I was saddened to hear about the passing of Lois Eargle, a woman who helped change the political landscape of Horry County in many ways.
And, not just Horry County. She also had a tremendous impact at the state level.
Lois was one of the first people I met upon moving to Conway in 1973.
Even then she had entered the political arena working hard to change South Carolina’s court system.
Before judicial reform, South Carolina had a hodgepodge legal system with very few common standards. Lawyers “shopped” around the state to find the judge most likely to give them a favorable ruling.
A lot of very smart attorneys, educators and legislators led the charge to reform the state’s courts.
The group needed someone who could speak to common folks and Lois turned out to be the perfect person for the job.
In simple, layman’s terms, she helped people understand why court reform was needed.
When the issue went to the voters, it passed overwhelmingly and Lois should get a lot of credit for the role she played.
She also played a huge role in taking down the once invincible Democratic Party machine.
Prior to 1976, you almost had to be a Democrat to win a local office in South Carolina.
All that began to change when Ralph Ellis defeated James P. Stevens to become senator. Lois also beat the odds and won a seat in the S.C. House of Representatives.
Working in tandem, the two began making appointments that undermined the Democrat Party’s base in Horry County. Perhaps the most significant appointment was Eunice Cooke as chairman of the county election commission.
After serving four terms in the S.C. House and a stint on the S.C. Highway Commission, Lois ran successfully for Horry County Auditor, where she continued to make waves. She got into a heated fight with former Horry County Administrator Linda Angus over whether her office should be supervised by the administrator.
The case got a lot of attention from other elected officers like the treasurer, sheriff and clerk of court because it had statewide ramifications. Eargle won, thus preserving the rights of the elected officers to run their own departments as they see fit.
Lois worked tirelessly to help those with special needs. A group home in Conway is named in her honor.
I had the privilege of calling Lois my good friend.
I will miss her laughter and her wisdom and will remember her as one of most influential women to ever serve this county.