Lois Eargle, Political Pioneer

By Paul Gable

A pioneer for women in public service in Horry County, auditor Lois Eargle hopes her legacy will be that she made things easier for women to be elected to public office.

“I started at a time when it was not normal for women to be involved in public positions and I had some hurdles to clear along the way,” said Eargle.

Her first foray into the public arena came as president of the first Citizen’s Congress, appointed by the governor to recommend reform of the South Carolina judicial system.

“The system had not been changed since the current state constitution was adopted in 1895,” Eargle said. “As a result, every county operated its court system differently. The same crime could be charged in different ways, depending upon what county you were charged

The Citizen’s Congress worked on unifying the court system so that every county operated under the same system. The result was today’s system of the Supreme Court, Appellate Courts, Circuit
Courts, and a Family Court.

“It took us eight months to get the system adopted in Horry County and it was passed overwhelmingly by the voters,” said Eargle.

Her work in the overhaul of the South Carolina court system led Eargle to be appointed by the American
Judicatory Society as a representative to other states who were overhauling
their systems.

“I was the first non-lawyer appointed to go to other states,” Eargle said. “I traveled around the country
and helped other states do what we did.”

In 1976, Eargle made her first run at an elected position when she challenged the incumbent for S. C. House District 105.

“I was the first woman in Horry County to run for the state legislature and it didn’t make me popular with some of the elected officials here, but I won the election,” she said. “Being a
woman candidate in those years was not easy in Horry County.

The next eight years were spent as the representative from House District 105 until Eargle ran for the U. S. Congress in 1984.

“I changed to the Republican Party in that year and decided to try for Washington,” Eargle said. “I won the
primary, but lost the general election.”

As a result of her candidacy, Eargle was appointed to the President’s Commission on Mental Retardation by President Reagan, a position she held throughout Reagan’s second term in office. She was
then appointed to the S. C. Highway Commission where she served for two years
before becoming Assistant Secretary of State to Jim Miles.

Eargle returned to Horry County politics with a successful run for Auditor in 1992, a position in which she is currently serving her fifth consecutive term.

During all her time in publicpositions, Eargle remained a wife, mother, and, later, grandmother at home. She has been married to husband Jack for 57 years. They have four children and 13

“Being with the grandchildren gives me great satisfaction now,” she said. “Through all the years, my family has remained an important supportive group for me.”

Summing up her career in public office, Eargle said, “In looking back, I hope I had a little teeny part in
making Horry County a better place to live.”


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