Bobby Harrell
59th Speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives
In office
June 21, 2005 – October 23, 2014
Preceded byDavid Wilkins
Succeeded byJay Lucas
Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives
from the 114th district
In office
December 8, 1992 – October 23, 2014
Preceded byJohn C. Rama
Succeeded byMary Tinkler
Personal details
Robert William Harrell, Jr.

(1956-03-07) March 7, 1956 (age 65)
Orangeburg, South Carolina
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Catherine Smith
Alma materUniversity of South Carolina
Professioninsurance agency owner

Robert William Harrell, Jr. (born March 7, 1956) is an American politician and member of the Republican Party who served as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, representing the 114th District, from 1992 to 2014, serving as the Speaker of the House from 2005 to 2014.[1]

Early political career

Harrell was the chairman of his Freshman Caucus in 1993.[1] Two years after Harrell was elected, he was appointed to serve on the Ways and Means Committee in 1994.[citation needed][2] Later, he was elected to serve as Majority Leader from 1997–1999 when he became the Ways and Means Committee Chairman in 1999. He has also served as Chairman of the Economic Development and the Public Education Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee.[1] In South Carolina, State Legislators serve as part-time employees making only $10,400/year.[3]

Business career

Harrell earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of South Carolina.[1] He opened an insurance agency representing State Farm Insurance in 1980. In 2010, after his father died, Harrell combined his agency with that of his father in Harrell Square, a shopping center owned by the family. He and his wife Cathy opened an independent insurance agency, Harrell Insurance Agency in 2014. They now represent over 100 companies such as Progressive, Liberty Mutual, Travelers, Nationwide, Allstate and many more.[4] He previously owned Palmetto State Pharmaceuticals, a pharmaceutical repackaging company that he sold in 2012.[5]

The Harrells hold several pieces of investment real estate in Charleston and Columbia, SC.

Political career

Promotion of economic development

Harrell is credited with negotiating the deal on behalf of the House that brought Boeing to Charleston to build the 787 Dreamliner. He was also instrumental in bringing Southwest and JetBlue as carriers to the Charleston Airport.

In 2008, Harrell, legislative leaders and business executives formed the Knowledge Sector Council. In an effort to support South Carolina’s growing knowledge-based economy, the public/private Council was created to encourage research universities, economic development entities, private businesses and state agencies to work together in expanding jobs and economic opportunity.[6]

In 2010, Harrell sponsored the S.C. Economic Development Competitiveness Act.[7]

Election as Speaker of the House

Harrell ran unopposed as Speaker in 2006 and 2008, and 2012. In 2010, Harrell had a token opponent for Speaker when Ralph Norman challenged Harrell for the Speaker’s office. Harrell was re-elected, defeating Norman who only drew five votes of support – including his own vote – among the 124 House members.[8] As Speaker of the House, Harrell effectively controlled policy in South Carolina alongside Hugh Leatherman and Glenn F. McConnell during Governor Mark Sanford's administration.[9]

Political contributions

In 2010, Harrell received the largest amount of political contributions – $47,425, or nearly 22 percent – from lawyers and lobbyists, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.[10] The next-largest amount, $30,100, came from health professionals.[10] In 2008, Harrell received $361,053 in contributions. The largest contributing industries were real estate ($29,825), and lawyers and lobbyists ($28,000).[11]

Campaign contributions and receipts

In September 2012, The Post and Courier reported that Harrell had reimbursed himself more than $325,000 from his campaign war chest since 2008 but had produced no receipts or itemized invoices accounting for the spending.[12] Harrell informed The Post and Courier that all his expenses were legitimate and the reimbursements were less than the fair market value.[13]

Harrell provided receipts to an Associated Press reporter who reported that the receipts and invoices were in order.

SLED looked into the matter. After two years of investigation, Harrell agreed to pay part of the money to the state’s general fund and pay a fine. Harrell left the House of Representatives shortly thereafter.[14]

Even though he had left office, and was not seeking office, it was too late to remove his name from the ballot in the 2014 elections. Democratic nominee Mary Tinkler received the most votes for the seat, but Harrell still carried Dorchester County even with signs in the polling places stating that he had withdrawn from the election.[15]


  1. ^ a b c d "Robert W. Harrell, Jr". South Carolina Legislature Online. Retrieved March 12, 2013.
  2. ^ SC Legislative Manual 1995. SC. 1995.
  3. ^ "Legislative Salaries Per State". Empire Center. Archived from the original on February 27, 2009. Retrieved March 8, 2013.
  4. ^ "Charleston Auto, Home & Business Insurance - Bobby Harrell - Harrell Insurance Agency". Retrieved 2015-10-09.
  5. ^ "Bobby Harrell and Hugh Leatherman biographies". The State Newspaper. Archived from the original on April 11, 2013. Retrieved March 7, 2010.
  6. ^ O'Connor, John (July 30, 2008). "GOP leaders target job hunt" (PDF). South Carolina Senate Republican Caucus. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-10-05.
  7. ^ "Session 118 (2009–2010) – South Carolina Economic Development Competitiveness Act of 2010". South Carolina Legislature Online. Retrieved March 8, 2013.
  8. ^ Harrell re-elected speaker, Charleston Post and Courier, November 17, 2010[dead link]
  9. ^ Wenger, Yvonne (January 10, 2010). "Who's in charge?". Post & Courier. Retrieved June 9, 2021.
  10. ^ a b "Bobby Harrell, 2010 Campaign Contributions". Follow The Money (National Institute on Money in State Politics). Retrieved March 8, 2013.
  11. ^ "Bobby Harrell 2008 Campaign Contributions". Follow The Money (National Institute on Money in State Politics). Retrieved March 8, 2013.
  12. ^ Dudley, Renee (September 24, 2012). "Harrell offers no details on self-reimbursement of $325,000 from campaign funds". The Post and Courier. Charleston.
  13. ^ "Harrell's office says speaker reimbursed himself below market value for flights". The Post and Courier. Charleston. October 17, 2012.
  14. ^ Self, Jamie. "Post-Harrell, SC House members say they want to see changes". The State. Archived from the original on 25 October 2014. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
  15. ^ "Disqualified former House speaker ran a close second in District 114 race". Post and Courier. Retrieved 2015-10-09.