History of South Carolina

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: North American History

History of
South Carolina
Colonial period
   American Revolution  

South Carolina is one of the original states of the United States of America, and its history has been remarkable for an extraordinary commitment to political independence, whether from overseas or federal control. As a cornerstone of mercantilism and the slave trade, as the powder keg of the American Civil War, as the home of Jim Crow, and as the heart of the Dixiecrat movement, South Carolina's history has been the epitome of decentralization ( federalism) in the U.S.

Although area that is now the contemporary U.S. state of South Carolina has been populated since approximately 13,000 BC (when tool-making nomads began to leave material remains), the documented history of South Carolina begins in 1540 with the visit of Hernando de Soto. The royal colony of Carolina (1712) was settled by immigrants from Pennsylvania and Virginia who followed the frontier, in the northern parts, while the southern parts were populated by wealthy English planters. As well, this southern part was more fully developed. For this reason, the Province of South Carolina was distinguished from the Province of North Carolina in 1719.

South Carolina declared independence from Great Britain and set up its own government on March 15, 1776. It joined the United States by signing the Declaration of Independence. For two years its president was John Rutledge who became governor. On February 5, 1778, South Carolina became the first state to ratify the first constitution of the U.S., the Articles of Confederation.

An 1861 engraving of Fort Sumter before the attack that began the Civil War.
An 1861 engraving of Fort Sumter before the attack that began the Civil War.

Disputes over slavery (as well as other economic matters such as tariff levels) led it to be the first state to secede from the U.S. on December 20, 1860, precipitating the American Civil War with the shelling of Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. After the Confederate defeat, South Carolina was occupied during Reconstruction. Freed slaves benefited from this, gaining numerous civil rights; however, the gains were short-lived, and were eventually taken away by the Jim Crow laws that were especially severe in South Carolina. Civil rights for South Carolina's African Americans would remain diminished until the Civil Rights struggle of the mid-20th century.


Although evidence is limited, many scientists theorize that the area now known as South Carolina was originally settled circa 15,000 years ago near the end of a major Ice Age. Early inhabitants were primitive tool makers, and hunted animals such as the mammoth, the mastodon, and the great bison.

Near the end of the Pleistocene epoch, the Paleo-Indians emerged, using more advanced tools than earlier peoples. Their culture is usually defined by the use of Clovis points on spears. Stretching from the Great Plains to the Atlantic, they were the first big-game hunters. In one of their hunting tricks, they would burn the marsh or the woods in order to lure out the mastodons and mammoths that had been hiding within. They also may have used gathering in their vast hunting efforts.

When the Ice Age ended, the early Natives adapted to the new climate and newly abundant game by hunting mammals—particularly the white-tailed deer, fish, and fowl. They spent spring and summer near a large body of water, as evidenced by shell middens and shell rings. Some experts date the earliest pottery and other simple ceramics found along the Savannah River to between 2,500 BC and 1,000 BC. From ca. 1,000 BC to AD 1,000, Native Americans began to depend on agriculture, leading to a decrease in migration and more permanent settlements.

The Mississippian Period was characterized by platform mounds, traditional burial rituals, and a political, social, and religion hierarchical structure organized under village chiefs. During the latter half of the 12th century, Mississippian tribes battled eastward and eventually invaded the Woodland areas of South Carolina. The Mississippians had set up defensive structures for their invasions around early sites, and they tended to plant their crops in the fertile soil near rivers where villages would subsequently spring up.

In 1540, when the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto was exploring the western South Carolina area on his way to the Mississippi River, he encountered the important town of Cofitachequi on the Wateree River in the area now called Kershaw County, and left a detailed description. The town had many rectangular thatched-roof houses and store houses, most of which sold clothing and jewelry. Their pearls and knowledge of the Spanish suggests that they traded with coastal Indians.

The number of Native Americans present in South Carolina at the time of first European contact is estimated by ethnologists to be 15,000. This figure was halved by 1715, due to European disease and war. Many modern South Carolinian place names, ranging from rivers and islands to penitentiaries and high schools, are derived from Native ones.

Colonial period

The Carolina Colonies
The Carolina Colonies

By the end of the 16th century, the Spanish and French had left the area of South Carolina after several reconnaissance missions and failed colonization attempts; however in 1629, Charles I granted his attorney general a charter to everything between latitudes 36 and 31. He called this land the Province of Carlana, which would later be changed to "Carolina" for pronunciation, after the Latin form of his own name. Later, Charles II gave the land to eight nobles, the Lords Proprietors, who ruled over the Carolinas until 1719 when the land was split into the British provinces of North Carolina and South Carolina.

In August 1669, the first three ships, called Carolina, Port Royal and Albemarle sailed from England to Barbados. The third of the aforementioned ships sank off the coast of Barbados. They grabbed the supplies the Lords Proprietors had prescribed, replaced the Albemarle with Three Brothers, and set sail again. The ships were separated in a thunderstorm shortly afterward, and Port Royal was drifting lost for six weeks.

It ran out of drinking water in the process before wrecking in the Bahamas. With a new ship they had built, they reached New Providence and bought a new boat that would take them to Bermuda. There they were reunited with the Carolina. The sailors agreed to sail for the region now called Westasas Ashlee. When they landed in early April at Albemarle Point on the shores of Ashlee, they founded Charles Town, in honour of their king.

Throughout the Colonial Period, the Carolinas participated in many wars against the Spanish and the Native Americans, particularly the Yamassee and Cherokee tribes. The Carolina backcountry was settled largely by Scots-Irish migrants from Pennsylvania and Virginia, while the low country mostly consisted of wealthy plantation owners. Toward the end of the Colonial Period, the backcountry was underrepresented and poorly treated, leading residents to take a loyalist position when the upcountry complained of new taxes that would later help spark the American Revolution.

Revolutionary War

John Rutledge had many roles in South Carolina's history throughout the American Revolution.
John Rutledge had many roles in South Carolina's history throughout the American Revolution.

Prior to the American Revolution, the British began taxing American colonies to raise revenue, particularly outraging South Carolinians with the Townsend Acts that taxed tea, paper, wine, glass, and oil. To protest the Stamp Act, South Carolina sent wealthy rice planter Thomas Lynch, twenty-six-year-old lawyer John Rutledge, and Christopher Gadsden to the Stamp Act Congress, held in 1765 in New York. Other taxes were removed, but tea taxes remained. Soon South Carolinians, like the Boston Tea Party, began to dump tea into the Charleston Harbour, followed by boycotts and protests.

South Carolina declared independence from Great Britain and set up its state government on March 15, 1776. Many of the South Carolinian battles fought during the American Revolution were with loyalist Carolinians and the Cherokee tribe which had allied itself with the British. This was to General Henry Clinton's advantage, whose strategy was to march his troops north from St. Augustine and sandwich George Washington in the North. Clinton alienated loyalists and enraged Patriots by attacking and nearly annihilating a fleeing army of Patriot soldiers that posed no threat. He also threatened to take away the parole of Patriot prisoners of war unless they took up arms against their fellow Americans.

On October 7, 1780, at Kings Mountain, Pickens led a body of North and South Carolinians and attacked British Major Patrick Ferguson and his body of American loyalists on a hilltop. This was a major victory for the patriots, especially because it was won by militiamen and not trained Continentals. Kings Mountain is considered to be the turning point in the southern campaigns since it forced General Cornwallis to split his troops, making his plan for a major push north impossible. Patriots regained control of Charleston and South Carolina with untrained militiamen by trapping Colonel Banastre "No Quarter" Tarleton's troops along a river.

In 1787, John Rutledge, Charles Pinckney, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and Pierce Butler went to Philadelphia where the Constitutional Convention was being held and constructed what served as a detailed outline for the U.S. Constitution. The federal Constitution was ratified by the state in 1787, and the new state constitution was ratified in 1790 without the support of the Upcountry.

Antebellum South Carolina

An image of The Compromise Tariff of 1833 that would lower rates on tariffs over 10 years in an agreement between John C. Calhoun and Henry Clay.
An image of The Compromise Tariff of 1833 that would lower rates on tariffs over 10 years in an agreement between John C. Calhoun and Henry Clay.

Due to the invention of the cotton gin in 1786, the economies of the Upcountry and the Lowcountry became fairly equal in wealth. The Lowcountry could grow long staple cotton, but the Upcountry's soil could only grow short staple cotton. Lowcountry cotton had been easier to separate by hand until Eli Whitney's cotton gin made it as easy to separate Upcountry cotton as it was to separate Lowcountry cotton. The invention caused farmers to require a larger number of workers. Upcountry planters began to import slavery.

To make things easier for those living in The Upstate, the capital was moved to Columbia. Before the War of 1812, the state's Congressmen voted to prevent norethern industry from exporting any goods, leading to inter-sectional tensions. After the war, however, John C. Calhoun proclaimed the need for more industry, and proposed higher protective tariffs. He later reversed course.

In 1828, John C. Calhoun decided that constitutionally, the state government of each state within that state had more power than the federal government. Consequently, if a state deemed it necessary, it had the right to "nullify" any federal law within its boundaries. When in 1832, South Carolina's houses quickly "nullified" the hated federally mandated tariffs, President Andrew Jackson declared this an act of open rebellion and ordered U.S. ships to South Carolina to enforce the law.

Calhoun resigned as vice president, planning on becoming a senator in South Carolina to stop its run toward secession while solving the problems inflaming his fellow Carolinians. Before federal forces arrived at Charleston, Calhoun and Henry Clay agreed upon a compromise tariff that would lower rates over 10 years.

Tensions over the institution of slavery were a key feature of South Carolina life during the antebellum period. In 1822, free black craftsman and preacher Denmark Vesey was convicted for having masterminded a plan to overthrow Charlestonian whites by slaves and free blacks. Whites established curfews and forbade assembly of large numbers of African Americans and the education of slaves. Since the mere presence of free blacks was seen as dangerous, South Carolina leaders also made it illegal for slaveholders to free their slaves without a special degree from the state legislature. This intensified already existing hostility between the abolitionist Northern States and the slave-advocating Southern States.

American Civil War

Prewar tensions

Very few South Carolina whites saw emancipation as an option. Whites feared that if blacks—the vast majority in most parts of the state—were freed, they would try to "Africanize" their cherished society and culture as they had seen happen after slave revolutions in some areas of the West Indies. Carolinian leaders were divided between devoted Unionists that opposed any sort of secession, and those who believed secession was a state's right. John C. Calhoun noted that the dry and barren West could not support a plantation system and would remain slaveless. Thus, Calhoun proposed that Congress should not exclude slavery from territories but let each state choose for itself whether it would allow slaves within its borders. After Calhoun's death in 1850, however, South Carolina was left without a leader great enough in national standing and character to prevent more militant Carolinian factions' desire to secede immediately. Andrew Pickens Butler argued against Charleston publisher Robert Barnwell Rhett, who advocated immediate and, if necessary, independence. Butler won the battle, but Rhett outlived him.

When it was seen that President Abraham Lincoln would be elected, a number of conventions organized around the Deep South to discuss the options. States with strong pro-secession movements such as Alabama and Mississippi sent delegates to the convention where they advised the Carolinians to "take the lead and secede at once." On December 20, 1860, South Carolinians in Charleston voted to secede from the Union. President James Buchanan declared the secession illegal but did not act to stop it.

Fort Sumter

1861, inside the fort flying the Confederate Flag.
1861, inside the fort flying the Confederate Flag.

Six days later, on the day after Christmas, Major Robert Anderson, commander of the U.S. troops in Charleston, withdrew his men against orders into the island fortress of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. South Carolina militia swarmed over the abandoned mainland batteries and trained their guns on the island. Sumter was the key position to preventing a naval invasion of Charleston, so the Confederacy could not afford to allow federal forces to remain there indefinitely . More important, having a foreign country (the USA) control its largest harbour meant that the Confederacy was not really independent--which was Lincoln's point.

On February 4, a congress of seven cotton states met in Montgomery, Alabama, and approved a new constitution for the Confederate States of America. Lincoln argued that the United States were "one nation, indivisible," and denied the Southern states' right to secede. South Carolina entered the Confederacy on February 8, 1861 thus ending fewer than six weeks of being an independent State of South Carolina. Virginia politician Roger Pryor told Charleston that the only way to get Old Dominion to join the Confederacy was for South Carolina to instigate war with the United States. The obvious place to start was right in the midst of Charleston Harbour.

About 6,000 men were stationed around the rim of the harbour, ready to take on the 60 men in Fort Sumter. At 4:30 a.m. on April 12, after two days of intense negotiations, and with Union ships just outside the harbour, the firing began. The decision was made by President Jefferson Davis and his cabinet. Edmund Ruffin is usually credited with being given the honour firing the first shot. Thirty-four hours later, Anderson's men raised the white flag and were allowed to leave the fort with colors flying and drums beating, saluting the U.S. flag with a 50-gun salute before taking it down.

Civil War devastates the state

The South was at a disadvantage in number, weaponry, and maritime skills--few southerners were sailors. Federal ships sailed south and blocked off one port after another. As early as November, Union troops occupied the Sea Islands in the Beaufort area, establishing an important base for the men and ships who would obstruct the ports at Charleston and Savannah. When the plantation owners, many of which had already gone off with the Confederate Army elsewhere, fled the area, the Sea Island slaves became the first "freedmen" of the war, and the Sea Islands became the laboratory for Northern plans to educate the African Americans for their eventual role as full American citizens.

Despite South Carolina's important role in the start of the war, and a long unsuccessful attempt to take Charleston from 1863 onward, few military engagements occurred within the state's borders until 1865, when Sherman's Army, having already completed its march to the Sea in Savannah, marched to Columbia then north into North Carolina. There was litle resistance to his advance. Sherman's 1865 march through the Carolinas resulted in the burning of Columbia and numerous other towns. Poverty would mark the state for generations to come. South Carolina lost 12,922 men to the war, 23% of its male white population of fighting age, and the highest percentage of any state in the nation.

On February 21, 1865, with the Confederate forces finally evacuated from Charleston, the black 55th Massachusetts Regiment marched through the city. At a ceremony at which the U.S. flag was once again raised over Fort Sumter, former fort commander Robert Anderson was joined on the platform by two men: African American Union hero Robert Smalls and the son of Denmark Vesey.


Interracial animosity

Though they had long occupied the majority of the state's population, African Americans played a prominent role in the South Carolina government for the first time during Reconstruction. Despite the anti-Northern fury of their prewar and wartime politics, most Carolinians, including South Carolina's opinion maker, Wade Hampton III, believed that white Carolinians would do well to accept President Johnson's terms for reentry to full participation in the Union. However, the state legislature, in 1865, passed " Black Codes" that angered Northerners, who saw an attempt to impose semi-slavery on the Freedmen. The South Carolina black codes have been described:

"Persons of colour contracting for service were to be known as "servants," and those with whom they contracted, as "masters." On farms the hours of labor would be from sunrise to sunset daily, except on Sunday. The negroes were to get out of bed at dawn. Time lost would be deducted from their wages, as would be the cost of food, nursing, etc., during absence from sickness. Absentees on Sunday must return to the plantation by sunset. House servants were to be at call at all hours of the day and night on all days of the week. They must be "especially civil and polite to their masters, their masters' families and guests," and they in return would receive "gentle and kind treatment." Corporal and other punishment was to be administered only upon order of the district judge or other civil magistrate. A vagrant law of some severity was enacted to keep the negroes from roaming the roads and living the lives of beggars and thieves."

The Black codes outraged northern opinion and apparently were never put into effect in any state.

After winning the 1866 elections, the Radical Republicans took control of the Reconstruction process. The Army registered all male voters, and elections returned a Republican government comprised of a coalition of Freedmen, Carpetbaggers and Scalawags. The federally mandated new Constitution of 1868 brought democratic reforms. Scalawags supported it, but most whites viewed the Republican government as representative of black interests only and were largely unsupportive. Laws forbidding former Confederates, virtually the entire native white male population, from bearing arms only exacerbated the tensions, especially as rifle-bearing black militia units began drilling in the streets of South Carolina towns. Adding to the interracial animosity was many whites' sense that their former slaves had betrayed them. Before the war, most slaveholders had convinced themselves that that they were treating their slaves well and had thus earned their slaves' loyalty. When the Union Army rolled in and slaves deserted by the thousands (though many did not), slaveholders were stunned. The black population scrambled to enjoy and preserve its new rights while the white population attempted to claw its way back up the social ladder by denying blacks those same rights.

The 1876 gubernatorial election

The Ku Klux Klan raids began shortly thereafter, terrifying blacks and black sympathizers in an attempt to reestablish white supremacy. Most of the state's "better element" showed little tolerance for such violence, especially when undertaken anonymously, and largely squelched the movement locally after a few years. In 1876, Piedmont towns were the site of numerous demonstrations by the Red Shirts—white Democrats determined to win the upcoming elections by any means possible. Named for their trademark red shirts (worn to mock the historic "waving of the bloody shirt" of the radical Republicans), the Red Shirts turned the tide in South Carolina, convincing whites that this could indeed be the year they regain control. Before the election, Republican Governor Chamberlain asked Washington for assistance and President Ulysses S. Grant sent 1,100 federal troops to keep order and ensure a "fair" election.

Using as a model the "Mississippi plan", which had redeemed that state in 1874, South Carolina Redeemers employed intimidation, persuasion, and control of the blacks. Armed with heavy pistols and rifles they rode on horseback to every Republican meeting, and demanded a chance to speak. The Red Shirts milled among the crowds, and each selecting a black man to watch, privately threatened to shoot him if he raised a disturbance; they organized hundreds of rifle clubs, then obeying proclamations to disband, sometimes reorganized as missionary societies or dancing clubs--with rifles. They set up an ironclad economic boycott against Black activists and Scalawags who refused to vote the Democratic ticket, turning them out of employment and avoiding all contacts with them. They beat down the opposition — but always just within the law. Only a few confrontations drew blood. Wade Hampton made more than forty speeches across the state. Thousands of Black Republicans joined his cause; donning the Red Shirts, they paraded with the whites. Most Scalawags "crossed Jordan," as switching to the Democracy was called. On election day, there was trickery and intimidation on all sides, employed by both parties, and the returns were disputed all the way to Washington, where they played a central role in the Compromise of 1877. Both parties claimed victory, and for a while, two separate state assemblies did business side by side on the floor of the State House (their Speakers shared the Speaker's desk, but each had his own gavel) until the Democrats moved to their own building, where they continued to pass resolutions and held forth with the state's business, just as the Republicans were doing. The Republican State Assembly tossed out results of the tainted election and reelected Chamberlain as governor. A week later, General Wade Hampton III took the oath of office for the Democrats. Finally, after months of this, and a couple of near shoot-outs in April 1877, President Rutherford B. Hayes, in return for the South's support of his own convoluted presidential "victory" over Samuel Tilden, withdrew federal troops from Columbia. At this point, the Republican government dissolved and Chamberlain headed back north, as Wade Hampton and his Redeemers took control.

The Bourbons

Statue of Ben Tillman, one of the most outspoken advocates of racism to serve in Congress.
Statue of Ben Tillman, one of the most outspoken advocates of racism to serve in Congress.

The whites were back in charge of South Carolina, in the person of General Wade Hampton III. Hampton's election marked the establishment of a ninety-nine-year hold on the State House by the Democrats. The next Republican governor of South Carolina was James Burrows Edwards in 1975. The normal American two-party system was thrown off balance because the Democratic Party, in those years, was the "white" party in South Carolina, and whites successfully kept blacks away from the ballot boxes through various Jim Crow laws. Hampton and other wealthy Confederate officers, known as the "Bourbons", ruled the state, but the farmers of the Upcountry were in no mood to return to the aristocratic leadership that had led them down the path to destruction.

With the 1890 election of populist agriculture advocate Benjamin "Pitchfork" Tillman, the Upcountry finally captured the state leadership. Tillman realized that a divided white electorate made it possible for a united black electorate to gain control of the state. Therefore in 1892, after his reelection as governor, Tillman successfully led the charge for a state constitutional convention to draw up a new constitution that would deprive blacks of voting rights.

Economic booms and busts

In 1886, Atlanta newspaper publisher Henry W. Grady, speaking before a New York audience, proclaimed his vision of a " New South", a South based on the Northern economic model. By now, the idea had already struck some enterprising South Carolinians that the cotton they were shipping north could also be processed in South Carolina. The idea was not entirely new to South Carolinians; in 1854, De Bow's Commercial Review of the South & West, founded by Charleston-born James Dunwoody Brownson De Bow, had boasted to investors of South Carolina's potential for manufacturing, citing its three lines of rail roads, inexpensive raw materials, nonfreezing rivers, and labor pool.

These enticements remained constant after the Civil War, and by the end of the 19th century, the textile industry was exploding across South Carolina, particularly upstate because of its turbine-turning rivers, bringing relief from the depressed sharecropper economy. For whites, things were looking up. In 1902, the Lowcountry hosted the Charleston Expedition, drawing visitors from around the world, with the hope of impressing them on the idea that the state was on the rebound. On April 9, President Theodore Roosevelt, whose mother had attended school in Columbia, made an appearance, smoothing over the still simmering animosities between the North and the South.

In South Carolina, things continued to improve even after the Tillman era ended with the election of progressive Governor Richard Irvine Manning III in 1914. In 1919, the invasion of the boll weevil destroyed the state's cotton crop which, despite it having not paid well since before the Civil War, was still the state's primary crop. Blacks and low-income whites left the state in droves for better jobs up north. Only the expansion of military bases, followed by domestic and foreign investment in manufacturing, have revitalized the state.


Compared to hot spots such as Mississippi and Alabama, desegregation went rather smoothly during the 1950s and 1960s in South Carolina. And yet, as early as 1948, when Strom Thurmond ran for president on the States Rights ticket, South Carolina whites were showing their discontentment with the Democrats' post–World War II continuation of the New Deal's federalization of power. The process began in Rock Hill in 1961, when nine black Friendship Junior College students took seats at the whites-only lunch counter at a downtown McCrory's and refused to leave. When police arrested them, the students were given the choice of paying $200 fines or serving 30 days of hard labor in the York County jail. The Friendship Nine, as they became known, chose the latter, gaining national attention in the American Civil Rights Movement because of their decision to use the "jail, no bail" strategy.

When the time came for Clemson to allow Harvey Gantt into its classes in 1962, making it the first public college in the state to integrate, after the state and the college's board of trustees had exhausted all legal recourse to prevent it, word went out from influential whites that no violence or otherwise unseemly behaviour would be tolerated. Gantt's entrance into the school occurred without incident, and the March 16, 1963, Saturday Evening Post praised the state's handling of the crisis, with an article titled "Desegregation with Dignity: The Inside Story of How South Carolina Kept the Peace". Twenty years later, Gantt would go on to serve as mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina.

In 1964, Barry Goldwater's platform galvanized South Carolina's conservative Democrats and led to major defections into the Republican Party, most notably Senator Thurmond. Unfortunately, the tragic shooting at Orangeburg in 1968 made one great exception to the state's peaceful desegregation. Three students were killed and more than 30 others wounded by police overreacting to the violence of students protesting a segregated bowling alley.

In 1970, when South Carolina celebrated its Tricentennial, more than 80% of its residents had been born in the state. Since then, however, Northerners have discovered South Carolina's golf courses and beaches. The state, particularly the coastal areas but increasingly inland as well, has become more popular as a tourist destination and magnet for new arrivals. Even some descendants of black Carolinians who moved out of the South during the Jim Crow years have moved back. Despite these new arrivals, about 69% of residents are native born.

Recent events

In the 1970s, South Carolina elected its first Republican governor since Reconstruction. In 1987 and 1991, the state elected and reelected Governor Caroll Campbell, another Republican. Republican David Beasley, a former Democrat who claimed to have undergone a spiritual rebirth that caused him to reconsider his views, ran for governor as a Republican and won. As governor, Beasley surprised everyone and risked the wrath of Southern traditionalists by announcing, in 1996, that as a Christian he could not justify keeping the Confederate flag flying over the State House, knowing that it offended black South Carolinians. Traditionalists were further shocked when Bob Jones III, of Bob Jones University, announced that he held the very same view.

Beasley went into the 1998 elections with such an edge in popularity that the top two Democratic candidates did not even bother to run. Remarkably, Beasley was brought down by the Democrats' third stringer, Lancaster State Assemblyman Jim Hodges. Hodges, a former opponent of legalized gambling, now attacked Beasley's opposition to the creation of a state lottery and to the continued growth of video gaming in the state, which Hodges painted as salvation tax base for public education.

Despite Hodge's unwillingness to join Beasley in his opposition to the flying of the Confederate battle flag, the NAACP, though at the same time demanding a boycott of the state over that very same issue, announced its support for Hodges. In 1998, 90% of African American Carolinians voted for Hodges, causing the election to swing his way. By USA Today's reckoning, the Collins Company, maker of video gambling machines, had given at least $3.5 million in donations to Hodge's campaign. Others claim the numbers went over twice that high.

After the election, however, with public opinions steadfastly against video gambling, Hodges asked for a statewide referendum on the issue, claiming that he would personally join the expected majority in saying "no" on legalized gambling, but vowing not to campaign against it. Critics in both parties suggested that Hodge's debts to Collins and other members of the state's multibillion-dollar gambling industry were keeping him from campaigning against legalized gambling. The idea for a referendum would have worked except that holding one would have violated the state constitution, which makes no provision for them except for ratification of amendments to the constitution itself. However, state legislators shut down the state's video casinos soon after Hodges took office, aided by the public outcry after a Georgia woman killed her 10-day-old baby by leaving her in a sweltering car while she gambled in a Ridgeland casino.

Upon his election, Hodges announced that, while he had not said anything up until that moment, he agreed with Beasley's increasingly popular compromise on the Confederate flag issue, supporting the flag's transfer to a Confederate monument on the State House's grounds. Though many Carolinians agreed with this position as the only solution and admired Hodges' solution to nuclear waste shipments to the state, Hodges alienated many moderate voters in a variety of ways, enough so that most of the state's major newspapers supported Mark Sanford to replaces Hodges in 2002. The state's mishandling of the Hurricane Floyd evacuation in 1999 had fingers pointing in Hodges' way. The lack of hurricanes in the 2000 and 2001 seasons did not give Carolinians a chance to see if Hodge's post-Floyd revisions to the plan would work.

In 2002, South Carolinians were surprised to learn that most of the funds from his "South Carolina Education Lottery" were going to pay for college scholarships, rather than trying to improve the rural and inner-city elementary, middle, and high schools that Hodges had gotten elected by maligning. Critics, including leaders at Hodge's church, the United Methodist, denounced the lottery as taxing the poor to pay for services for the middle class. On top of this, Hodges insisted that a full $3 million be sent to Allen University, Benedict College, Morris College, Claflin University, and Vorhees College, all private schools with a significant number of non-South Carolinian students.

In the lottery's first year, Hodges and his supporters awarded $40 million for "LIFE Scholarships", granted to any South Carolinian with a B average, graduation in the top 30% of the student's high school class, and a 1,100 SAT score . He and his supporters also awarded $5.8 million for "HOPE Scholarships" which had even lower standards. In 2002, Hodges and legislators were chagrined to learn that only about 40% of the LIFE scholars were able to maintain the necessary 3.0 GPA needed to renew their scholarship for sophomore years. Hodges campaigned for reelection in 2002 against Republican moderate Mark Sanford, former U.S. congressman from Sullivan's Island, and lost.

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