In the fall of 1991, Beasley switched to the Republican Party because he felt that “the Democratic Party was moving so far to the left” and “that Republican philosophy and Republican policies were more in line with what is good for America over the long term.”
Governor. Beasley was born in Lamar on February 26, 1957, the son of Richard and Jacqueline Beasley. He graduated from Lamar High School in 1975 and attended Clemson University from 1976 to 1978. He transferred to the University of South Carolina in 1979 after being elected to the S.C. House of Representatives at the age of twenty-two. He received his undergraduate degree in 1979 and his law degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1983. He married Mary Wood Payne on June 18, 1988. They have three children.
Beasley served in the S.C. House of Representatives from 1979 to 1994. He was originally elected as a Democrat representing Darlington and Marlboro Counties, and his legislative focus was on education. Beasley was chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Education, chair of the House Education and Public Works Committee, and vice chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Children. From 1987 to 1988 he was majority leader, and in 1991 he was elected Speaker Pro Tempore.
In the fall of 1991, Beasley switched to the Republican Party because he felt that “the Democratic Party was moving so far to the left” and “that Republican philosophy and Republican policies were more in line with what is good for America over the long term.” In 1994 Beasley defeated Tommy Hartnett and Arthur Ravenel to win the Republican Party’s nomination for governor. He then defeated Democrat Nick Theodore in November.
In his early years as governor, Beasley was perceived as a rising star within the Republican Party and was selected as chair of the Republican Governors’ Association. His conservative political philosophy emphasized that social problems could best be solved by creating wealth through the private sector. During his first three years as governor, more than $16 billion in private-sector capital investments was made in South Carolina. During the same period, property and business taxes were reduced by more than $1 billion. Beasley also supported welfare reform through a welfare-to-work program that gave tax credits to businesses that hired welfare workers. In addition he helped start the Putting Families First Foundation, which brought together churches, local chambers of commerce, and other voluntary organizations to assist welfare families in making the transition from public assistance to self-support.
In 1998 Beasley was defeated in his bid for reelection by Democrat Jim Hodges, who ran on a platform emphasizing education and the creation of a state lottery to provide additional funding for education. Analysts attributed Beasley’s defeat to the get-out-the-vote efforts of the Democratic Party, financial contributions made by video poker and prolottery supporters to the Hodges campaign, and Beasley’s growing identification with Christian conservatives. Beasley had angered conservative supporters during his term, however, by calling for the removal of the Confederate flag from above the State House dome. In June 1999 he moved to his farm in Society Hill and joined the Bingham Consulting Group, an international business and consulting firm. In 2003 he received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for his stand on the Confederate flag.
Hayward, Steven. “Beasley Makes It Finah in Carolina.” Policy Review 89 (May–June 1998): 9–10.