HISTORY: Charles D. “Pug” Ravenel

S.C. Encyclopedia  |  Charles “Pug” Ravenel was born in Charleston on February 14, 1938, the son of Charles F. Ravenel and Yvonne Marie Michel. A football standout in high school in Charleston, he graduated from Bishop England (1956), Philips Exeter Academy (1957), Harvard University (1961), and Harvard Business School (M.B.A., 1964).

He was first marshall (president) of Harvard’s graduating class and corecipient of the Bingham Award for most outstanding athlete. He worked on Wall Street from 1964 to 1972 and as a White House fellow at the U.S. Treasury Department (1966–1967). Ravenel returned to Charleston and established a merchant-banking firm. He married Mary Curtis on December 26, 1963. They have three children. Following a divorce, he married Susan Gibbes Woodward on November 30, 1991.

In 1974 Ravenel won the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor on a platform emphasizing a new South Carolina. He criticized the state Senate establishment for opposing ethics, home rule, and campaign reform. He openly opposed the death penalty, supported the right of collective bargaining by public employees, openly reported his campaign expenditures, and conducted the first sophisticated media campaign in South Carolina.

A campaign flyer from the S.C. Political Collection at USC.

Ravenel led the first primary and defeated Congressman William Jennings Bryan Dorn in a runoff. Despite a circuit court ruling before his campaign that he met state residency requirements, some disgruntled Democrats challenged Ravenel’s residency status. On September 23, 1974, the state Supreme Court reversed the circuit court, issuing an injunction against his candidacy. The Democratic Party then selected Dorn as its gubernatorial candidate. This schism resulted in the election of James B. Edwards as the first Republican governor of South Carolina since Reconstruction.

In 1978 Ravenel ran against Republican incumbent Strom Thurmond for the U.S. Senate. Thurmond was reelected, but by the narrowest victory margin since he became a senator in 1954. In 1980 Ravenel served as U.S. associate deputy secretary of commerce and was the Democratic Party’s candidate for the First Congressional District seat. He was narrowly defeated by Republican Tommy Hartnett.

In 1981 Ravenel withdrew from political life for a career combining public service and banking. He was a trustee of Philips Exeter Academy, a member of the Harvard College Board of Overseers Visitors’ Committee, a trustee for Historic Charleston Foundation, president of Spoleto Festival USA, and chair of the Governor’s State Employment and Training Council. In business he was chair of Capital South Corporation, specializing in capitalizing smaller companies, as well as a board member of numerous other corporations.

In 1996 Ravenel pleaded guilty to bank fraud conspiracy involving Citadel Federal Savings Bank and was sentenced to eleven months and seventeen days in a federal prison. Following completion of his sentence, Ravenel returned to Charleston, where he continued his work in the community and in real estate. In January 2001 Ravenel was officially pardoned by the president of the United States.

Ravenel died on March 25, 2017 at age 79.

— Excerpted from an entry by William V. Moore.  This entry hasn’t been updated since 2006.  To read more about this or 2,000 other entries about South Carolina, check out The South Carolina Encyclopedia, published in 2006 by USC Press. (Information used by permission.) 

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