Arthur Ravenel Jr.
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from South Carolina's 1st district
January 3, 1987 - January 3, 1995
|Thomas F. Hartnett|
|Member of the South Carolina Senate from the 34th District|
January 3, 1997 - January 3, 2005
|Raymond E. Cleary III|
|Member of the South Carolina Senate from the 44th District|
January 8, 1985 - January 3, 1987
|Sherry Shealy Martschink|
|Member of the South Carolina Senate from the 16th District|
January 13, 1981 - January 8, 1985
|Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from Charleston County|
January 13, 1953 - January 13, 1959
|Born||March 29, 1927|
Charleston, South Carolina
|Political party||Democratic (until 1960s)|
The Charleston-born Ravenel served in the United States Marine Corps from 1945 to 1946. He thereafter received a bachelor of science degree from the College of Charleston in 1950. He is a realtor and general contractor. He was a Democratic member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1953 to 1959.
He became a Republican in the early 1960s and ran many times for office. He lost elections for the South Carolina State Senate five times (1962, 1974, and 1976), for the United States House of Representatives (1971 special election), and for mayor of Charleston (also 1971).
Ravenel was elected as a Republican to the South Carolina Senate in 1980. He served until 1986, when he was elected to the U.S. Congress from the Charleston-based 1st District. He was reelected three more times without serious opposition. He did not run for reelection in 1994, but instead ran for governor. He finished second in the Republican primary to then State Representative David Beasley, but lost the runoff. Beasley, considered more conservative than Ravenel, went on to win the general election. In 1996, Ravenel was elected to his old seat in the state Senate, where he served until 2005.
Ravenel staged a comeback in 2006, having been elected at the age of 79 to a seat on the school board of Charleston County. Only a year earlier, he had suffered a bout of Guillain-Barré syndrome. In the same election, his son Thomas Ravenel, also a Republican, was elected state treasurer. He did not seek reelection in 2010, and retired from politics.
Ravenel said that he had run for the state Senate in 1996 specifically to seek funding for a new bridge between Charleston and Mount Pleasant to replace the John P. Grace Memorial Bridge and Silas N. Pearman Bridge. Both bridges were nearing the end of their useful lives, and had been criticized as safety hazards. Due to his efforts in passing laws for the new bridge's funding, fellow lawmakers voted to name the cable-stayed bridge in Charleston the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. Some felt that the bridge should not be named after Ravenel, with the head of the South Carolina Infrastructure Bank saying in 1999, "Certainly, Arthur Ravenel is a fine, decent person, but that bridge is bigger than any one individual and it should reflect all the qualities of the state and not some state senator who happens to be in the Legislature the time the structure is being built."
Ravenel is a member of Moultrie Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans, and was a supporter of the Confederate flag being flown at the South Carolina statehouse. He provoked controversy in response to a reporter's question in 2000 when he referred to the NAACP as the "National Association for Retarded People". Ravenel upset even more people after he apologized to mentally handicapped people for comparing them to the NAACP. Ravenel was preparing to speak to the National Association for Retarded People later that week, an actual organization that supports the rights of mentally handicapped people. Ravenel and his ex-wife have spent their lives advocating for the interests of mentally handicapped people. Ravenel's son has down syndrome, a mental handicap. Rather than understand the context for the slip, the media sought to reinforce the narrative that white southerners who support heritage issues are all racist. Many called for the Charleston bridge to be renamed. Ravenel once said that his fellow white congressional committee members operated on "black time", which he characterized as meaning "fashionably late".