Joseph Emile Harley

70th Governor of the State of South Carolina 1941 to 1942

Date Born: September 14, 1880

Date Died: February 27, 1942

Place Born: Williston, SC

Place Buried: Barnwell Baptist Church Cemetery in Barnwell, SC.

Residence: Barnwell County, SC

Occupation:
Lawyer, Colonel in
SC National Guard


University of South Carolina, LL.B: 1902

South Carolina House of Representatives: 1905-1908, 1927-1930

Mayor of Barnwell, SC: 1912-1922

Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina: 1934-1941

On November 4, 1941, Harley succeeded to office following the resignation of Gov. Burnet Rhett Maybank

February 27, 1942 – Gov. Joseph Emile Harley died in office after serving only four months


Joseph Emile Harley was born on September 14, 1880 in Williston, SC, the son of Lunsford Felix Harley and Mary Elizabeth (Hummel) Harley. He received an LLB from the University of SC in 1902.

Harley served as a Sergeant of Company L in the 1st SC Volunteers during the Spanish-American War in 1898. Later, he was a Colonel in the SC National Guard..

On November 12, 1907, Joseph Emile Harley married Sarah Agnes Richardson, and they had two known children.

Joseph Emile Harley was very active in the Democratic Party within South Carolina. He was:
- Member of the Democratic National Convention at Denver in 1908
- Member of the Democratic National Convention at San Francisco in 1920
- Member of the Democratic National Convention at Houston in 1928
- Member of the Democratic National Convention at Chicago in 1932

In 1904, Joseph Emile Harley was first elected as one of three men to represent Barnwell County in the House of Representatives of the:
- 66th General Assembly that met from 1905-1906
- 67th General Assembly that met from 1907-1908

In 1912, Joseph Emile Harley was elected as Mayor of the town of Barnwell, the county seat of Barnwell County, SC. He held this office for ten years.

In 1926, Joseph Emile Harley was again elected as one of two men to represent Barnwell County in the House of Representatives of the:
- 77th General Assembly that met from 1927-1928
- 78th General Assembly that met from 1929-1930

In 1934, Joseph Emile Harley was elected as Lieutenant Governor under Gov. Olin Dewitt Talmadge Johnston. He was re-elected and served under Gov. Burnet Rhett Maybank. When Gov. Maybank resigned to accept a seat in the U.S. Senate, Harley became the next governor of South Carolina on November 4, 1941.

Joseph Emile Harley died of terminal throat cancer on February 27, 1942, after serving as the SC governor for only four months. He was buried at the Barnwell Baptist Church Cemetery in Barnwell, SC.


Born in Williston, SC, Joseph Emile Harley attended the University of South Carolina. He was a sergeant with the 1st SC Volunteers during the Spanish-American War and rose to the rank of Colonel with the SC National Guard. In addition to practicing law, he was President of the First National Bank of Barnwell for a number of years. Involved in politics from an early age, he worked on the staff of SC Gov. Thomas Gordon McLeod. He was also a member of the SC House of Representatives for several non-consecutive terms, served as Mayor of Barnwell, SC for ten years, and was appointed a Special Judge by the SC Supreme Court. He served as South Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor from 1934 until 1941, when he succeeded to the governorship upon the resignation of Gov. Burnet Rhett Maybank, who had been elected to the U.S. Senate. Harley died just four months after assuming the governorship, but during his brief tenure, the United States entered into World War II, and Harley helped prepare South Carolina for the war effort. In addition, he triggered an investigation of corruption in the administration of the state penitentiary that led to the superintendent’s conviction.

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