Family, friends remember longtime Lowcountry politician Arthur Ravenel Jr.

Former state senator and U.S. Congressman Arthur Ravenel Jr. who died Monday at 95, was laid to rest in Charleston on Friday afternoon.
Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 4:00 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 20, 2023 at 7:38 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - Lowcountry native Arthur Ravenel Jr., a well-known politician who led the push to secure funding for the bridge between Charleston and Mount Pleasant that bears his name, was laid to rest Friday.

Ravenel died Monday at the age of 95.

Mourners gathered at the French Huguenot Church in downtown Charleston for Ravenel’s funeral service Friday afternoon with burial set to follow in the church’s cemetery.

Ahead of the service, Gov. Henry McMaster ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in his honor.

At Friday’s funeral services, McMaster presented the U.S. flag to Ravenel’s family. Former state Sen. Glenn McConnell, with whom Ravenel was elected in 1980, delivered the eulogy.

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 was named in his honor when it opened in 2005, a nod to his efforts to secure funding for the span.

Ravenel recalled in a 2004 interview with The Associated Press that he was first elected to the House in 1952 as a Democrat when there were virtually no Republicans in the state.

“You just heard about Republicans,” he quipped. “Sherman was one.”

Ten years later, Ravenel got involved in the state’s fledgling Republican Party and was a national convention delegate in 1964 when Barry Goldwater was nominated for president.

Ravenel was elected to the state Senate as a Republican in 1980.

“The Democratic Party was getting more and more liberal,” Ravenel recalled. “As it got more liberal, we were able to recruit more and more people to run.”

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. When the bridge opened, it was the longest cable-stayed bridge of its time in North America and the tallest structure in the state.