Henry Dargan McMaster (born May 27, 1947) is an American politician and attorney who is the 117th and current Governor of South Carolina. He assumed office on January 24, 2017. He previously served as the 91st Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina from 2015 to 2017, as well as Attorney General of South Carolina from 2003 to 2011. From 1981 to 1985, McMaster served as United States Attorney, where he was best known for investigating South Carolina marijuana smugglers in Operation Jackpot. McMaster served on the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education and chaired the South Carolina Republican Party from 1993 to 2002.
McMaster succeeded to the office of Governor of South Carolina when Nikki Haley resigned as governor to become the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.
McMaster was born on May 27, 1947 in Columbia, South Carolina. He is the eldest son of William Appleby McMaster, a storekeeper, and Linda Ann (nee Beljambe), of Charleston, South Carolina. He received a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of South Carolina in 1969. As an undergraduate, he was a member of Kappa Alpha Order and the South Carolina Student Legislature. In 1973, he graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law where he served on the Editorial Board of the South Carolina Law Review. Later that year, he was admitted to the South Carolina Bar, the Richland County Bar Association. He served in the United States Army Reserves, receiving his honorable discharge in 1975.
Upon graduation from law school, McMaster worked as a Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond in Washington, D.C. until 1974, when he joined the firm of Tompkins and McMaster. He was admitted to practice before the federal Court of Claims in 1974, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in 1975 and in 1978, upon motion of Senator Thurmond, the Supreme Court of the United States. For almost 29 years, McMaster practiced law, both as a federal prosecutor and in private practice, having represented clients in the state and federal courts, trial and appellate.
United States Attorney
Upon the recommendation of Senator Thurmond, McMaster was nominated by President Ronald Reagan as United States Attorney for the District of South Carolina in 1981—Reagan’s first nomination for U.S. Attorney. McMaster was confirmed by the Senate on May 21, 1981. He headed the South Carolina Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee from 1981 to 1985.
During his tenure, McMaster created the federal drug task force Operation Jackpot to investigate South Carolina marijuana smugglers. Operation Jackpot ultimately arrested more than 100 men and women for crimes related to marijuana and hashish trafficking. McMaster held numerous press conferences during the trial and earned publicity through his many interviews and comments. His actions were criticized as transparently political, with journalist Lee Bandy writing that “no one can recall any other U.S. attorney being so public-relations conscious” and noting that McMaster had produced more press conferences and news releases than all of his predecessors combined.
McMaster completed his four-year term as U.S. Attorney in 1985.
Election bids, South Carolina Commission on Higher Education
In 1986, after considering races for South Carolina Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General, McMaster won a spirited primary for the Republican nomination for the United States Senate. He was defeated by incumbent Ernest Hollings. In 1990, he won another contested primary and was the Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor, losing to incumbent Nick Theodore. In 1991, he was appointed by Governor Carroll A. Campbell, Jr. and confirmed by the South Carolina Senate to serve on the state’s Commission on Higher Education. He also served on the Board of Directors of the non-profit South Carolina Policy Council from 1991 through 2003, serving as board chairman from 1992 until 1993.
South Carolina Republican Party Chair
In 1993, McMaster was elected chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, and was subsequently re-elected by the State Republican Convention in 1996, 1998 and 2000. In this capacity, he also served as a member of the Republican National Committee from 1993 until 2002. Under McMaster’s chairmanship, the Republican Party captured the Governorship, several statewide offices and (with party switches) the State House of Representatives in 1994, and finally captured control of the powerful State Senate in 2000. Under McMaster, the South Carolina GOP also ran highly contentious and successful presidential primaries in 1996 (won by Bob Dole) and 2000 (won by George W. Bush).
Henry McMaster’s official portrait, 2005
In 2002 McMaster ran for and was elected Attorney General. He was reelected unopposed in 2006. In 2010 he ran for Governor, but was defeated in the Republican primary, finishing third. He immediately endorsed frontrunner and eventual winner Nikki Haley.
Campaign finance violation
On January 6, 2015, the Ethics Commission of South Carolina accused McMaster of accepting about $70,000 in campaign donations when he unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2010, which exceeds South Carolina’s legal limit for donations by $51,850.Documents released by the Ethics Commission state that McMaster accepted these extra funds to help in settling his campaign debt. In September 2015, the Commission refused to dismiss the complaint and McMaster’s attorney indicated McMaster was likely to settle.
McMaster filed to run for Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina on March 27, 2014. He received 44% of the vote in a four-way Republican Party primary and was forced into a run-off against Mike Campbell, son of former Governor Carroll A. Campbell, Jr. McMaster defeated Campbell, receiving 63.6% of the vote and went on to face Democratic State Representative Bakari Sellers in the general election. During the campaign, Sellers challenged McMaster to renounce his 30-year membership in Columbia’s Forest Lake Country Club, a private country club alleged to exclude black members; in response, McMaster’s campaign manager stated that the Club “‘[had] no policies of racial discrimination,'” and added that McMaster “‘would not be a member if it did.'” On November 4, 2014, McMaster was elected Lieutenant Governor, defeating Sellers with 58.8% of the vote.
McMaster was elected on a separate ticket than Governor Haley, the last time Lieutenant Governors will be elected in this manner. Beginning in 2018, Governors and Lieutenant Governors will run on the same ticket.
Governor of South Carolina
McMaster meeting with John F. Kelly, the United States Secretary of Homeland Security, in February 2017.
On November 23, 2016 President-electDonald Trump announced his intention to nominate Gov. Nikki Haley for Ambassador to the United Nations.On January 24, 2017, Haley was confirmed by the Senate. Shortly after, she resigned as South Carolina governor and McMaster assumed the governorship.
Corruption Investigation (Probegate)
In 2017, Governor McMaster was connected to Richard Quinn and Associates, a political consulting firm. Richard Quinn and Associates was named as part of a larger corruption probe within the South Carolina General Assembly conducted by Special Prosecutor David Pascoe, which first ensnared then-House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, who resigned and pleaded guilty to public corruption charges in 2014
Gov. Henry McMaster’s connections to the Quinn’s Organization caused him challenges in the South Carolina legislature. Governor McMaster wanted to replace two State Ports Authority board members, one a former political rival who questioned how the maritime agency spends money with contractors including Richard Quinn, the governor’s longtime political strategist. The State’s Port Authority currently pays Quinn a consulting fee of $8,100 per month.State lawmakers delayed the vote on Governor McMaster’s two nominees for the State Ports Authority, citing the ongoing corruption probe that has pulled in three Republican legislators. 
In addition to being a client, Governor McMaster’s connection to Richard Quinn and Associates includes when Quinn also has consulted for the University of South Carolina, which, in turn, once paid McMaster $191,000 a year to be a fundraiser for its law school and Walker $135,000 a year to be its chief lobbyist.