South Carolina

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State of South Carolina
State flag of South Carolina State seal of South Carolina
(Flag of South Carolina) (Seal of South Carolina)
State nickname: Palmetto State
Missing image
Map of the U.S. with South Carolina highlighted

Other U.S. States
Capital Columbia
Largest city Columbia
Governor Mark Sanford
Official languages English
Area 82,965 km² (40th)
 - Land 78,051 km²
 - Water 4,915 km² (6%)
Population (2000)
 - Population {{{2000Pop}}} (26th)
 - Density 51.45 /km² (21st)
Admission into Union
 - Date May 23, 1788
 - Order 8th
Time zoneEastern: UTC-5/-4
Latitude32°4'30"N to 35°12'N
Longitude78°0'30"W to 83°20'W
Width 320 km
Length 420 km
 - Highest 1085 m
 - Mean 105 m
 - Lowest 0 m
 - ISO 3166-2 US-SC
Web site

South Carolina is a state in the southeastern region of the United States. The Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that revolted against British rule in the American Revolution. The state is named after King Charles I of England. As of 2004, the state's population is 4,198,068.

Several ships in the United States Navy have been named USS South Carolina in honor of this state.


History and government

The colony of Carolina was settled by English settlers sent by the Lords Proprietors in 1670, followed by French Huguenots. The Carolina upcountry was settled largely by Scotch-Irish migrants from Pennsylvania and Virginia. Carolina became a royal colony in 1712. North Carolina was split off in 1729. The state declared its independence from Great Britain and set up its own government on March 15, 1776. On February 5, 1778 South Carolina became the first state to ratify the first constitution of the United States, the Articles of Confederation.

South Carolina seceded from the United States on December 20 1860. The rest of the Southern states seceded in the following months; together, they organized themselves as the Confederate States of America. President James Buchanan took little action, preferring to let the newly-elected President Abraham Lincoln decide the matter. On April 12, 1861, Confederate batteries began shelling Fort Sumter, which stands on an island in Charleston harbor, thus precipitating the Civil War. Students from The Citadel were among those firing the first shots of the war, though Edmund Ruffin is usually credited with firing the first shot.

State Government

South Carolina's state government consists of the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches. The Governor, elected for a (once) renewable four-year term, heads the Executive branch (some officers of which are elected). The bicameral South Carolina Legislature consists of the 46-member Senate and the 124-member House of Representatives. The two bodies -- called the "General Assembly" -- meets in the South Carolina State House. The Judicial Branch consists of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the Circuit Court, Family Court, and other divisions.

Judicial Branch

The Family Court deals with all matters of domestic and family relationships, as well as generally maintaining exclusive jurisdiction over cases involving minors under the age of seventeen, excepting traffic and game law violations. Some criminal charges may come under Circuit Court jurisdiction.

The Circuit Court is the general jurisdiction court for South Carolina, comprised of the Civil Court, the Court of Common Pleas, and the Court of General Sessions, which is the criminal court. The court maintains limited appelate jurisdiction over the Probate Court, Magistrate's Court, Municipal Court, and the Administrative Law Judge Division. The state has sixteen judicial circuits, each with at least one resident circuit judge.

The Court of Appeals handles Circuit Court and Family Court appeals, excepting appeals that are within the seven classes of exclusive Supreme Court jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals is selected by the General Assembly for staggered, six-year terms. The Court is comprised of a Chief Judge, and eight associate judges, and may hear cases as the whole Court, or as three panels with three judges each. The Court may preside in any state county.

The Supreme Court is South Carolina's highest court. Comprised of the Chief Justice, and four Associate Justices, Supreme Court judges are appointed to ten year terms by the General Assembly. Terms are staggered, and there are no limits on the number of terms a justice may serve.

See also List of Governors of South Carolina


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2003, South Carolina's population was estimated at 4,147,152 people.

The racial makeup of the state is:

The 5 largest ancestry groups in South Carolina are African American (29.5%), American (13.9%), German (8.4%), English (8.4%), Irish (7.9%).

6.6% of South Carolina's population were reported as under 5, 25.2% under 18, and 12.1% were 65 or older. Females made up approximately 51.4% of the population.


The religious affiliations of the citizens of South Carolina are:

  • Protestant ? 86%
  • Roman Catholic ? 6%
  • Other Christian ? 2%
  • Other Religions ? 1%
  • Non-Religious ? 3%

The three largest Protestant denominations in South Carolina are: Baptist (47% of the total state population), Methodist (16%), Presbyterian (4%).


Missing image
Map of South Carolina

South Carolina is bounded to the north by North Carolina, to the south and west by Georgia, located across the Savannah River, and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. The capital and largest city is Columbia. Other important cities are Charleston, Greenville, Spartanburg, Sumter, and Florence.

South Carolina is composed of four geographic areas, whose boundaries roughly parallel the northeast/southwest Atlantic coastline. The lower part of the state is the Coastal Plain, which is nearly flat, composed entirely of recent sediments such as sand, silt, and clay. Areas with better drainage make excellent farmland, though some land is swampy. The coastline contains many salt marshes and estuaries, as well as natural ports such as Georgetown and Charleston. An unusual feature of the coastal plain is a large number of Carolina bays, the origins of which are uncertain, though one prominent theory suggests that they were created by a meteor shower. The bays tend to be oval, lining up in a northwest to southeast orientation.

Just west of the coastal plain is the Sand Hills region, which is thought to contain remnants of old coastal dunes from a time when the land was sunken, or the oceans were higher.

Gossypium hirsutumMature cotton almost ready to pick
Gossypium hirsutum
Mature cotton almost ready to pick
Manning, South Carolina

The Piedmont area contains the roots of an ancient, eroded mountain chain. It tends to be hilly, with thin, stony clay soils, and contains few areas suitable for farming. Much of the Piedmont was once farmed, with little success, and is now reforested. At the edge of the Piedmont is the fall line, where rivers drop to the coastal plain. The fall line was an important early source of water power, and mills built to harness this resource encouraged the growth of several cities, including the capital, Columbia. The larger rivers are navigable up to the fall line, providing a trade route for mill towns.

The upper part of the Piedmont is also known as the Foothills. The Cherokee Parkway contains a scenic driving route through this area.

Highest in elevation is the Upcountry, containing an escarpment of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which continue into North Carolina and Georgia, as part of the southern Appalachian chain. Sassafras Mountain, South Carolina's highest point (elevation 3560 ft.) is located in this area. Also located in the Upcountry is Table Rock State Park and Caesar's Head State Park. The Chattooga River, located on the border between South Carolina and Georgia, is a favorite whitewater rafting destination.

See: List of South Carolina counties.

Further reading

  • Bass, Jack. Porgy Comes Home: South Carolina After 300 Years,. Sandlapper, 1970.
  • Bass, Jack and Jack Nelson.The Orangeburg Massacre,. Mercer University Press, 1992.
  • Bass, Jack and Marilyn W. Thompson. Ol' Strom: An Unauthorized Biography of Strom Thurmond,. Longstreet Press, 1998.
  • Carter, Luther F. and David Mann, eds. Government in the Palmetto State: Toward the 21st Century,. University of South Carolina, 1993.
  • Cohodas, Nadine. Strom Thurmond and the Politics of Southern Change,. Simon & Schuster, 1993.
  • Danielson, Michael N. Profits and Politics in Paradise: The Development of Hilton Head Island,. University of South Carolina Press, 1995.
  • Edgar, Walter. South Carolina: A History, , USC Press, 1998.
  • Graham, Cole Blease and William V. Moore. South Carolina Politics and Government. Politics and Governments of the American States, Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1994.
  • Hollings, Ernest F. The Case Against Hunger: The Need for a National Policy,. Cowles Book Co., 1970.
  • Jordan, Jr., Frank E. The Primary State - A History of the Democratic Party in South Carolina, 1876-1962, Columbia, SC, 1967
  • Keyserling, Harriet. Against the Tide: One Woman's Political Struggle. University of South Carolina Press, 1998. Foreward by Richard W. Riley.
  • Moredock, Will. Banana Republic: A Year in the Heart of Myrtle Beach,. Frontline Press, 2003.
  • Robertson, Ben. Red Hills and Cotton,. USC Press (reprint), 1991.
  • Rogers Jr. by George C. and C. James Taylor. A South Carolina Chronology, 1497-1992, 2nd Ed.,. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, SC, 1994.
  • Tyer, Charlie. ed. South Carolina Government: An Introduction,. USC Institute for Public Affairs, 2002.

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Regions of South Carolina Flag of South Carolina
Capital City/Lake Murray Country | Grand Strand | Historic Charleston | Midlands | Old 96 District | Olde English District | Pee Dee | Santee Cooper Country | South Carolina Low Country | Metrolina | Thoroughbred Country | The Upstate
Coastal Plain | Piedmont | Blue Ridge Mountains

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