Burnet Rhett Maybank

69th Governor of the State of South Carolina 1939 to 1941

Date Born: March 7, 1899

Date Died: September 1, 1954

Place Born: Charleston, SC

Place Buried: Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, SC

Residence: Charleston, SC

Occupation: Cotton Exporter


Porter Military Academy, then College of Charleston. B.S.: 1919, LL.D.: 1935

Mayor of Charleston: 1931-1938

Chairman of the South Carolina Public Service Authority: 1934-1939

1938 - Maybank was elected governor without opposition, receiving 49,009 votes.

Maybank was the first Charlestonian to be elected governor since the Civil War

November 4, 1941 – Governor Maybank resigned to become a US Senator

U.S. Senate: 1941-1954

Maybank served on the American Battle Monuments Commission: 1947-1954


Burnet Rhett Maybank was born in Charleston, SC on March 7, 1899, the son of Dr. Joseph Maybank, VI and Harriett Lowndes (Rhett) Maybank, one of the city's most prominent and wealthy families, with ancestors who were planters, with five who served as governors of South Carolina. He graduated from the Porter Military Academy, now the exclusive Porter-Gaud School. He then earned a degree from the College of Charleston. Maybank served in the United States Navy during World War I.

Maybank established himself in business as a successful merchant in the cotton export business from 1920 to 1938. On June 28, 1923, Burnet Rhett Maybank married Elizabeth deRosset Myers, daughter of Judge Francis Kerchner Myers and Roberta Atkinson (Smith) Myers, and they had three children. After the death of his first wife Maybank married a second time, to Mary Roscoe Randolph Pelzer Cecil, and they had no children.

A lifelong Democrat, Burnet Rhett Maybank entered politics for the first time in 1927, when he was elected to a four-year term as Alderman in Charleston. He rose to Mayor Pro Tempore in 1930. In 1931, he was elected Mayor of Charleston and served until 1938. As mayor, Maybank balanced the budget during the Great Depression. He refused an increase of his own salary to $6,000 from $3,600, and reduced local taxes. But, he gained federal financing under President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration for slum clearance, construction of public housing and other infrastructure, and support for unemployment payments. He was effective in guiding work relief and funds for civic improvements. He used a Works Progress Administration (WPA) grant to restore the historic Dock Street Theatre, and other grants went to such infrastructure improvements as the city docks and a city incinerator.

During this period Mayor Maybank was also appointed as a member of the State Board of Bank Control (1932–1933) and was Chairman of the South Carolina Public Service Authority (1935–1939). It supervised a state-sponsored power project on the Santee River. This project, known as the "little TVA," was built to control floods as well as provide hydroelectric power for the state. Maybank was a conservative supporter of President Roosevelt's New Deal, which funded public works and job programs. But he opposed a share of the president's labor policies.

In addition, he was appointed by Gov. Ibra Charles Blackwood as a member of the SC State Advisory Board of the federal Public Works Administration from 1933 to 1934.

With the favorable publicity from the Santee project, a strong political base in Charleston, and support from his mentor, U.S. Senator James F. Byrnes, Burnet Rhett Maybank was elected as governor in 1938. As governor, he tried unsuccessfully to create an adequate state police force, but he did supervise a vigorous prosecution of the criminal element in the state. He strictly enforced liquor and gambling statutes. Maybank personally interceded to prevent to destruction of a high wall around the historic jail in Charleston when it became threatened by a housing project expansion.

He fought the Ku Klux Klan, which had reached its peak of revival in the 1920s but was still active. Maybank expanded economic opportunities for blacks in the racially segregated society and tried to improve the quality of black schools in the state, which were historically underfunded. He did nothing to alter the disfranchisement of blacks due to provisions in the SC Constitution and electoral laws since the turn of the twentieth century.

In January of 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Senator James F. Byrnes to the U.S. Supreme Court. Burnet Rhett Maybank won a special election to fill Byrnes's U.S. Senate seat in September of 1941, defeating former governor Olin Dewitt Talmadge Johnston with 56.6 percent of the vote. In 1942, Maybank was elected to the full six-year term, and in 1948 he was re-elected without opposition, and served until his death in 1954.

Burnet Rhett Maybank was a powerful U.S. Senator, part of the southern Democratic block. He served as chairman of the Committee on Banking and Currency and as co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Defense Production. As chair of the Subcommittee on Independent Offices, under the Appropriations Committee, Maybank provided critical support to continue the U.S. nuclear weapons program in the early 1950s.

He introduced the "Maybank Amendment," which was tacked onto the 1953 Defense Appropriations Bill. The amendment relieved the Department of Defense from federal legislation to target a percentage of its expenditures to high unemployment areas. Shortly before his death, Maybank was voted as one of the "20 Most Influential Americans" by Fortune Magazine.

Maybank died of a heart attack at his summer home in Flat Rock, NC on September 1, 1954. He was interred in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, SC. Several dignitaries attended including then-Governor James F. Byrnes, Strom Thurmond, Ernest F. Hollings, thirteen United States senators, congressmen, and state and local officials.


Burnet Rhett Maybank, a U.S. Senator from South Carolina; born in Charleston, SC on March 7, 1899; attended the public schools; graduated from Porter Military Academy, Charleston, SC, and from the College of Charleston, SC; served in the U.S. Navy during World War I; engaged in the cotton export business 1920-1938; Alderman of Charleston, SC, 1927-1931; Mayor of Charleston 1931-1938; member of the SC State Advisory Board of the Federal Administration of Public Works 1933-1934; chairman of the SC Public Service Authority 1934-1939; member of the Board of Bank Control 1933-1934; Governor of South Carolina 1939-1941; elected on September 30, 1941, as a Democrat to the U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of James F. Byrnes; re-elected in 1942 and 1948 and served from November 5, 1941, until his death; chairman, Committee on Banking and Currency (81st and 82nd U.S. Congresses), co-chairman, Joint Committee on Defense Production (81st and 82nd U.S. Congresses); died at his summer home in Flat Rock, NC on September 1, 1954; interment in Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, SC.

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