It is with a heavy heart that I learned this morning of the passing of Don Fowler. It is hard to put into words how much Don has meant to Democrats for the past sixty years and what a towering figure he has been not just in the party, but in American politics. While Richland was blessed to have Don as a resident, he belonged to Democrats around the state and the nation.
Don’s political accomplishments are legendary. He was chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party from 1971 to 1980, from the time that Democrat John West was Governor to Democrat Dick Riley. He was the chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1995 to 1996, when Democrat Bill Clinton was elected to his second term. He was the chairman of the Democratic National Convention in 1988.
But Don made such an impact not just because of his accomplishments, but because of his character, which left an indelible impression on everyone who knew him. He was a man of honor and integrity, blessed with extraordinary generosity, qualities recognized by leaders from both sides of the aisle. Since 1964 his door was open to his many students at the University of South Carolina, where he still taught. Just this past year, Don and Carol continued their longstanding tradition of turning their home into an open forum where anyone could come to meet Democratic presidential candidates.
For decades, anyone with political aspirations could count on Don for advice and support. It is not an exaggeration to say that he mentored generations of political leaders, through whom his presence will continue to be felt for years to come. Perhaps his most enduring and significant legacy here in South Carolina was leading the Democratic party to greater inclusion after the Voting Rights Act in the 1960s. He played an important role in supporting the first African Americans elected to the State House in the 20th Century: Jim Felder, Herbert Fielding and Richland’s I.S. Leevy Johnson.
On a personal note, Don and Carol have been invaluable mentors to me, and consistent, powerful supporters of the Richland County Democratic Party. His parting leaves a tremendous void. Now it is up to us to keep Don’s legacy alive by following his example.
The RCDP sends its love and deepest condolences to Carol, Donnie, Cissy, and the Fowler family.
Richland County Democratic Party