Politics & Government

Former SC first lady, widow of Carroll Campbell dies

Widow of former South Carolina Governor Carroll Campbell, Iris Faye Rhodes, and her son, Mike Campbell walk to the State House after attending the Inaugural Prayer Service. Governor Nikki Haley and other dignitaries are joined by their friends and family members for the Inaugural Prayer service held at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Wednesday morning. (2015)
Widow of former South Carolina Governor Carroll Campbell, Iris Faye Rhodes, and her son, Mike Campbell walk to the State House after attending the Inaugural Prayer Service. Governor Nikki Haley and other dignitaries are joined by their friends and family members for the Inaugural Prayer service held at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Wednesday morning. (2015)

Iris Campbell, the widow of the late S.C. Gov. Carroll Campbell, has died.

Campbell, 77, passed away in her sleep Monday night at her home in Debordieu in Georgetown County after a brief illness, according to Columbia’s Bob McAlister, speaking on behalf of the family.

Surviving are Campbell’s two sons, Michael Campbell and Carroll A. Campbell III, and four grandchildren.

Gov. Campbell, a Republican credited with helping to make the GOP a dominant force in South Carolina politics, died in 2005 of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Iris and Carroll served the people of South Carolina with grace and dignity from 1987 to 1995 as governor and first lady,” McAlister said in a statement.

“They were a team in everything they did, and accomplished many great things for our state and nation. Above all, they were devoted to God and considered their children and grandchildren their proudest accomplishment.”

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster said he and First Lady Peggy McMaster were “heartbroken” to hear the news.

"We loved her. We were blessed to have called her and her late husband friends, and will miss her dearly,” McMaster said. “This loss leaves us saddened, but also grateful to know that she is reunited with Carroll and that they are both resting well with their Lord and Savior."

In a 2001 article in The State, Iris Campbell said she hoped people would remember her for work to help the state’s children.

"When you're the first lady, everybody wants you to chair something or be involved in different things. I felt if I kept my concern to one thing – children and families – I could be the most effective," she said in the article.

On Tuesday, Ginger Huggins, Campbell’s administrative assistant who for six years managed the first lady’s schedule and traveled with her, recalled her longtime friend.

“Ms. Campbell always said that she was not the politician. The governor was. She didn't want all the attention on her,” said Huggins, wife of state Rep. Chip Huggins, R-Lexington.

Campbell made her impact quietly, Huggins said, as a booster for various causes, including the American Cancer Society and a horseback-riding program for children with disabilities.

Campbell also hosted an Easter egg hunt for children at the Palmetto Health children’s hospital and got involved with a program to raise awareness about the importance of fire alarms.

Campbell could dance too, Huggins said. “They could shag better than anybody. The governor would concentrate, and she didn't because she was just such a good dancer.”

“I never will forget working there, and I learned so much, because she wanted everything done the right way,” Huggins said.

Other S.C. officials and friends of the Campbells expressed their condolences on social media.

“Lost the mother hen who kept an eye on me for 8 intense, rewarding years in the Gov's Office (my 20s-30s),” tweeted Tucker Eskew, who was Gov. Campbell’s press secretary. “Iris brought laughter, love, good sense, and grace to her husband, her sons, and her state. Rest in peace, Iris and thank you.”

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