It began in a little schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisconsin, in 1854. A small group of dedicated abolitionists gathered to fight the expansion of slavery, and they gave birth to a Party dedicated to freedom and equal opportunity.
The name “Republican” was chosen, alluding to Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party and conveying a commitment to the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The Party was formally organized in July 1854 by thousands of anti-slavery activists at a convention in Jackson, Michigan. And it was no accident that two years later, in 1856, the first Republican National Convention took place in Philadelphia, where the Constitution was written.
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, but it was the entire Republican Party who freed the slaves. The 1864 Republican National Convention called for the abolition of slavery, and Congressional Republicans passed the 13th Amendment unanimously, with only a few Democrat votes.
The South Carolina Republican Party was established in 1867 following the end of the Civil War. Robert Kingston Scott, South Carolina’s first Republican governor, was elected in 1868. In 1870, Republican Joseph Rainey was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, becoming the first directly-elected African American member of Congress. During the Reconstruction era (1865-1877), six African American Republicans, including Rainey, represented South Carolina in the U.S. Congress.
Following Reconstruction, Democrats dominated South Carolina politics for generations. History turned in 1964, when U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond announced to a statewide television audience that he was switching to the Republican Party. Ten years later, in 1974, Charleston dentist James B. Edwards was elected as the first Republican governor of South Carolina since Reconstruction. Since then, Republicans have earned majorities across state government. At the end of the 20th century, South Carolina Republicans broke the Democrats’ 100+ years of control in the State Legislature.
In 2010, South Carolina Republicans made history again by electing Nikki Haley as governor. She was South Carolina’s first minority and female governor. In 2012, Governor Haley herself made history by appointing Republican Tim Scott to the United States Senate. Scott is the first African-American senator from South Carolina and the first from the South since 1881.
2014 was the most successful election cycle in the State Party’s history with eleven (11) statewide victories. Senator Tim Scott became the first African-American U.S. Senator to win election in the South since Reconstruction. Governor Haley was re-elected with the largest margin of victory for a governor in twenty-four years.
South Carolina Republicans now hold six out of seven U.S. Congressional seats, both U.S. Senate seats, and nine out of nine Statewide Constitutional offices.
South Carolina Republicans have always had a front row seat to history. Beginning with Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1980, South Carolina’s “First in the South” Presidential Primary has been an important test for Presidential candidates. Our Presidential primaries have unique characteristics and demographics that are reflective of the national electorate, and therefore a much stronger indicator than the other early primaries and caucuses. We take our Presidential primaries very seriously – We Pick Presidents!
Our platform for the 21st century is one of prosperity through freedom and opportunity for all Americans.
Past Chairmen of the South Carolina Republican Party
- c. 1925-1931 Joseph W. “Tie-Less Joe” Tolbert
- c. 1932-1936 D.A. Gardner
- 1938-1952 J. Bates Gerald
- 1958-1962 Gregory D. Shorey, Jr.
- 1963-1965 J. Drake Edens, Jr.
- 1965-1968 Harry S. Dent
- 1968-1971 Raymond A. Harris
- 1971-1974 C. Kenneth Powell
- 1974-1976 Jesse L. Cooksey
- 1976-1980 Daniel I. Ross, Jr.
- 1980-1986 Dr. George G. Graham
- 1987-1989 Van D. Hipp, Jr.
- 1990-1993 Barry D. Wynn
- 1993-2002 Henry McMaster
- 2002-2009 Katon Dawson
- 2009-2011 Karen Floyd
- 2011-2013 Chad Connelly
- 2013-2017 Matt Moore
- 2017- Drew McKissick