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South Carolina


South Carolina is a state in the southeastern region of the United States of America. According to 2005 estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau, the state's population is 4,321,249.

It was part of the 1663 charter in which Charles I of England granted the Lords Proprietor title to all of the land from the southern border of the Virginia Colony from 36 degrees north to 31 degrees north (along the coast of present-day Georgia).

Its history has been a record of commitment to political independence and the epitome of decentralization (Anti-federalism) in the U.S. The Province of South Carolina was one of the Thirteen Colonies that revolted against British rule in the American Revolution. As a cornerstone of mercantilism and the slave trade, it was also the first state to secede from the Union to found the Confederate States of America.

In the twentieth century industry took over the dominant role formerly held by agriculture in South Carolina's economy, and the focus of textile production shifted from cotton to synthetic fabrics. In the 1990s the major industries were textiles and chemicals, and foreign investment played a major role in the state's economy. Tourism also played a role, with the coastal areas drawing visitors from around the nation.

In the postwar period, the Democrats' traditional control of the state weakened, and, beginning with Barry Goldwater, Republican presidential candidates have carried the state in every election except that of 1976, in which Southerner Jimmy Carter prevailed.


In colonial days, the state was part of a vast region that Charles I of England, granted to Sir Robert Heath in 1629. The region was named Carolana, a word derived from the Latin form of Charles, in reference to the monarch. His son, Charles II of England, changed the spelling of the region's name to Carolina in 1663. During the 17th century the area now covered by the present state came to be called South Carolina and the area to the north became North Carolina. The two sections remained a single colony until the British divided it into two in 1729.


Map of South Carolina

South Carolina is bounded to the north by North Carolina; to the south and west by Georgia, located across the Savannah River; and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean.

South Carolina is composed of four geographic areas, whose boundaries roughly parallel the northeast/southwest Atlantic coastline. The lower part of the state is the Coastal Plain, also known as the Lowcountry, which is nearly flat and composed entirely of recent sediments such as sand, silt, and clay. Areas with better drainage make excellent farmland, though some land is swampy. The coastline contains many salt marshes and estuaries, as well as natural ports such as Georgetown, Port Royal and Charleston. An unusual feature of the coastal plain is a large number of Carolina bays, the origins of which are uncertain, though one prominent theory suggests that they were created by a meteor shower. The bays tend to be oval, lining up in a northwest to southeast orientation.

Just west of the coastal plain is the Sand Hills region, which is thought to contain remnants of old coastal dunes from a time when the land was sunken or the oceans were higher.

The Piedmont (Upstate) region contains the roots of an ancient, eroded mountain chain. It tends to be hilly, with thin, stony clay soils, and contains few areas suitable for farming. Much of the Piedmont was once farmed, with little success, and is now reforested. At the southeastern edge of the Piedmont is the fall line, where rivers drop to the coastal plain. The fall line was an important early source of water power, and mills built to harness this resource encouraged the growth of several cities, including the capital, Columbia. The larger rivers are navigable up to the fall line, providing a trade route for mill towns.

The northwestern part of the Piedmont is also known as the Foothills. The Cherokee Parkway is a scenic driving route through this area. This is where Table Rock State Park is located.

Coastal towns and cities often have hurricane resistant Live oaks overarching the streets in historic neighborhoods, such as these on East Bay Street, Georgetown.

Highest in elevation is the Upstate, containing an escarpment of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which continue into North Carolina and Georgia, as part of the southern Appalachian chain. Sassafras Mountain, South Carolina's highest point at 3,560 feet (1,085 m) is located in this area.3 Also located in the Upcountry is Caesar's Head State Park. The Chattooga River, located on the border between South Carolina and Georgia, is a favorite whitewater rafting destination.

Areas under the management of the National Park Service include:

  • Charles Pinckney National Historic Site at Mt. Pleasant
  • Congaree National Park in Hopkins
  • Cowpens National Battlefield near Chesnee,
  • Fort Moultrie National Monument at Sullivan's Island
  • Fort Sumter National Monument in Charleston Harbor
  • Kings Mountain National Military Park at Blacksburg
  • Ninety Six National Historic Site in Ninety Six
  • Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail


South Carolina has a humid subtropical climate (Koppen climate classification Cfa), although high elevation areas in the "Upstate" area have less subtropical characteristics than areas on the Atlantic coastline. In the summer, South Carolina is hot and humid with daytime temperatures averaging between 86-92 °F (30-33 °C) in most of the state and overnight lows over 70 °F (21 °C) on the coast and in the high 60s°F (near 20 °C) further inland. Winter temperatures are much less uniform in South Carolina. Coastal areas of the state have very mild winters with high temperatures approaching an average of 60 °F (16 °C) and overnight lows in the 40s°F (5-8 °C). Further inland in the higher country, the average January overnight low can be below freezing. While precipitation is abundant the entire year in almost the entire state, near the coast tends to have a slightly wetter summer, while inland March tends to be the wettest month.

Snowfall in South Carolina is minimal with coastal areas receiving less than an inch (2.5 cm) on average. It isn't uncommon for areas on the coast (especially the southern coast) to receive no recordable snowfall in a given year, although it usually receives at least a small dusting of snow annually. The interior receives a little more snow, although nowhere in the state averages more than 6 inches (15 cm) a year.

The state is prone to tropical cyclones and it is a yearly concern during hurricane season which is from June-November, although the peak time of vulnerability for the southeast Atlantic coast is from early August to early October when the Cape Verde hurricane season lasts. South Carolina averages around 50 days of thunderstorm activity a year, which is less than some of the states further south and is slightly less vulnerable to tornadoes than the states which border on the Gulf of Mexico. Still, some notable tornadoes have struck South Carolina and the state averages around 14 tornadoes annually.5


The area that is now the contemporary U.S. state of South Carolina has been populated since at least 13,000 B.C.E. (when tool-making nomads began to leave material remains). Several American Indian groups of Iroquoian stock, including the Cherokee, inhabited the northwestern section, while those of the Siouan heritage-of whom the Catawba were the most numerous-occupied the northern and eastern regions. Indians of Muskogean stock lived in the south.

In the early 1500s, long before the English claimed the Carolinas, Spanish sea captains explored the coast. The Spaniards made an unsuccessful attempt to establish a settlement in 1526 at Winyah Bay, near the present city of Georgetown. Thirty-six years later, a group of French Huguenots under Jean Ribault landed at a site near Parris Island, but the colony failed after Ribault returned to France.6

With the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Charles II of England rewarded eight persons on March 24, 1663, for their faithful support in his efforts to regain the throne of England. He granted the eight grantees, called Lords Proprietors or simply Proprietors, the land called Carolina.

The 1663 charter granted the Lords Proprietor title to all of the land from the southern border of the Virginia Colony from 36 degrees north to 31 degrees north (along the coast of present-day Georgia). In 1665, the charter was revised slightly, with the northward boundary extended to 36 degrees 30 minutes north to include the lands of settlers along the Albemarle Sound who had left the Virginia Colony. Likewise the southern boundary was moved south to 29 degrees north, just south of present-day Daytona Beach, Florida.

The proprietary colony of Carolina was first settled at Charles Town in 1670, mostly by immigrants from the (one of many) English colony of Barbados. The Charleston settlement developed more rapidly than the Albemarle Sound and Cape Fear settlements due to the advantages of a natural harbor and easy access to trade with the West Indies.

This historic home is at "The Battery," a neighborhood/park area at the Downtown Historic District of Charleston - a well-known historical city in South Carolina. "The Battery" is also known as White Point Gardens.

Charleston served as the principal seat of government for the entire province. However, due to their remoteness from each other, the northern and southern sections of the colony operated more or less independently until 1691 with the appointment of Philip Ludwell as governor of both areas.

Differences between the northern and southern parts of Carolina developed during proprietary rule and separate governors were established for each section. Colonists overthrew the proprietors after the Yamasee War of 1715-1717. In 1719 the colony was officially made a crown colony, although the Lords Proprietors held their rights until 1729.

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. Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton, and Edward Rutledge were the signers from South Carolina. 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. The Charleston merchant Henry Laurens served as President of the Continental Congress in 1777 and 1778.

By the time of the American Revolution, South Carolina was one of the richest colonies in America. Its merchants and planters formed a strong governing class, contributing many leaders to the fight for independence. More Revolutionary War battles and skirmishes were fought in South Carolina than any other state.7

By the 1820s South Carolinian John C. Calhoun developed the theory of nullification, by which a state could reject any federal law it considered to be a violation of its rights. Armed conflict was avoided during this period, but by 1860 tensions between the state and the federal government reached a climax.

Currier and Ives print of the bombardment of Fort Sumter

With the election of Abraham Lincoln on an anti-slavery platform in 1860, South Carolina immediately and with considerable unanimity decided to secede. On December 20, 1860 it became the first state to leave the Union. In February it joined the Confederate States of America. In April the American Civil War began when Confederate forces attacked the American fort at Fort Sumter, in Charleston, 1861.

After the Confederate defeat, South Carolina underwent Reconstruction. Freed African-Americans and poor whites benefited during Reconstruction, when they expanded the franchise, created and funded a public school system, and created social welfare institutions. The constitution they passed was kept nearly unaltered for 27 years, and most legislation passed during the Reconstruction years lasted longer than that.8 African-American gains were short-lived. As white planters returned to dominance, they passed Jim Crow laws, especially severe in South Carolina, to create public segregation and control movement of African-American laborers. The whites passed laws that effectively disenfranchised African-Americans by the turn of the century. Although a majority in the state from before the Civil War, African-Americans suffered much diminished civil rights until they won restored protection under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 during the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson.

From 1865 to 1940 the state was poor. Educational levels were low as public schools were underfunded, especially for African-Americans. Most people lived on farms. The more affluent were landowners, who subdivided the land into farms operated by tenant farmers or sharecroppers, along with land operated by the owner using hired labor.

The main economic transformation after 1890 was the replacement of rice and cotton growing by tobacco and soybean cultivation and truck farming, along with the movement of sharecroppers, from the land to the cities. There they found jobs in textile mills, and textiles became the state's leading industry after 1900.

In 1900 the population of South Carolina was 1,340,316. By 1920 it had risen to 1,683,724. The rate of increase slowed in the 1920s as the effects of soil erosion drove many farmers from the state, particularly from the lower Piedmont region. Compounding the effects of erosion was an infestation of the boll weevil, an insect pest from Mexico that feeds on the seed pods of cotton plants. Boll weevils destroyed half of the state's cotton crop in 1922. Poor black farmers left in large numbers, and in 1930, for the first time in 110 years, the census showed South Carolina's white population to be larger than its black population.9

South Carolina's textile industry thrived until the end of the twentieth century, but by 2007, textile employment had dropped significantly, mostly as a result of foreign competition. The state also converted its agricultural base from cotton to more profitable crops, attracted large military bases and, most recently, attracted European manufacturers.

Public school desegregation after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling of 1954 proceeded peaceably, but very slowly. In 1983, for the first time in 95 years, a black state senator was elected; the following year, four blacks were elected to the reapportioned senate.

Despite these changes, most white South Carolinians remained staunchly conservative in political and social matters, as witnessed by the 1999-2000 controversy over the display of the Confederate flag on the dome of the State House. The controversy prompted the NAACP to call for a tourism boycott of the state. Legislators brokered a compromise that moved the flag, viewed as a symbol of oppression by African-Americans, to a spot in front of the capitol, where it flies from a 30-ft pole. The "solution," though favored by most South Carolinians who were polled, did not satisfy most of the black community. 10

By 2000 South Carolina voted solidly Republican in presidential elections, but state and local government elections were contested by the two parties. The population continued to grow, reaching four million in 2000, as coast areas became prime locations for tourists and retirees. With a poverty rate of 13.5 percent, the state was only slightly worse than the national average of 11.7 percent.


South Carolina Population Density Map

South Carolina's center of population is located in Richland County, in the city of Columbia11

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2005, South Carolina has an estimated population of 4,255,083, which is an increase of 57,191, or 1.4 percent, from the prior year and an increase of 243,267, or 6.1 percent, since the year 2000. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 97,715 people (that is 295,425 births minus 197,710 deaths) and an increase due to net migration of 151,485 people into the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 36,401 people, and migration within the country produced a net increase of 115,084 people.

The five largest ancestry groups in South Carolina are African-American (29.5 percent), American (13.9 percent), Germany (8.4 percent), English (8.4 percent) and Irish (7.9 percent). For most of South Carolina's history, black slaves, and then their descendants, made up a majority of the state's population. Whites became a majority in the early 20th century, when tens of thousands of blacks moved north in the Great Migration. Most of the African-American population lives in the Lowcountry (especially the inland Lowcountry) and the Midlands; areas where cotton, rice, and indigo plantations once dominated the landscape.


South Carolina, like most other Southern states, is overwhelmingly Protestant Christian, and has a significantly lower percentage of non-religious people than the national average. The religious affiliations of the people of South Carolina are as follows:

  • Christian - 92 percent
    • Protestant - 84 percent
      • Southern Baptist - 45 percent
      • Methodist - 15 percent
      • Presbyterian - 5 percent
      • Other Protestant - 19 percent
    • Roman Catholic - 7 percent
    • Other Christian - 1 percent
  • Other Religions - 1 percent
  • Non-Religious - 7 percent

One of Charleston's nicknames is the Holy City because of the old historical churches whose steeples still grace the modern world. St. Philip's Episcopal Church (1680), Circular Congregational Church (1681), The French Huguenot Church (1682), First Baptist Church (1682), First (Scots) Presbyterian Church (1731), and St. Michael's Episcopal Church (1751) are all still home to modern congregations.

Sephardic Jews have over a 300 year history in South Carolina, especially in and around Charleston. South Carolina had, until around 1830, the largest colony of Jews in North America. Established in 1749, Congregation Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim became the first Reform Jewish congregation in the United States in 1841, and is the oldest surviving Reform synagogue in the world. 12


As of 2004, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, South Carolina's gross state product was $136 billion. As of 2000, the per capita income was $24,000, which was 81% of the national average.

Major agricultural outputs of the state are: tobacco, poultry, cattle, dairy products, soybeans, and hogs. Farms have become fewer but larger in recent years. South Carolina ranks third in peach production; it ranks fourth in overall tobacco production. Other top agricultural commodities include nursery and greenhouse products, watermelons, peanuts, broilers and turkeys. The only commercial tea plantation in America is 20 miles south of Charleston on Wadmalaw Island.

Industrial outputs include: textile goods, chemical products, paper products, machinery, and tourism. Some 25 percent of manufacturing companies in South Carolina are foreign-owned.13In 2003 trade pumped $23 billion into the state economy and generated $2.5 billion in state and local taxes.14

Gossypium hirsutum Mature cotton almost ready to pick, Manning, South Carolina

In 1997, nearly half of the $5.5 billion in capital investments in South Carolina came from international firms, with 57 German companies leading the way. Interstate 85 has been dubbed the "American Autobahn" because there are so many German suppliers in the state. 15They include BMW, Michelin Tire Corp., Robert Bosch Corp. and Cummins Engine Co., Ingersoll-Rand, AlliedSignal, Borg-Warner, Emitec and Goodyear.

Japanese-affiliated companies have invested $4.5 billion in South Carolina, where currently more than 80 Japanese-affiliated companies operate. These companies in total employ 17,427 workers. Some major Japanese firms in South Carolina are Fuji Photo Film, Inc., AVX Corporation, Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., Mitsubishi Polyester Film, LLC and Honda of South Carolina. South Carolina's exports to Japan in 2004 amounted to $436.2 million, making Japan it's 7th largest export market.16

The South Carolina State Ports Authority (SCSPA) posted record container volume, breakbulk tonnage, revenues and earnings in 2006 at its three locations. Operating revenues totaled $154 million, up 11.6 percent from the previous year, while operating earnings rose to $53.3 million.17

Fishing is a major commercial enterprise; the chief catches are blue crabs and shrimp. Military bases and nuclear facilities are important to the economy, as is the tourist industry.

Alcohol and gambling

Prohibition was a major issue in the state's history. Voters endorsed prohibition in 1892 but instead were given the "Dispensary System" of state-owned liquor stores. They soon became symbols of political corruption controlled by Ben Tillman's machine and were shut down in 1907. Today, most counties in South Carolina do not allow the sale of alcohol on Sunday, but counties and cities can apply referendums to overturn this; six counties have.

Even though the State of South Carolina does not allow legalized casino gambling, it did allow the operation of Video Poker Machines throughout the state with approximately $2 billion dollars per year deposited into the state's coffers. However, at Midnight on July 1, 2000 a new law took effect which outlawed the operation, ownership and possession of such machines in the state with machines required to be shut-off at that time and removed from within the state's borders by July 8 or owners of such machines would face criminal prosecution. 18

In January 7, 2002 the South Carolina Education Lottery was introduced. Its first year it brought in $319 Million while in 2006 the total was $1,144 Million.


The state sales tax is 6 percent for non-grocery goods and 3 percent for grocery goods. Counties have the option to impose an additional 2 percent sales tax. 19 Citizens 85 or older get a one-percent exclusion from the state's sales tax.

Both real and personal property are subject to tax. Approximately two-thirds of county-levied property taxes are used for the support of public education. The passage of a recent state law will replace local property tax funding of education with a statewide 1 percent sales tax increase. Municipalities levy a tax on property situated within the limits of the municipality for services provided by the municipality. The tax is paid by individuals, corporations and partnerships owning property within the state. South Carolina imposes a casual excise tax of 5 percent on the fair market value of all motor vehicles, motorcycles, boats, motors and airplanes transferred between individuals. The maximum casual excise tax is $300. In South Carolina, intangible personal property is exempt from taxation. There is no inheritance tax.

Map of South Carolina


Major interstate highways passing through the state include: I-20 which runs from Florence in the east through Columbia to the southwestern border near Aiken; I-26 which runs from Charleston in the southeast through Columbia to the northern border in Spartanburg County; I-77 which runs from York County in the north to Columbia; I-85 which runs from Cherokee County in the north through Greenville to the southwestern border in Oconee County; I-385 which runs from Downtown Greenville and intersects with I-26 near Laurens; and I-95 which runs from the northeastern border in Dillon County to the southern border in Jasper County.

Amtrak passes through Columbia, Greenville, Spartanburg, Florence, and Charleston.

Commercial airports are located in Columbia, Charleston, Greenville/Spartanburg, Florence, Myrtle Beach, and Hilton Head Island.

Law and government

South Carolina State House

Columbia is the state capital and largest city of South Carolina, as well as the county seat of Richland County, with an estimated population in 2006 of 122,819. The city is the center of a rapidly growing metro area of 703,771.

Founded in 1786 as the site of South Carolina's new capital city, it was one of the first planned cities in the U.S. From its beginnings, the site of Columbia was important to the overall development of the state. The area is often cited for its high quality of life offerings, with its many cultural amenities, parks, and recreational features. Columbia was named one of 30 communities among "America's Most Livable Communities." The award was given by the Washington-based non-profit Partners for Livable Communities and honors communities that are developing themselves in the creative economy. Columbia has also been named a top midsized market for relocating families in the nation.

South Carolina's state government consists of the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches. The governor is elected for a four-year term and may serve two consecutive terms. He heads the Executive branch (some officers of which are elected). The bicameral South Carolina General Assembly consists of the 46-member Senate and the 124-member House of Representatives. The two bodies meet in the South Carolina State House. The Judicial Branch consists of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the Circuit Court, Family Court, and other divisions.

Judicial branch

The Family Court deals with all matters of domestic and family relationships, as well as generally maintaining exclusive jurisdiction over cases involving minors under the age of seventeen, excepting traffic and game law violations. Some criminal charges may come under Circuit Court jurisdiction.

The Circuit Court is the general jurisdiction court for South Carolina. It comprises the Civil Court, the Court of Common Pleas, and the Court of General Sessions, which is the criminal court. The court maintains limited appellate jurisdiction over the Probate Court, Magistrate's Court, Municipal Court, and the Administrative Law Judge Division. The state has sixteen judicial circuits, each with at least one resident circuit judge.

The Court of Appeals handles Circuit Court and Family Court appeals, excepting appeals that are within the seven classes of exclusive Supreme Court jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals is selected by the General Assembly for staggered, six-year terms. The court comprises a chief judge, and eight associate judges, and may hear cases as the whole court, or as three panels with three judges each. The court may preside in any county.

The Supreme Court is South Carolina's highest court. The Chief Justice and four Associate Justices are elected to ten year terms by the General Assembly. Terms are staggered, and there are no limits on the number of terms a justice may serve, but there is a mandatory retirement age of 72. The overwhelming majority of vacancies on the Court occur when Justices reach this age, not through the refusal of the General Assembly to elect a sitting Justice to another term.

Federal politics

Like the Southern States, South Carolina consistently voted for the Democratic Party (United States) in the late nineteenth Century and half of the twentieth century as a Solid South. Republicans became competitive in the 1960 Presidential Election when Richard Nixon narrowly lost the state to John F. Kennedy by just two percentage points. In 1964, Barry Goldwater became the first Republican to win the state for nearly 90 years. Since then, South Carolina has voted for a Republican in every presidential election, except in 1976 when Jimmy Carter, a Southerner, was the last Democrat to win the state. George W. Bush won the state with 58 percent of the statewide vote in 2004 over Senator John Kerry.


Institutions of Higher Education

(Discussed According to Foundation Date)

South Carolina has a long and proud tradition of higher education that is intertwined with its rich and complex history. For a relatively small state, South Carolina hosts a disproportionately large and diverse cohort of institutions of higher education, from large state-funded research universities to small colleges that cultivate a liberal arts, religious or military tradition.

In addition to its status as the oldest college or university in South Carolina, founded in 1770 and chartered in 1785, the College of Charleston (C of C) is the 13th oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first municipal college in the country. Its founders include three signers of the United States Declaration of Independence and three signers of the United States Constitution. The College's historic campus, which is listed on the U.S. Department of the Interior's National Register of Historic Places, forms an integral part of Charleston's colonial-era urban center. According to the Princeton Review, College of Charleston is one of the nation's best institutions for undergraduate education and U.S. News and World Report regularly ranks it among the best masters level universities in the South. The College presently enrolls approximately 10,000 undergraduates and 2,000 graduate students.

The University of South Carolina is a public, co-educational, research university located in Columbia. In 1957, the University expanded its reach through the University of South Carolina System and rapidly became the state's preeminent and most popular institution of higher education, a status it retains to this day.

Furman University is a private, coeducational, non-sectarian, liberal arts university in Greenville, South Carolina. Founded in 1826, Furman enrolls approximately 2,600 undergraduate and 500 graduate students. Furman is the oldest, largest and one of the most selective private institutions in South Carolina.

The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, is a state-supported, comprehensive college located in Charleston, South Carolina. Founded in 1842, the college is best known for its undergraduate Corps of Cadets military program for men and women, which combines academics, physical challenges and military discipline. The Citadel enrolls almost 2,000 undergraduate cadets in its residential military program and 1,200 civilian students in the evening programs.

Presbyterian College is a private liberal arts college in Clinton, South Carolina. Founded in 1860 Presbyterian College (PC) is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church USA,