USCB campus, highway projects among legacy left by lifelong Beaufortonian Brantley Harvey Jr. (1930-2018)

Friday, December 14, 2018 8:44 AM | Webmaster BHM (Administrator)

By Jeff Kidd

Retired University of South Carolina Beaufort Chancellor Jane Upshaw remembers well the hectic day of travel between Columbia and Beaufort in December 2002 -- arguably the most important day in the school’s history.

In the morning, she traveled to Columbia, where she had to convince the University of South Carolina Board of Trustees to endorse the Beaufort branch’s bid to award four-year baccalaureate degrees. If they agreed, that evening she would go before Beaufort County Council to sell them on a tax plan to fund construction of a new campus in Southern Beaufort County.

Fortunately, Upshaw says, she did not travel alone that day.

With her was the influential Brantley Harvey Jr., a former state legislator and lieutenant governor who played an outsized role in shaping education, roadways and the arts in Beaufort County.

Harvey died Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018, at Beaufort Memorial Hospital after a short illness. He was 88.

Recalling the pivotal day in USCB history and Harvey's role in it, Upshaw said in an interview earlier this month: “I’ll tell you this -- Brantley was the one I could always count on to come and speak when it mattered most, and the statements he made were always taken to heart because of his standing as a leader in the state of South Carolina."

County Council had made it clear that without the USC board’s support in making USCB a four-year institution, school leaders could forget about help financing a new campus. So at the meeting that morning, Harvey’s wife Helen – a power in her own right and member of the Board of Trustees – helped sway her colleagues to support USCB’s bid. Meanwhile, Harvey worked with the board to craft a resolution  that would satisfy County Council’s demands.

That evening, Harvey helped sway County Council to accept a tax-increment finance plan to build the Hilton Head Island Gateway campus in Okatie. It opened in 2004.

“He was such a willing speaker, and it’s almost impossible to exaggerate the importance of Brantley and Helen Harvey in helping make USCB what it is today,” said Upshaw, who retired as chancellor in 2015. 

It wasn’t merely Harvey’s political and legal experience that gave his words force: A few years before that frenetic Monday in 2002, he and his wife donated $1 million for a scholarship fund and development of the southern Beaufort County campus. 

The donation was but one of Harvey’s bona fides as a civic leader. In addition to holding elective office, he served stints on state and regional boards governing education, highways and tourism. The Beaufort Marine Institute and the Beaufort Symphony Orchestra were among his many philanthropic interests. He was active in Beaufort's First Presbyterian Church.

“Brantley was a giant in every way — personally, professionally and politically,” state Sen. Tom Davis, a partner in Harvey’s law firm, said in a Facebook post Dec. 13, 2018. “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.”

Harvey was born in Walterboro in 1930 — Beaufort didn’t have a hospital at the time — and grew up on The Point. The neighborhood was a veritable cradle of future city leaders — Henry and Ben Chambers, Willie Scheper, Wyatt Pringle, Neal Aimar, Sherwood Harris. They grew up crabbing and fishing together. They handcrafted boats from packing crates and coated them with red lead paint to keep them from rotting. They paddled them until they fell apart, then build replacements. These childhood voyages instilled a lifetime love of the water, and Harvey grew into an accomplished sailor, competing in regattas and frequently sailing along the East Coast. 

He attended public schools and was valedictorian of Beaufort High School’s 1947 class. He went on to graduate magna cum laude from The Citadel, spent two years as an officer in the U.S. Army, then earned a law degree from the University of South Carolina in 1955. He joined his father’s law firm, known today as Harvey & Battey, at a time when both the practice and the area were primed for rapid growth. Harvey’s real estate title work helped the U.S. Department of the Navy acquire land for the Laurel Bay military housing community and expand the reactivated Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, which had been mothballed for about 10 years after World War II.

Harvey followed his father into law and into politics, as well. Brantley Harvey Sr. had served in the state Senate, and Brantley Jr. was elected to the House of Representatives in 1958. A lifelong Democrat, Harvey courted the African-American vote at a time when race and segregation issues ripped at the fabric of the party, which had dominated South Carolina politics since Reconstruction.

“My father helped me because he was respected and he worked with all kinds of people,” Harvey recalled in his memoirs, published in 2015. “That was my introduction to politics. I liked the people I met, and I loved public service. It was good to feel that I was doing something for my country and my state.”

Harvey served in the House of Representatives until 1974, when he was elected lieutenant governor. In the same election cycle, Jim Edwards was elected governor, the first Republican to win that office since Reconstruction. Despite their different party affiliations, Harvey said he worked well with Edwards, who frequently sent him abroad to recruit business to South Carolina. 

Harvey ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1978, garnering the most votes in the Democratic primary but losing in a runoff to Richard Riley, who went on to win the general election.

Though that marked the end of his political career, the gubernatorial election was but a midpoint of his life in public service.

As with education, Harvey’s impact on Beaufort County transportation is substantial. As a legislator, he helped remove the tolls from the bridges to Hilton Head and Fripp islands. Then, as a S.C. Department of Transportation commissioner, he was instrumental in obtaining the funding and approval for the Hilton Head Cross-Island Parkway, and the widening of U.S. 21 and U.S. 278. As organizing chairman of the Beaufort County Transportation Committee for almost eight years, he helped direct state gasoline-tax funds to improve and pave secondary roads throughout Beaufort County. 

Harvey served on the Board of the Beaufort Marine Institute and, for a period, as its chairman. He held a leadership position with the Coastal Carolina Council of the Boy Scouts of America, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service to Boyhood award. He helped create industrial parks in northern Beaufort County and in Yemassee. He has been a member of the Chamber of Commerce; the United Way; the Historic Beaufort Foundation; the Beaufort Orchestra (as a violinist); Beaufort Performing Arts Center; the Salvation Army; and Beaufort Rotary Club. He and Helen attended Beaufort's First Presbyterian Church, where he was ordained and served as an elder.

Helen Harvey passed away in 2010.

In 2012, Harvey married Alice Deforest Klatt, a longtime friend and ordained Lutheran minister who moved back to Beaufort after her husband’s death. The couple lived in Marshlands, a historic home in The Point that Harvey and Helen purchased in 1974. 

Our mission is to preserve, portray, and promote the experiences of our past that influence us now and in the future.

The Beaufort History Museum is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. 713 Craven Street, Beaufort, SC 29902. Mailing Address: PO Box 172, Beaufort, SC 29901 

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