Don Fowler

Richland Democrats,

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.

Matt Kisner
Richland County Democratic Party

15 thoughts on “Remembrance

  1. I met Don Fowler my senior year of college as a volunteer on my 1st political campaign. He remained a constant friend. He loved SC, he loved our country and he ALWAYS fostered young leadership. He will be deeply missed. Prayers to his beloved wife Carol and family.

  2. Together, Don and Carol Fowler have been the essence of hospitality and generosity! I could always count on Don’s warm greeting When I would go to their home throughout the presidential campaign season arriving early so I could find a seat. I came with my cane and am not able to stand in the crowds that always gathered to hear one candidate after another. I am very saddened to hear of his death and send my deepest condolences to Carol and all of Don and Carol’s family and friends. His life so dedicated to service was a blessing to us all.

  3. Don Fowler was simply a great guy — smart, engaging, and dedicated to his beloved Democratic Party. He was always an impeccable source for political information when I worked as a political reporter at The State and The Columbia Record in the 1970s and ’80s; most importantly, he always returned my calls, especially when I was on deadline. There was no one like him. My deepest condolences to Carol and their children.

  4. Don has been an inspiration to so many who had an interest in politics. His home and heart were always open. Carol, I am so sorry for your loss you are in my prayers! We will miss him so much more than I can begin to express.

  5. Even in the heat of a political battle, Don was wise and fair, and gracious to the opposition whether he won or lost. They don’t make many people like him anymore. I’m glad he was here for the chance of a new beginning on November 3rd. My deepest condolences to his family, who already know that he is irreplaceable.

  6. I have known Don since joining the USC faculty in 1989. But I really got to know him during the years I chaired the GINT/Political Science Department from 1996 to 2006. Don was a unique human being– political strategist and activist, expert analyst, superb teacher, and great friend. I will always cherish our lunches together, and his participation in departmental events and programs. The toughest part of lunch was getting to a table—Don knew everyone, and everyone wanted to say hello and receive his smiling greetings.
    His commitment to education, to the Department and University was deep. His contribution to the department was immeasurable and sustained across decades. His presence—his intelligence, honesty, and decency– will be missed by the Department, the College and the University; by the community, Columbia, and across South Carolina; by his legion of colleagues and friends– Democrats and Republicans alike. A sad day for all of us. My heart goes out to Carol and his children. He will be so dearly and deeply missed.

  7. The first time I met Don was when I went to his house to meet Amy Klobuchar. I expected to feel intimidated and out of my depth, but Don and Carol put me at ease instantly, welcoming me effortlessly and generously. My heart goes out Carol and her family. His memory will always be blessing to all who had the great fortune to know him.

  8. Thank you Mr. Don Fowler for all that you contributed to the Democratic Party, because of that I was able to grow and learn about the democratic process. You will be missed. Thank you

  9. I got to know Don when I worked for Governors McNair and West. Later I returned to school and took his class at USC. I learned so much from him. Sending prayers to his family.

  10. Don Fowler – Definitely one of a kind. Intelligent, gracious, authentically interested in people and working for the Democratic party but beyond that, for a better country for all. such a commanding, rich and engaging personality — Carol, what a team you two – thanks for all Don gave us.

  11. My heart aches at the news of Don Fowler’s death. He was always a respected presence in South Carolina, both as an avid teacher and student of political science and as the “go-to” guy for advice or expertise on politics in South Carolina – He always knew what was going on. He was “Mr. Democrat,” but as the tribute article about him said, he worked with people of all political persuasions and positions and encouraged everyone else to do the same. He and Carol have been a steadying hand locally and a progressive voice within the national democratic party, ensuring, among other things, the rules changes that established requirements of gender, race, and age in positions of leadership at all levels.
    I got to know Don when he was active in our Ward 25 precinct, as one of 10 or so participants in the precinct activities. Talk about having a ringer to tell you what to do! When he was chair of the 1988 National Democratic Convention in Atlanta, he made sure that I had a spot as a volunteer. Because of his influence, my volunteer assignment was a plum location credentialed for entering the arena where I could be present for all the speeches each night and the roll call vote. I was able to see many political figures of the time – often passing or sitting within feet of me – but also national media anchors, including Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and Connie Chung. He and his first wife Seppie, along with Don Jr., hosted a cocktail hour in their hotel room and made sure us low-totem volunteers were invited. So Don didn’t just help you, he made sure you had the best situation possible. He always found ways to mentor and bring up the party talent and just basic good citizens.
    Don was a tremendous human being to all, and I felt very fortunate to call him my friend for more than 40 years. We will miss you greatly, Mr. Democrat! With deep respect and love, Julie Lumpkin

  12. So many, like myself, have had the opportunity to meet one on one with Democratic Presidential candidates, thanks to Don and Carol Fowler. That welcome into the world of Democratic politics was very much to brand – a critical one that we must all emulate.

    Don was always accessible, always sharing, whether you were a political newbie or the most influential of players.

    So now, a heartfelt thanks for all the contributions over time to American politics. You left us too soon.

    My deepest condolences to Carol and the entire Fowler family, who I hope are uplifted by the tributes and remembrances from across the nation.

  13. Don Fowler was a fellow Democrat and fellow professor at USC – roughly in that order.
    I remember so well when, decades ago, Don sounded the call: “The Republicans are coming! The Republicans are coming!” In the event, most of the (elderly) Democratic establishment just whistled past the graveyard, to which they inevitably retired.
    As a thoughtful student of American government and politics, Don knew that replacing a one-party Democratic state with a a one-party Republican state would not enable South Carolina to achieve its full potential. And so he remained the Happy Warrior – a Democrat willing to work with anyone and everyone who sought to improve the quality of life in our Palmetto State.
    Let us honor his life by emulating his example.

  14. I can’t remember the date but I think it was in 2015. I had the unusual (and good) fortune to sit with Don on a flight departing DC, returning to Columbia. I had been at a meeting at the Canon House that day which in itself was quite a memorable event. I was there as an invited guest to attend a special meeting on the topic of human rights in the supply chain. I was still quite energized when I got to the airport that evening. I remember spotting Don. (He and Carol always stood out in a crowd.) As luck would have it, Don and I were sitting together on the flight. My husband John and I knew Don and Carol since the Obama campaign days in Richland County. We were new to SC politics at that time and Don and Carol were political celebrities in our book! Poor Don had to listen to me on that flight as I unwound from the day. He was very kind. I had the opportunity to ask him a lot of questions about his life and he graciously shared. I still feel very fortunate to have had that hour and 20 minutes in the air with Don. He will be remembered fondly.

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