Carroll Campbell, South Carolina's Greatest Governor


Carroll Campbell, whose term of governor between 1987 and 1995 changed South Carolina in many ways, passed away today after a long fight with Alzheimer's Disease.


As someone who grew up in a Southern state that was, and still is, fighting to move beyond the shadow of its past as a poorly-educated, segregationist society run by well-heeled insiders running the state to protect their interests, friends, and values, Campbell was a rare reformer who looked beyond the here and now, and worked to move South Carolina forward.

In the early 90's, after high school, I was one of his many street soldiers, testifying at legislative hearings, calling talk shows, letters to the editor, etc. in support of various Campbell reform issues. I was glad to do lend my support in moving those efforts, and this state, forward. Together, we prevailed on restructing, auto insurance reform, new ethics laws, tax reform, and other issues that made this state a little fairer and a little easier for the average person to live in, and for our children to grow up in.

He was a rare breed. Courageous, tough, and determined, Carroll Campbell is a leader and mentor to many, myself included, and will be missed greatly.

.. and a friend who we'll miss dearly. Rest in peace, Carroll.

"As only the second Republican governor in a then-Democratic dominated state, he persuaded the General Assembly to pass almost all of his priorities," said Whit Ayers, a Virginia-based Republican pollster who was a top Campbell aide in the first term. "He did so by appealing to the Democratic leadership to work together for the good of the state," Ayres said. As governor, Campbell:

  • Revamped the state's tax code to make it more business-friendly, resulting in record economic development.
  • Set the precedent of submitting an executive budget to the Legislature, a task previously performed by the Budget and Control Board.
  • Directed new expenditures into education, creating the Governor's
    School for Science and Math and the Governor's Teaching Scholarship.
  • Won partial restructuring of state government, putting formerly board-run agencies, unaccountable to the public, under a cabinet secretary reporting to the governor.

The scion of a blue-blooded family fallen on hard times who never went to college in the traditional sense, Campbell was a risk-taker of immense drive who found early success in business, then politics. "He always had the heart of an underdog," said Bob McAlister, a top aide during Campbell's eight years as governor, close friend and spiritual adviser. "He always saw himself as that young man in Greenville struggling to make a living."

In his 1986 campaign for governor, Campbell would rail at the "good 'ol boys" he said dominated state politics for their own, not the people's, prosperity.

The eight years as governor were marked by strong economic development, topped off by his personal efforts to woo BMW to the Upstate, and a major initiative that restructured part of state government bringing more authority to his successors at the expense of the Legislature.

Fowler found himself on the same side as Campbell — and with current Republican Gov. Mark Sanford's next-step efforts — in the government restructuring fight. "He deserves good marks for that, and his economic development efforts," Fowler said of Campbell. "BMW did come here when he was governor and it's been an economic blessing."

Former Democratic Gov. Robert McNair has credited Campbell with breathing new life into a sagging industry-hunting effort, getting the state "back into the international arena where we had in 1960s and 1970s been a leader, both regionally and nationally. "He did it the way you have to do it, by personal involvement (as) a tremendous spokesman for the state," McNair said a decade ago

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