Politics & Government

Former SC lieutenant governor and longtime Beaufort attorney Brantley Harvey dies

William Brantley Harvey Jr. sits for a portrait in his home in Beaufort in 2015. Harvey died on Wednesday at age 88.
William Brantley Harvey Jr. sits for a portrait in his home in Beaufort in 2015. Harvey died on Wednesday at age 88. File

William Brantley Harvey Jr. built a public life notable for getting things done while taking pleasure in working with people, those who knew him remembered Thursday.

The former South Carolina lieutenant governor, state lawmaker and longtime Beaufort attorney died Wednesday at age 88.

“He was probably one of the most honest, dedicated public servants we’ve had,” said Colden Battey Jr., who practiced law with Harvey more than 50 years. “A man of great intelligence, humility and a real son of Beaufort.”

Harvey helped shape Beaufort County’s higher education and improve its network of roads and bridges. He spent 16 years as a state representative from 1958 until 1974 and was lieutenant governor from 1975 to 1978.

He died at Beaufort Memorial Hospital on Wednesday evening, the Beaufort County Coroner’s Office said. Harvey had been in declining health the past several months, those who knew him said.

“Brantley was a giant in every way — personally, professionally and politically,” Harvey’s law partner, state Sen. Tom Davis, wrote in social media posts. “He was an excellent lawyer, a fine statesman, a true and loyal friend, and a loving father and husband. I will miss him very much.”

During his time as state lawmaker, state transportation commissioner and as part of county transportation committees, Harvey helped bring Hilton Head Island its Cross Island Parkway and helped lead a push for four lanes on the county’s major highways from Beaufort to Hilton Head.

As Beaufort grew in the late 1950s and welcomed U.S. Marines and their families, Harvey was part of a delegation to lobby for the University of South Carolina to establish a two-year campus in Beaufort. Harvey and his late wife of 58 years, Helen, a USC trustee, gave $1 million to USCB, and helped establish its four-year degree program and a Bluffton campus.

Their names were added to the school’s main plaza, and the couple received honorary degrees in 2009.

The monetary donation was more significant in that USCB was still only a two-year campus at the time, former chancellor Jane Upshaw said. Part of the money went to develop the campus in southern Beaufort County, part to the Beaufort campus and the rest to a scholarship program.

Brantley and Helen traveled to the Upstate to meet with USC board chairman Mack Whittle and David Wilkins, then speaker of the house, to garner support for USCB becoming a baccalaureate institution. When the board voted to approve the move, Harvey had helped draft the motion.

“Whenever we needed him, all we had to do was call and say, ‘Brantley, can you help us with this?’” Upshaw said. “And the answer was always ‘Yes, I am happy to do it.’”

Harvey was born in Walterboro in 1930 and grew up in The Point neighborhood in Beaufort, in a 200-year-old home with a sweeping marsh vista known as Marshlands. He attended Beaufort High School, The Citadel and spent two years in the U.S. Army before graduating from University of South Carolina law school in 1955 and joining his father’s Beaufort law practice, Harvey & Battey.

He helped form the Beaufort Symphony Orchestra, playing the violin as one of the first members, was involved in First Presbyterian Church and chaired the boards of AMIkids Beaufort and Beaufort Marine Institute.

“It was his real burning ambition and desire to do things for other people,” Battey said. “He was the kind of politician you could be proud of.”

Harvey was an only child who followed his father as an attorney and public servant.

His father served in the state legislature from 1928 to 1952. The younger Harvey was elected lieutenant governor but lost his bid for governor in the 1978 Democratic primary runoff to Dick Riley.

Harvey was notable for not retreating from public life after the election setback when he could have returned home and devoted all his time to his private practice, Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling said.

“Instead of packing his bags, he essentially turned on his afterburner and probably did more for the state and Beaufort County than any governor could do,” Keyserling said.