MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - Friends and family will gather Friday for the funeral of Arthur Ravenel Jr., a well-known political figure in South Carolina.
Ravenel, the former congressman and state lawmaker who helped build the Republican Party in South Carolina and get money for the graceful bridge that dominates the Charleston skyline and bears his name, died Monday at 95.
His funeral will be held Friday at 2 p.m. in the French Huguenot Church, located at 136 Church St., his obituary states. Burial will follow in the church’s cemetery.
Ravenel spent six decades in public service, elected to the state Senate, the state House and Congress. He also ran for governor and, late in life after retiring from the Senate, returned to public service as a member of the Charleston County School Board.
The $632 million bridge over the Cooper River connecting Charleston to Mount Pleasant is named in his honor, a thank you for the years he spent in Washington trying to get money for an iconic span that would fit the charming city where he spent most of his life.
Known to political friends and foes alike as Cousin Arthur, Ravenel’s ancestors fought for the Confederacy, and during the heated debate over removing the Confederate flag from the Statehouse dome in 2000.
He later voted to remove the flag from the dome and place a similar one at the Confederate Soldier Monument on Statehouse grounds. Ravenel defended his actions by saying he didn’t have a racist bone in his body, and African American colleagues said he was willing at times to help get their bills passed.
His obituary notes that Ravenel began his career in politics in 1953 when he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives. There, he earned a reputation for being a conservationist.
In the early 1960s, he was instrumental in helping to build the modern-day Republican Party, serving as First District chairman, the state finance chairman and as a Goldwater Delegate to the GOP Convention in San Francisco in 1964.
In 1980, he would be elected with Glenn McConnell as Republicans in the state Senate.
In 1986, Ravenel was elected to Congress from the coastal 1st Congressional District. He left eight years later to seek the Governor’s Mansion, but lost the GOP runoff to David Beasley, who went on to become governor.
Two years later, Ravenel returned to the state Senate on a platform of creating an infrastructure bank to pay for costly highway projects. The bank was instrumental in helping build the Charleston bridge, which had been discussed for decades but for which money could not be found.
A historical marker at the namesake Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge states the structure was named by an act of the state’s General Assembly in honor of the man “who enthusiastically spearheaded a broad-based effort to secure the funds for its construction.”
The bridge, which opened in July of 2005, replaced two older bridges, the John P. Grace Memorial Bridge and the Silas N. Pearman Bridge. At the time of its opening, the bridge was the longest cable-stayed bridge of its time in North America and the tallest structure in the state.
Ravenel, a businessperson and private investor, loved the Senate above his other posts.
“You’re dealing with people with soft Southern voices, and everyone is very polite,” he recalled. “It’s small, and with 46 members, you can get something done.”
His family says that in lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to The French Huguenot Church, 136 Church Street, Charleston SC 29401 or Confederate Home and College, 62 Broad St. Charleston, SC 29401.
The J. Henry Stuhr, Inc. downtown chapel is in charge of arrangements.
Copyright 2023 WCSC. All rights reserved.