In 1904 Harley was elected to the South Carolina House from Barnwell County and served until 1908. In 1910, he was elected mayor of Barnwell, but he was forced to relinquish the position in 1918 because of a ruling that railroad lawyers could not hold public office.

Legislator. Governor. Harley was born on September 14, 1880, in Williston, to Lunsford G. Harley and Elizabeth Hammond. He was educated at the South Carolina Educational Institute in Greenwood and received his law degree from the University of South Carolina. After being admitted to the bar, he practiced law in Barnwell. Among his major clients were the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, Seaboard Airline Railroad, and Southern Railway. In addition he farmed extensive land holdings in the county and was president of the First National Bank of Barnwell. He married Sarah Agnes Richardson, and they had three children.

During the Spanish American War, Harley served with the First South Carolina Volunteers. When he returned home, he became a captain in the South Carolina Militia. He was active in Democratic Party politics and served as a delegate to national conventions in 1908, 1924, 1928, and 1932.

In 1904 Harley was elected to the South Carolina House from Barnwell County and served until 1908. In 1910, he was elected mayor of Barnwell, but he was forced to relinquish the position in 1918 because of a ruling that railroad lawyers could not hold public office. He returned to the House for two terms in the 1920s. In 1934, he was elected Lieutenant Governor and was re-elected in 1938. When Governor Burnet Rhett Maybank resigned on November 4, 1941, Harley was sworn in as governor. He had been ill for several years, and during much of his administration, he was confined to the Governor’s Mansion. He died on February 27, 1942 in Columbia and was buried in Barnwell Cemetery.

Bailey, N. Louise, Mary L. Morgan, and Carolyn R. Taylor, eds. Biographical Directory of the South Carolina Senate, 1776–1985. 3 vols. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1986.

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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Harley, Joseph Emile
  • Author Walter Edgar
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • URL http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/harley-joseph-emile/
  • Access Date December 14, 2019
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • Original Published Date August 3, 2016
  • Date of Last Update September 22, 2016