Charles “Pug” Ravenel, a would-be governor whose ill-fated campaign ushered in the break-up of Democrats’ solid grip on S.C. politics, passed away Saturday.
Ravenel died in Charleston at the age of 79, according to Stuhr’s Funeral Home.
Ravenel, a banker, won the Democratic nomination for governor in 1974, defeating U.S. Rep. William Jennings Bryan Dorn in a run-off.
At the time, the Democratic nominee had been elected S.C. governor in every race since 1876.
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However, the state Supreme Court took up a challenge to Ravenel’s candidacy, ruling he didn’t meet the five-year residency requirement to run for office. Ravenel had worked on Wall Street before returning to his home town of Charleston and running for governor.
Just weeks before the election, the Democratic nomination was instead given to Dorn, the runner-up. With the party split and Ravenel continuing to protest, the election went to Republican James Edwards.
Ravenel went on to lose two other political races, a U.S. Senate run in 1978 against U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-Edgefield, and a congressional race in the 1st District in 1980.
Ravenel’s return to banking afterward had its own troubles. In 1996, he received an 11-month federal prison sentence after pleading guilty to a bank fraud charge. Ravenel was pardoned by President Bill Clinton in 2001 on Clinton’s last night in office.
“Mr. Ravenel brought to the South Carolina arena a vigor, perspective, intelligence and charisma which we have rarely seen,” Don Fowler, chairman of the S.C. Democratic Party during the 1974 drama, said in a statement released by the party.
Former U.S. Sen. Frtiz Hollings, D-Charleston, said Ravenel was not responsible for Democrats’ subsequent struggles. Since 1974, Democrats only have won three of 10 gubernatorial elections.
“Pug is the best thing that ever happened to our party,” Hollings said. “We were dying. He brought in fresh faces and fresh ideas.”