Governor of South Carolina

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Governor of South Carolina
Seal of the Governor of South Carolina.png
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster (cropped).jpg
Henry McMaster

since January 24, 2017
StyleHis Excellency
ResidenceGovernor's Mansion
Term lengthFour years, renewable once consecutively; afterwards, the officeholder must sit out for one term before being eligible again
Inaugural holderJohn Rutledge
FormationConstitution of South Carolina
Salary$106,078 (2013)[1]
WebsiteOfficial website Edit this at Wikidata
Outer part of the governor's office in the South Carolina State House in Columbia

The governor of the State of South Carolina is the head of state for the state of South Carolina. Under the South Carolina Constitution, the governor is also the head of government, serving as the chief executive of the South Carolina executive branch. The governor is the ex officio commander-in-chief of the National Guard when not called into federal use. The governor's responsibilities include making yearly "State of the State" addresses to the South Carolina General Assembly, submitting an executive budget and ensuring that state laws are enforced.

The 117th and current governor of South Carolina is Henry McMaster, who is serving his first elected term. He assumed the office on January 24, 2017, after Nikki Haley resigned to become the United States ambassador to the United Nations.[2] He won the 2018 gubernatorial election.

Requirements to hold office[edit]

There are three legal requirements set forth in Section 2 of Article IV of the South Carolina Constitution. (1) Be at least 30 years of age. (2) Citizen of the United States and a resident of South Carolina for 5 years preceding the day of election.[3][4] The final requirement, (3) "No person shall be eligible to the office of governor who denies the existence of the Supreme Being," is of extremely doubtful validity in light of the 1961 Supreme Court decision Torcaso v. Watkins, which reaffirmed that religious tests for public offices violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This requirement, however, has still not been removed from the Constitution of South Carolina.[5]In any case, under the state's present political climate it is considered highly unlikely the voters would elect a person who openly denied the existence of God.[6]

Term(s) of office[edit]

Under Section 4 in Article IV of the South Carolina Constitution, the governor serves a four-year term in office beginning at noon on the first Wednesday following the second Tuesday in January following his election and ending at noon on the first Wednesday following the second Tuesday in January four years later. Section 3 of Article IV states that no person shall be elected governor for more than two successive terms. For clarification, a person can hold an unlimited amount of terms as governor as long as such person does not serve more than two consecutive terms.[7] Since Henry McMaster assumed the office of governor after Nikki Haley resigned, he is eligible to serve the remainder of Haley's term and two consecutive four-year terms of his own.

Powers, duties, and responsibilities[edit]

According to the South Carolina Constitution, the governor:

  • Exercises "supreme executive authority."[8]
  • Appoints directors to 14 cabinet agencies, but most appointments are shared with the General Assembly.
  • Serves as the commander-in-chief of the South Carolina National Guard.
  • Serves as the commander-in-chief of the South Carolina State Guard, which is an auxiliary of the National Guard organized for in-state homeland defense.
  • Commutes death sentences to life imprisonment.[9] [note 1]
  • Calls the General Assembly to an extra session in "extraordinary circumstances."
  • Adjourns the General Assembly as he shall think proper.
  • Exercises veto and a Line-item veto power on bills.
  • Declares a state of emergency and oversees relief in the event of a disaster.
    • Declares public schools and government offices closed during civil or weather emergencies.
  • Oversees all state departments.
  • Serves as the ex officio chair of the board of trustees of all state universities. [10]
  • Submits a budget proposal to the General Assembly every January. [8]
  • Delivers a state of the state address, "from time to time," to the General Assembly; this is usually done in January. [8]
  • Appoints United States senators in cases of vacancy to serve until the next election.
  • Appoints (or suspends) county sheriffs in cases of vacancy to serve until the next election. [11]


If the incumbent governor is no longer able or permitted to fulfill the duties of the office of governor, the following line of succession will be followed:

# Position Office Holder Party
1 Lieutenant governor Pamela Evette Republican
2 Speaker of the State House of Representatives Jay Lucas Republican
3 President of the South Carolina Senate Harvey S. Peeler Jr. Republican
4 Secretary of State Mark Hammond Republican
5 State Treasurer Curtis Loftis Republican
6 Attorney General Alan Wilson Republican

During impeachment or when the governor is temporarily disabled or absent from office, the lieutenant governor will have the powers of the governor. If the governor-elect is unable to fulfill the duties of the office of the governor, the lieutenant governor will become governor when the incumbent governor's term expires. If there is an incumbent governor beginning a new term, but a lieutenant governor-elect, and if the incumbent governor is unable to fulfill the duties of the office of the governor, the incumbent lieutenant governor shall become governor until the inauguration date, and the lieutenant governor-elect shall become governor on that date.[7]

Oath of office[edit]

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I am duly qualified, according to the Constitution of this State, to exercise the duties of the office to which I have been elected, (or appointed), and that I will, to the best of my ability, discharge the duties thereof, and preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of this State and of the United States. So help me God."

Official residence[edit]

Main Article: South Carolina Governor's Mansion

South Carolina Governor's Mansion, 800 Richland St., Columbia (Richland County, South Carolina)

The Governor's Mansion, located at 800 Richland Street in Columbia, on Arsenal Hill, is the official residence of the Governor of South Carolina. It was built in 1855 and originally served as faculty quarters for The Arsenal Academy which together with the Citadel Academy in Charleston formed The South Carolina Military Academy (now The Citadel); The Arsenal was burned by Sherman's forces in February 1865 and never reopened; the faculty quarters building was the only structure to survive and became the official residence of the governor in 1868.[12] The South Carolina Constitution in Section 20 of Article IV requires that the governor is to reside where the General Assembly convenes.


The South Carolina Constitution of 1776 specified for the governor (known as the president) to be chosen by the General Assembly. In 1778, the constitution was amended to change the title for the chief of the executive branch from president to governor.

A new constitution was promulgated in 1865 following the capture of the state by the Union Army in the Civil War. It called for the direct election of the governor, but continued to limit the vote to white males. On October 18, 1865, James Lawrence Orr was the first governor of South Carolina to be elected by popular vote.

Following the state's failure to adopt the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, the US Congress eliminated all offices of state government. A temporary military government headed by Edward Canby was set up until new elections were held after the writing of the Constitution of 1868. All male citizens above the age of 21, regardless of race, were given the right to vote and the governor was allowed to be elected to two consecutive terms.

The election of Ben Tillman in 1890 to governor by the support of agrarian reformers forced a new constitutional convention to be held. The constitution of 1895 instituted a poll tax and also required voters to pass a literacy test. These provisions were used to effectively deny the vote to blacks. The convention also increased the governor's powers by granting a line-item veto on the budget. Initially, the United States Supreme Court upheld the validity of legislation requiring voters to pay a poll tax,[13], and ruled that literacy tests were not necessarily unconstitutional.[14] In 1964, the Twenty-Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution made it unlawful for a state to require payment of a poll tax in order to vote in a federal election, and the Supreme Court, reversing the Breedlove decision, then held that requiring the payment of a poll tax in any election was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.[15] Elimination of the literacy test required federal legislation, the validity of which was upheld by the Supreme Court.[16]

Originally, governors served two-year terms, with no restrictions on reelection. In 1926, the constitution was amended to lengthen the governor's term to four years, but prevented consecutive terms. Governor Richard Riley pushed for an amendment to allow for two consecutive terms and it was passed by the voters in 1980.


  1. ^ Unlike most states, the power to grant reprieves and pardons resides in a seven-member board, not the Governor.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "CSG Releases 2013 Governor Salaries". The Council of State Governments. June 25, 2013. Retrieved November 23, 2014.
  2. ^ "Gov. Nikki Haley Resigns, McMaster Takes Over". Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  3. ^ "The South Carolina Governor". Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  4. ^ South Carolina Constitution Article IV
  5. ^ Torcaso v. Watkins
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 27, 2012. Retrieved April 2, 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ a b c "Article IV, South Carolina Constitution - Ballotpedia". Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  9. ^ "South Carolina Pardon Information - Pardon411". Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  10. ^ "Members - Board of Trustees - University of South Carolina". Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  11. ^ "Code of Laws - Title 23 - Chapter 11 - Sheriffs-election, Qualifications And Vacancies In Office". Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  12. ^ "History of the South Carolina Military Academy", Col. J.P. Thomas
  13. ^ Breedlove v. Suttles, 302 U.S. 277 (1937)
  14. ^ Lassiter v. Northampton County Board of Elections, 360 U.S. 45 (1959).
  15. ^ Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections, 383 U.S. 663 (1966)
  16. ^ Katzenbach v. Morgan, 384 U.S. 641 (1966).

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