Alcohol Beverage Control Commission

In 1967, by Act 398, the General Assembly created the ABC Commission to regulate spirits and other alcoholic formulations through licensing and enforcement.

The Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Commission was formerly part of the state’s licensing and regulation for the production, possession, and distribution of alcohol. In South Carolina, such efforts have witnessed remarkable shifts in public attitudes and legislative policy. What is allowed or prohibited has changed, and the responsible agencies have followed those changes.

The first temperance society was organized in South Carolina in 1829, marking the beginning of a complex history of efforts to control alcohol. Nearing the turn of the century, one of the most notable efforts to manipulate how alcohol might be distributed surfaced with the 1892 introduction of the South Carolina Dispensary. The Dispensary, despite a reputation as among the most disagreeable laws passed by the General Assembly, regulated alcohol at a level not previously attempted. Nonetheless, the public’s dissatisfaction included accusations of corruption against its special police officers, known as “dispensary constables.” It was followed by total prohibition and a gradual shift towards more liberal laws, which have seen continued enactment, repeal, and shifts in duties since then.

In 1967, by Act 398, the General Assembly created the ABC Commission to regulate spirits and other alcoholic formulations through licensing and enforcement. Before then, taxing, regulation, and enforcement were divided between the Tax Commission and the State Constabulary or its successor, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. Two years later, the ABC director, Otis Livingston, who had been named to the post by Gov. Robert McNair, told The State newspaper that he wished he had remained at the Tax Commission. Some members of the General Assembly complained that ABC agents remained on alcohol duty while SLED and the Highway Patrol worked civil unrest that year.  After that, rumors of irregularities began to emerge.

In 1975, Gov. James Edwards issued Executive Order No. 75-16 suspending an ABC Commissioner from his position following his indictment by a federal Grand Jury on extortion charges. According to press reports in 1992, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) was investigating the ABC Commission for possible corrupt practices. In the fall of that year, Gov. Carrol Campbell issued Executive Order No. 92-21, citing investigations of violations of public trust and concerns the statewide Grand Jury identified. The Order created a task force to consider reforms for the ABC Commission. The task force recommended the Commission be abolished. Afterward, the General Assembly approved a significant restructuring of the state government in 1993. The duties of “numerous boards and commissions” were consolidated with restructuring. Many appointments previously made by the General Assembly were transferred to the Governor. The ABC Commission was eliminated, and its responsibilities were divided between the Revenue Department, as the successor to the Tax Commission, and SLED by the Code of Laws in § 1-30-95 and § 1-30-120, et seq.

Huguley, M. (2015). The Governors’ Officers, A Short History of the Establishment, Mission, and People of South Carolina’s First Organized Police. Columbia: Author.

Huguley, M. W. (2020, July 30). South Carolina State Constabulary. Retrieved from South Carolina Encyclopedia: https://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/south-carolina-state-constabulary/

Page, L. (1969, June 5). Livingston: Didn’t Want Post. The State, p. 1.

Rowland, L. S., & Wise, S. R. (2015). Bridging the Sea Islands’ Past and Present, 1893-2006, The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina, Vol. 3. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Alcohol Beverage Control Commission
  • Author
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
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  • Access Date June 17, 2024
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update May 18, 2024
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