Let me confess at the outset, I’ve known Henry McMaster for 30-years and he is a friend. So, when he was sworn in as Governor I was delighted. Nevertheless, please know that nothing you read here was written in consultation with him or his office.
When Nikki Haley handed off the Governorship to Henry McMaster last week, I was sadly nowhere near the Statehouse. I had checked in at the Capitol earlier in the day to monitor some legislation for Palmetto Family Council, but that evening I was holed up working on a chapter on South Carolina Evangelicals in the 2016 election for the forthcoming new edition of God at the Grassroots. (This is a shameless plug.)
When the alert appeared on my phone and I saw the McMaster family there with Governor Haley and Rev. Dr. Derek Thomas (who offered a marvelous prayer) I was immediately struck by a question: how well do the friends and donors of Palmetto Family know our new Governor?
So, with no one responsible for these thoughts but myself, here are Seven Things you should know about our new Governor, Henry McMaster.
- Henry McMaster’s family has a heritage of standing up for Biblical orthodoxy. Palmetto Family issued a report two-weeks ago on the consequences of liberal national churches attempting to take property from local conservative churches. That post was about Lowcountry Anglicans, but this threat faces other churches as well.
In the early 1980s, when the old Southern Presbyterian church, the PCUS, merged with the Northern church to form the PCUSA, a number of South Carolina Churches were concerned that, with the passage for time, Southern churches would succumb to a liberal theological drift from the North. (They turned out to be right.) To head this off, a number of South Carolina Presbyterian churches chose to depart and affiliate with more conservative reformed denominations. Henry McMaster’s father, John Gregg McMaster, was one of those prescient souls who knew what was a stake. One of the state’s most eminent attorneys, he was a key leader in the successful effort to move First Presbyterian Church Columbia to the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. “John Gregg” (as he was known) was relentless in his belief that sound theology was at stake and FPC needed to take a stand. That’s the kind of blood that flows in Henry McMaster’s veins.
- Henry McMaster has a history of acting as a winsome but strong fiscal and social conservative. As state Republican party chairman, Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor, McMaster took on the disposition of his hero and friend Jack Kemp whose state campaign he chaired in 1988 (I was one of the vice chairmen). McMaster has a sunny outlook that is positively Reaganesque, but that in no way compromises his willingness to do what’s right. As our Attorney General, he stood up for traditional marriage as well as victims of domestic violence. He also courageously took on Craigslist when it broke the law and was used for sex trafficking and prostitution. Under Henry McMaster, his office released opinions in support of life, a privately sponsored Christian DMV license plate and against twisting our laws to expand gambling without a vote of the legislature.
- Henry McMaster had the good fortune of marrying extremely well. For those who know Peggy, there is a strong consensus that an equally valuable feature of a McMaster administration is having Peggy McMaster in the Governor’s Mansion. Reared in Spartanburg at First Baptist Church, the former Peggy McAbee not only exudes the sense of grace we want in a First Lady, she has lived out both her religious faith and commitment to free enterprise by serving as leader of the Women of the Church in her congregation and founding and managing several successful businesses. Peggy will take hospitality to a new level we are quite sure, that is effortless for her. But she will also provide the Governor with sound fiscal and spiritual advice on a daily basis.
- Henry McMaster has had a lifelong fascination with time management and leadership. Those of us who have been active in public life at some level will remember McMaster’s famous three dicta for effective management: “Aim high. Write it down. Do it now.” Those who have heard his famous talk on these themes know of their transformative effect. Our new Governor is also a fan of the book that stole some of his ideas, Eat That Frog! and is near obsessive about getting things done. This expertise will be essential for working with the General Assembly, who at times in the past might have been operating under the guiding principles of “Aim low. Make it temporary. Do it later.”
- Henry McMaster has a sincere interest in people. McMaster can read a room and read people. He has a marvelous sense of humor and loves a good prank. (I’ll spare you the examples of the pranks for now.) He is never the type to look past a person at a public event to see if there is someone more important to speak to. If you are a South Carolinian, that’s VIP enough. He is comfortable in his own skin and wants you to be comfortable.
- Henry McMaster is a voracious reader and student of policy. McMaster was a history major at Carolina and has a deep knowledge of American and Military History. He also is a strong grammarian, protecting the King’s English from horrible modern catastrophes. McMaster was a member of the board of the SC Policy Council Education Foundation during its halcyon days under Ed McMullen’s leadership and served ably on the board of the SC Commission on Higher Education where he advocated high academic standards and spending accountability.
- Henry McMaster is a citizen of South Carolina. While some of our former Governors may have kept one eye on the state and another on the national stage, Henry McMaster’s country, the land of his citizenship…is South Carolina. Henry loves America for sure, but his highest ambition was realized the day he took the oath as Governor. Our problems are his problems and he won’t run from them. He can’t. Well, at least not without a passport to leave the state.
Congratulations Governor McMaster! We look forward to working with you.