South Carolina

The Palmetto State

Where is it?

State Flag




Geographic coordinates:
32°4'30"N to 35°12'N
78°0'30"W to 83°20'W
total: 32,007 sq mi
land: 30,111 sq mi
water: 1,896 sq mi
coastline: 187 mi
shoreline: 2,876 mi
Bordering States:
Georgia, North Carolina
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: 0 ft
highest point: Sassafras Mountain 3,560 ft
South Carolina is composed of four geographic areas, whose boundaries roughly parallel the northeast/southwest Atlantic coastline. The lower part of the state is the Coastal Plain, also known as the Lowcountry, which is nearly flat and composed entirely of recent sediments such as sand, silt, and clay. Areas with better drainage make excellent farmland, though some land is swampy. The coastline contains many salt marshes and estuaries, as well as natural ports such as Georgetown and Charleston. An unusual feature of the coastal plain is a large number of Carolina bays, the origins of which are uncertain, though one prominent theory suggests that they were created by a meteor shower. The bays tend to be oval, lining up in a northwest to southeast orientation.

The Piedmont (Upstate) region contains the roots of an ancient, eroded mountain chain. It tends to be hilly, with thin, stony clay soils, and contains few areas suitable for farming. Much of the Piedmont was once farmed, with little success, and is now reforested. At the edge of the Piedmont is the fall line, where rivers drop to the coastal plain. The fall line was an important early source of water power, and mills built to harness this resource encouraged the growth of several cities, including the capital, Columbia. The larger rivers are navigable up to the fall line, providing a trade route for mill towns.

The upper part of the Piedmont is also known as the Foothills. The Cherokee Parkway is a scenic driving route through this area.

Highest in elevation is the Upstate, containing an escarpment of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which continue into North Carolina and Georgia, as part of the southern Appalachian chain. Sassafras Mountain, South Carolina's highest point at 3,560 feet (1,085 m) is located in this area. Also located in the Upcountry is Table Rock State Park and Caesar's Head State Park. The Chattooga River, located on the border between South Carolina and Georgia, is a favorite whitewater rafting destination.




4,832,482 (2014)
Largest City:
Columbia: 129,272 (2010)
Age structure:
0-5 years old: 6.7%
<18 years old: 24.4%
65 years and over: 12.4%
Male: 48.7% Female: 51.3%
Population growth rate:
6.1% (2000-2005)
Population density:
133.2 per sq mi
Race(2000 Census):
White non-Hispanic: 65.6%
Hispanic: 3.1%
Black: 29.4%
Asian: 1.1%
Native American: 0.4%
Multi-Race: 0.8%
Christian: 92%
Other: 1%
Non-Religious: 7%




The colony of Carolina was settled by English settlers, mostly from Barbados, sent by the Lords Proprietors in 1670, followed by French Huguenots. The Carolina upcountry was settled largely by Scotch-Irish migrants from Pennsylvania and Virginia, following the Great Wagon Road. The formal colony of "The Carolina's" split into two in 1712. South Carolina became a royal colony in 1729. The state declared its independence from Great Britain and set up its own government on March 15, 1776. On February 5, 1778, South Carolina became the first state to ratify the first constitution of the United States, the Articles of Confederation. South Carolina became the 8th state on May 23, 1788.

South Carolina was the first state to secede from the United States on December 20, 1860 towards forming the Confederate States of America. President James Buchanan took little action, preferring to let the newly elected President Abraham Lincoln decide the matter. On April 12, 1861, Confederate batteries began shelling Fort Sumter, which stands on an island in Charleston harbor, thus precipitating the Civil War. Students from The Citadel were among those firing the first shots of the war, though Edmund Ruffin is usually credited with firing the first shot.

After the American Civil War, South Carolina was reincorporated into the United States during Reconstruction. The state became a hotbed of racial and economic controversy during the Populist and Agrarian movements of the late 1800s.

In the 20th century, South Carolina developed a thriving textile industry. The state also converted its agricultural base from cotton to more profitable crops, attracted large military bases and, most recently, attracted European manufacturers.




May 23, 1788 (8th State)
State Tree:
Cabbage Palmetto
State Bird:
Great Carolina Wren
State Flower:
Yellow Jessamine
South Carolina's state government consists of the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches. The governor is elected for a four-year term and may serve two consecutive terms. He heads the Executive branch (some officers of which are elected). The current governor is Republican Mark Sanford. He is serving his first term. The bicameral South Carolina General Assembly consists of the 46-member Senate and the 124-member House of Representatives. The two bodies meet in the South Carolina State House. The Judicial Branch consists of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the Circuit Court, Family Court, and other divisions.

The Family Court deals with all matters of domestic and family relationships, as well as generally maintaining exclusive jurisdiction over cases involving minors under the age of seventeen, excepting traffic and game law violations. Some criminal charges may come under Circuit Court jurisdiction. The Circuit Court is the general jurisdiction court for South Carolina, comprised of the Civil Court, the Court of Common Pleas, and the Court of General Sessions, which is the criminal court. The court maintains limited appellate jurisdiction over the Probate Court, Magistrate's Court, Municipal Court, and the Administrative Law Judge Division. The state has sixteen judicial circuits, each with at least one resident circuit judge.

The Court of Appeals handles Circuit Court and Family Court appeals, excepting appeals that are within the seven classes of exclusive Supreme Court jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals is selected by the General Assembly for staggered, six-year terms. The court is comprised of a chief judge, and eight associate judges, and may hear cases as the whole court, or as three panels with three judges each. The court may preside in any county.

The Supreme Court is South Carolina's highest court. Comprised of the Chief Justice, and four Associate Justices, Supreme Court judges are elected to ten year terms by the General Assembly. Terms are staggered, and there are no limits on the number of terms a justice may serve, but there is a mandatory retirement age of 72. The overwhelming majority of vacancies on the Court occur when Justices reach this age, not through the refusal of the General Assembly to elect a sitting Justice to another term.




As of 2004, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, South Carolina’s gross state product was $136 billion. As of 2000, the per capita income was $24,000, which was 81% of the national average. Major agricultural outputs of the state are: tobacco, poultry, cattle, dairy products, soybeans, and hogs. Industrial outputs include: textile goods, chemical products, paper products, machinery, and tourism.

Citizens 85 or older get a one-percent exclusion from the state's 5% sales tax. Property tax is administered and collected by local governments with assistance from the South Carolina Department of Revenue. Both real and personal property are subject to tax. Approximately two-thirds of county-levied property taxes are used for the support of public education. The passage of a recent state law will replace local property tax funding of education with a statewide 1% sales tax increase. Sales tax on groceries has been reduced to 3%. Municipalities levy a tax on property situated within the limits of the municipality for services provided by the municipality. The tax is paid by individuals, corporations and partnerships owning property within the state. South Carolina imposes a casual excise tax of 5% on the fair market value of all motor vehicles, motorcycles, boats, motors and airplanes transferred between individuals. The maximum casual excise tax is $300. In South Carolina, intangible personal property is exempt from taxation. There is no inheritance tax.

Even though the State of South Carolina does not allow legalized casino gambling, it did allow the operation of Video Poker Machines throughout the state with approximately $2 billion dollars per year deposited into the state's coffers. However, at Midnight on July 1, 2000 a new law took effect which outlawed the operation, ownership and possession of Video Poker Machines in the state with machines required to be shut-off at that time and removed from within the state's borders by July 8th or owners of such machines would face criminal prosecution.