Former SC Lt. Gov: SC must regain its culture of political collaboration

05/15/2014 12:00 AM

05/14/2014 8:44 PM

Former Lt. Gov. Nick Theodore said the collaboration he’s seen in state government in 50 transformational years of policy in South Carolina has all but disappeared.

If the state wants to continue to progress, it should learn and return to its past success, Theodore said in an exclusive interview with The Greenville News.

“You have to build coalitions and relationships in order to be successful,” Theodore said.

Theodore, a Greenville Democrat who served two terms as lieutenant governor under Republican Gov. Carroll Campbell from 1987-95 and in the House and Senate before that, ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1994.

Theodore has written a memoir, “Trials and Triumphs: South Carolina’s Evolution 1962-2014,” released today, in collaboration with Dave Partridge, a former anchor and news director at WYFF-4, which shares the personal stories and political maneuvers that shifted the education structure and created the manufacturing hotbed that exists in South Carolina today.

His political career began with his election to the House in 1962. He and nine other young legislators were nicknamed the Young Turks, a misnomer since Theodore is Greek, but a symbol of the new wave of legislators who wanted to point the state in a new direction.

“Trials and Triumphs” measures how South Carolina’s political choices — from desegregation to the advent of technical colleges — have changed its landscape in what Theodore called the most transformational years in state history since the Civil War.

The state’s history is shown through the lens of Theodore’s own career. Greenville history and his Greek heritage are shared as personal stories interspersed throughout the book.

When Theodore entered politics, the Legislature was all-male and all-white. Reapportionment changed boundaries from countywide districts which added diversity during Theodore’s early years.

Politicians campaigned on the needs of their smaller districts. Power shifted away from strong leaders from small counties toward metro areas.

“We would not have the cross-section of our people represented were it not for single-member districts,” he said.

During his governor’s campaign, Theodore argued that the Confederate flag should be removed from the Capitol because “only flags that control your sovereign government should be flown over the Capitol.”

He said the flag “is part of our history so it should be utilized” at its present location next to the Confederate soldier memorial on the Capitol grounds.

Theodore’s stance that the Citadel should admit women also cropped up and, at the time, made him unpopular among cadets, he said.

Theodore is most proud of the coalition that brought about education changes that created the state’s 16 technical colleges and attracted manufacturing to South Carolina.

Now 86, Theodore remains involved in education. He’s a member of the University Center Greenville’s board of trustees and president of the Barbara Stone Foundation board, which assists individuals with disabilities and their families.

“Politicians don’t stop; they shouldn’t. The ones that are dedicated keep going,” he said.

Theodore’s book will debut Thursday at the Greek Festival in downtown Greenville. It is available at Café at Williams Hardware, Gage’s, Greenville Historical Society, Turn the Page and Upcountry History Museum. Copies will be available at local libraries or by email from

The book was published by Faith Printing Company in Taylors.

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