Former South Carolina congressman Arthur Ravenel Jr. dies

A Charleston, South Carolina native who served in public life for decades, Arthur Ravenel Jr., died on Monday at the age of 95.

Ravenel, a former Republican congressman and state senator who switched parties early in his career, was known as a colorful character with close ties to the state’s Lowcountry. The cause of his death wasn’t announced.

South Carolina lawmaker dies

Known as “Cousin Arther,” Ravenel entered politics in 1953 as a Democrat in the state House.

At the time, Republicans were unheard of in South Carolina, he would later recall. “Sherman was one,” he quipped, referring to the Union general whose scorched-earth warfare helped defeat the Confederates in the Civil War.

Ravenel changed parties as the Democratic party got “more and more liberal,” and he later won election to the state Senate in 1980 as a Republican.

He went on to serve in the U.S. House in South Carolina’s 1st district between 1987 and 1995, when he left to pursue a failed governor bid.

Ravenel’s crowning achievement is the Arthur Ravenel bridge, which spans downtown Charleston and Mt. Pleasant. He finally secured the funding for the project during a last stint in the state Senate that ended in 2003.

“Larger than life”

Ravenel, whose ancestors fought for the Confederacy, garnered controversy when he protested the removal of the Dixie flag from the statehouse in 2000.

At the time, he faced backlash for calling the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) the “National Association for Retarded People.”

Upon hearing of his death, South Carolina congresswoman Nancy Mace (R), who now represents the 1st district, called Ravenel a “great friend of the Lowcountry.” South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called him a “larger than life” personality.

“He loved Charleston and focused on the needs of the First Congressional District, culminating in the Arthur Ravenel Bridge, which remains transformative for the area,” Graham said.

Lowcountry man

Others similarly remembered Ravenel as a quintessential South Carolinian.

“He was a charming man with a wonderful accent, and he was a quintessential Lowcountry man,” Bill Sharpe, a Lowcountry native and longtime former anchor for Live 5 News, said.

Ravenel was born in 1927, the son of Arthur Ravenel, Sr. and Mary Allen Boykin. The Marine Corps veteran graduated from Charleston College in 1950.

Toward the end of his life, Ravenel served on the Charleston County school board. He is survived by six children.