During Campbell’s two terms as governor, South Carolina experienced Hurricane Hugo, a major recession, and the “Lost Trust” vote buying scandal in the General Assembly. These events gave him the opportunity to increase the stature and decision-making authority of the governor.
Legislator, congressman, governor. Campbell was born on July 24, 1940, in Greenville, the son of Carroll Ashmore Campbell and Anne Williams. He was educated at the McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and attended the University of South Carolina and American University. On September 5, 1959, he married Iris Rhodes of Greenville. They have two sons.
Campbell’s political career began when he was elected to the S.C. House of Representatives in 1971. In 1973 he became assistant minority leader. In 1974 he was the Republican Party’s nominee for lieutenant governor but was defeated. In 1975 he served as executive assistant to Governor James Edwards. Campbell was elected to the S.C. Senate in 1976, and in 1978 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the Fourth Congressional District. He served in Congress from 1979 until 1986. In 1979 he was named outstanding freshman congressman. While in Congress he served on the Appropriations Committee and the Ways and Means Committee.
In November 1986 Campbell was elected governor of South Carolina as a Republican, receiving fifty-one percent of the vote. He was reelected for a second term in 1990, receiving more than sixty-nine percent of the vote. He also played major roles in the presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan and George Bush and served as chairman of the National Governors Association.
During Campbell’s two terms as governor, South Carolina experienced Hurricane Hugo, a major recession, and the “Lost Trust” vote buying scandal in the General Assembly. These events gave him the opportunity to increase the stature and decision-making authority of the governor. Following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, the governor’s office became the focus of response and recovery efforts for the state. The office coordinated the federal, state, and private relief efforts in the aftermath of the hurricane. These efforts helped establish the governor as the state’s crisis manager.
Campbell’s response to the state’s recession was to enact a series of budget cuts for some state agencies rather than raise taxes. In 1988 he began sending an executive budget to the state’s Budget and Control Board. This body, comprised of the governor, the comptroller general, the state treasurer, the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, and the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, had historically developed the budget for the state. Campbell’s initiative resulted in the budgetary statutes being revised to allow the governor to develop and submit a proposed budget to that body. Campbell used the 1990 “Lost Trust” vote buying scandal to restructure the state’s bureaucracy. In 1991 he created a citizens panel for the purpose of making recommendations on state government reform. From this came a reorganization plan that was passed by the General Assembly in 1993 and which consolidated 145 state agencies. Thirteen of the agencies formed the nucleus of a cabinet that increased the governor’s power since the agency heads were subject to gubernatorial appointment and removal and reported directly to the governor. The Campbell administration was also recognized for its success in recruiting industry. During his administration the state experienced unprecedented capital investments, including the recruitment of BMW to Greer and the pharmaceutical company Hoffman-Laroche to Florence.
Campbell was instrumental in the development of the Republican Party in South Carolina. He used his position as governor to assist Republicans in building a viable structure and raising funds. This made it easier for the party to recruit candidates. He also personally recruited candidates to run and persuaded some Democratic legislators to switch parties. In 1994 the Republican Party, for the first time since Reconstruction, constituted a majority of the members of the S.C. House of Representatives. A former executive director of the S.C. Republican Party claimed that Carroll Campbell did more for the Republican Party than any other single individual in the state had done. When Campbell left office in January 1995, he had an approval rating of seventy-two percent.
After leaving office, Campbell became president of the American Life Insurance Council in Washington, D.C. In 1996 he considered running for president, but this was a short-lived venture. That year he was also on Republican Party presidential nominee Bob Dole’s short list for vice president but was not chosen. In October 2001 in an open letter to the people of South Carolina, he announced that he had been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. He died December 7, 2005 and was buried in the cemetery at All Saints Episcopal Church, Pawleys Island.
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.
Graham, Cole Blease, Jr., and William V. Moore. South Carolina Politics and Government. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994.