Benjamin during a visit to assess the National Guard response to severe flooding in support of civil authorities, Columbia, S.C., Oct. 14, 2015

Benjamin, Stephen Keith

December 1, 1969–

Benjamin successfully won a special election to become mayor of Columbia in 2010, becoming the first African American ever to hold that position.

Mayor. Steve Benjamin was born in Queens, New York in December 1969 to parents who were originally from Orangeburg, South Carolina. Benjamin himself later moved to South Carolina to attend the University of South Carolina, where he earned a B.A. in political science as well as a JD from the University of South Carolina School of Law. Foreshadowing his later political career, Benjamin served both as student body president while an undergraduate and as president of the student bar association while attending USC Law.

Following law school, Benjamin maintained a private law practice. In 1999, Governor Jim Hodges appointed Benjamin to his cabinet as director of the Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services. Following a failed run for state attorney general, Benjamin successfully won a special election to become mayor of Columbia in 2010, becoming the first African American ever to hold that position. Benjamin has been elected to three terms, winning again in 2013 and 2017. While mayor, Benjamin has served as president of the US Conference of Mayors and the African American Mayors Association.

Benjamin oversaw Columbia’s response to and recovery from the “1,000 year” flood in October 2015. He was recognized for his actions with a 2017 Phoenix Award for Outstanding Contributions to Disaster Recovery by a Public Official by the US Small Business Administration. Following the 2017 Las Vegas Shooting, which resulted in 58 people killed and 413 wounded, Benjamin initiated a city ordinance that banned bump stocks and trigger cranks, making Columbia the first city in the nation to take such action.

Benjamin has also been involved in national Democratic party politics. He was a strong supporter of the “My Brother’s Keeper” project, begun by President Barack Obama, which aims to empower young men and boys of color. During the 2016 presidential election, Benjamin was an early supporter of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and served as state co-chairman for her campaign. At the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Benjamin delivered a prime-time address in support of Clinton’s nomination.

Dumain, Emma. “Steve Benjamin: From the Mayor.” Charleston Post and Courier, July 25, 2016.

“The Honorable Stephen K. Benjamin.”

“Steve Benjamin.” 2020 South Carolina African American History Calendar.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Benjamin, Stephen Keith
  • Coverage December 1, 1969–
  • Author
  • Keywords Stephen K. Benjamin, Mayor, Columbia, Democrat
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date July 13, 2024
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update July 13, 2022
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