Banker, Legislator, Governor. Harvey was born September 8, 1866, in Charleston, the son of Wilson G. Harvey and Cornelia Julia Elbridge. He was educated in local schools, but at the age of fifteen took a job with the Charleston News and Courier. Harvey was married twice. His first wife was Mary Franklin Butler, and they had three children. Following her death, he wed Margaret Bell Waring; they had no children.
In 1886, he became the manager of the World and Budget newspaper company in Charleston. Five years later he was named the manager of the Charleston office of the New York-based credit firm, Bradstreet. In 1894, he helped organize the Enterprise Bank in Charleston, and from 1904 until 1922 he was its president. He was active in a number of business associations and served as president of the South Carolina Bankers Association and the Charleston Chamber of Commerce.
In 1902 Harvey was elected alderman for Charleston’s Ward Two and served on City Council for eight years where he championed the extension of the Battery by the building of a massive sea wall. From 1916 to 1920 he chaired Charleston County’s Sanitary and Drainage Commission which oversaw the hard surfacing of roads and the building of numerous bridges. He was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1920. As the presiding officer of the Senate, he ended the chamber’s practice of meeting in the early hours of Sundays. Governor Robert Archer Cooper resigned his office on May 20, 1922, and Harvey was sworn in as the state’s chief executive. As governor he advocated the construction of concrete highways and higher educational standards in the public schools. He was a confirmed, enthusiastic prohibitionist and was dismayed that the Eighteenth Amendment received lukewarm support in South Carolina.
Harvey declined to stand for re-election and, following six years of service on the state board of public welfare, exited the political arena. In 1928, he was employed by Carolina Life Insurance Company in Greenville as an agent and later became the firm’s state manager. In 1932, the company transferred him to Florida. Wilson Harvey died in Tampa on October 7, 1932 and was buried in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston.
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.