleston, S.C. The nickname “Pug” was received after breaking his nose twice while playing baseball. He was working as a newspaper boy at the age of twelve, while attending Bishop England High School, a private Catholic School. Ravenel was named the most valuable player in the 1956 North-South All Star football game which was played in Columbia, S.C. After graduation, he attended the prestigious New England boarding school, Philips Exeter Academy for a year. At Harvard University, Ravenel was named First Marshal (President) of his class and graduated in 1961.

After college, Ravenel received a Corning Glass Works fellowship to travel to twenty-seven foreign countries to study economic conditions and politics. Ravenel earned an MBA in 1964 from Harvard Business School, then went to New York 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, Ravenel accepted a one-year White House Fellowship and worked as Special Assistant to the Under-Secretary of the Treasury before returning to Donaldson, Lufkin, Jenrette, Inc. 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.

In 1974, Ravenel sought the Democratic nomination for governor. He challenged the South Carolina political establishment, calling for a change in the old party line. There were seven candidates for the nomination: Maurice Bessinger, John Bolt Culbertson, William Jennings Bryan Dorn, Milton Dukes, Earle Morris, Nick Ziegler, and Ravenel. A run-off was expected between Morris and Dorn, because of their prominence in the state. Using television and personal appearances, Ravenel was able to appeal 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, 29 Sept. 1974). His energetic style encouraged an unprecedented number of citizens to come out and vote in the primary. The run-off election pitted Ravenel against former Congressman Dorn. Ravenel’s message of a “new” South Carolina appealed to the voters and he won the Democratic nomination. In 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 court challenge was instigated by two Democratic candidates and others against Ravenel’s eligibility to hold the governor’s seat due to Ravenel’s questionable residency status. Ravenel always had ties to South Carolina, but had only lived in the state for two and a half years since graduating high school. The State Supreme Court heard the case on September 23 and the same day ruled that Ravenel did not meet the 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 this long-time politician. On Election Day the large number of Ravenel backers turned away from the Democratic candidate and elected Republican nominee, James B. Edwards, as the first Republican Governor of South Carolina since Reconstruction.

In 1978, he unsuccessfully opposed Strom Thurmond for the U.S. Senate. The following year, Ravenel took a non-paying job as chairman of the Governor’s State Employment and Training Council and was chairman of 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, Ravenel left his federal job to run for the congressional seat for the 1st District, which was vacated by U.S. Representative Mendel Davis. Ravenel ran against state Representative Tommy Hartnett, but lost 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. He also was responsible for fund raising, managing existing assets and negotiating for patents.

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 was also a holding company that had interest in other financial institutions. Ravenel in 1984 was the chairman of the First South Savings Bank, the first stock-owned thrift institution in Columbia, when he and a group of investors bought out the Liberty National Bank, the only commercial bank based in Charleston at the time. He also led a successful buyout of Republic Bancorp of South Carolina. Ravenel was attempting to provide the state with business institutions that could promote development and economic growth.

Ravenel was the largest shareholder in the Citadel Federal Savings Bank, a savings and loan, when it was seized by federal regulators in 1992 after losing $1.3 million the previous year. Two loans “to” Ravenel were mismanaged and never repaid. In October 1995, Ravenel pled guilty to conspiring to defraud the Citadel Federal Savings Bank and was sentenced in December 1996 to serve nearly a year in prison. At the completion of his sentence, he was also required to serve two years probation and to pay $65,500 restitution. In January 2001, Ravenel was pardoned by outgoing President William Jefferson Clinton.

Provenance

Donated by Charles D. Ravenel.

Copyright

Copyright of the Charles D. Ravenel Papers has been transferred to the University of South Carolina.

Processing Information

Processed by Deanna R. Moore and Dorothy Hazelrigg, 2000.

Creator

Repository Details

Part of the South Carolina Political Collections Repository

Contact:
Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library
1322 Greene St.
University of South Carolina
Columbia SC 29208 USA
803-777-0577