Local banker and one-time gubernatorial candidate Charles D. “Pug” Ravenel, of Charleston, died Saturday at home, according to Stuhr's funeral home. He was 79.
It was natural causes, said Kathy Key of Stuhr's.
Ravenel ran for the states’ highest office in 1974, winning a seven-way Democratic primary and coming very close to winning the governorship. Six weeks before the election, his pollsters told him he was leading his Republican opponent by 38 percent.
But the state Supreme Court ruled him ineligible to run because he did not meet residency requirements. The Democratic nomination was handed off to the second-place primary finisher. Ravenel fought the ruling all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to consider the case.
The fight fractured the Democrats that year and Ravenel’s GOP opponent, then-state Sen. James B. Edwards of Mount Pleasant, won the general election, becoming the first Republican governor since Reconstruction and forecasting the rise of the GOP in the state.
Former Charleston County Democratic Party Chairman Waring Howe Jr., called Ravenel "Kennedyesque" in his mannerisms toward politics. He called him competitive, gregarious, someone who loved Charleston and went through life with "a lot of friends."
Ravenel later twice tried to run for a seat in Washington. In 1978, he tried to unseat the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond and in 1980 made an unsuccessful bid for the 1st Congressional District seat that was later held by his cousin, Arthur Ravenel Jr.
A Charleston native, Charles Ravenel attended Cathedral Elementary School and Bishop England High School. He was given the nickname, Pug, when he broke his nose by running into a telephone pole while playing Tiger League baseball at Moultrie Playground. The nose healed up nicely but the nickname stuck.
Ravenel was a newspaper carrier for The News and Courier, which helped him get a full athletic scholarship to Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, where he was a star quarterback. After prep school, he went to Harvard, graduating in 1961 with a Corning Glass Fellowship, which enabled him to travel around the world studying economic conditions in other countries.
After the fellowship, he took a summer job in New York, where he met Mary Tolbert Curtis of Southport, Conn. Then he went to Harvard Business School, where he earned a master’s degree in business administration in 1964. He and Miss Curtis, who is known as Mollie, had married in 1963.
Armed with the MBA from Harvard, Ravenel went to work on Wall Street with Donaldson, Lufkin and Jenrette. In 1966, he was named a White House Fellow and spent a year working in Washington in the Treasury Department.
In 1972, he and his wife decided to return to Charleston to bring up their children. His son, Curtis and daughter Tiphaine had been born. His parents had a house in Mount Pleasant they were willing to sell and Ravenel bought it. His family grew with the addition of his son, Ramsay, and Ravenel got into local and state politics as well as the financial industry. He lived at the house in Mount Pleasant until around 1988, when he and his wife separated.
Leaving politics, Ravenel returned to finance and banking, but in 1996, he was sentenced to 11 months and 17 days in federal prison for bank fraud conspiracy. He had pleaded guilty in 1995 to a charge stemming from the failure of Citadel Federal Savings Bank, which prosecutors described at the time as the biggest bank fraud investigation in state history.
Ravenel served his full sentence. He was pardoned by President Bill Clinton on Clinton’s last night in office.
Among the survivors is his wife, the former Susan Woodward. Arrangements are pending.