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Don Fowler
Donald Fowler.jpg
National Chair of the Democratic National Committee
In office
January 21, 1995 – January 21, 1997
Serving with Chris Dodd (General Chair)
Preceded byDebra DeLee (Chair)
Succeeded bySteve Grossman
Chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party
In office
Preceded byHarry Lightsey[1]
Succeeded byWilliam Dorn[2]
Personal details
Born (1935-09-12) September 12, 1935 (age 84)
Spartanburg, South Carolina, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Carol Fowler
EducationWofford College (BA)
University of Kentucky (MA, PhD)

Donald L. Fowler (born September 12, 1935) is an American political scientist, professor and political operative who served as National Chair of the Democratic National Committee from 1995 to 1997, alongside Christopher J. Dodd as General Chairman during this same period.[3]

Fowler is a political science professor and businessman from South Carolina who has spent most of his adult life in various Democratic Party roles, including state party executive director, state party chair, and CEO of the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta.[4]

Early life

Fowler earned a degree in psychology from Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, in 1957 where he had his basketball jersey retired, was president of the student body, and became a member of the Kappa Alpha Order. For his master's and doctoral degrees, he attended the University of Kentucky, a pioneering institution in the disciplines of political science and public administration. He has taught public administration and American politics at the University of South Carolina since 1964, and has also taught at Wofford College and The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina from time to time. He is a retired colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and a graduate of the U.S. Army War College as well.

Early political involvement

Fowler served as chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party from 1971 to 1980, during the tenure of Democratic governor John C. West, the contentious gubernatorial election of 1974 and the early tenure of Democratic governor Richard Riley.[3]

Prior to the 1984 Democratic National Convention, he was appointed by party chairman Paul G. Kirk to chair the "Fairness Commission," one of many Democratic commissions created to reform the presidential nomination process. Fowler's Fairness Commission banned winner-take-all districts in primaries and caucuses, expanded the reach of the 15% threshold rule, and increased the number of convention superdelegates from 568 in 1980 to 650 in 1988. Fowler also served as CEO of the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta.

Chairman of the DNC

Fowler's term as National Chairman included the 1996 presidential election between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. As national chairman, Fowler ran the party's day-to-day operations while Christopher Dodd, the general chairman, served with Fowler as the party's public faces. The two co-chair positions were established several times by President Clinton from 1995-2001, although the roles are usually combined.

In 1996, Fowler made a determination that Lyndon LaRouche, who was seeking the Democratic presidential nomination for the fifth time, was not a "bona fide Democrat" because of his "expressed political beliefs... which are explicitly racist and anti-Semitic" and due to his "past activities including exploitation of and defrauding contributors and voters", and instructed state parties to disregard votes for him.[5][6] LaRouche lost his suit and his appeal, in a case known as LaRouche v. Fowler.[7]

After Clinton's re-election, Fowler was accused of contacting the CIA about a businessman, Roger Tamraz, who had donated money to the Democratic party. His answer to questions from the US Senate about this was, "I have in the middle of the night--high noon--late in the afternoon--early in the morning, every hour of the day, for months now searched my memory about conversations with the CIA. And I have no memory, no memory of any conversation with the CIA." Fowler never faced formal charges and the investigation of his role ended without controversy.

Later career

Fowler at the 2017 Democratic National Committee Winter Meeting
Fowler at the 2017 Democratic National Committee Winter Meeting

Fowler remains active in Democratic politics as a member of the DNC.

Following the 2006 midterm elections, in response to James Carville's call to remove Howard Dean as chair, Fowler e-mailed his fellow DNC members, saying, "Some ill-advised voices have suggested that, because of his 50-state strategy, Governor Dean should be replaced as Chair of the DNC. This is nonsense. The 50-state strategy is exactly what the Democratic Party needed and continues to need.... Democrats won a great victory on November 7—control of the United States House of Representatives, control of the United States Senate, majority of Governors, and majority of state legislative bodies. Why should anyone want to mess with the team that won these remarkable results? Governor Dean deserves to continue as DNC Chair."[8]

Fowler and his communications agency have handled state and federal government relations projects for a diverse group of clients. He also has carried out marketing studies, advertising, public relations and marketing programs for national and international clients.

As of 2018, Fowler remains an adjunct professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of South Carolina, and in 2014 was recognized by the state legislature for his 50th year teaching at USC.[9]

Fowler's son, Donnie Fowler, ran unsuccessfully for DNC chair in 2005.


  1. ^ "Dr. Harry McKinley Lightsey, Jr. (1931–2006): Memory Hold The Door". University of South Carolina School of Law.
  2. ^ "South Carolina Political Collections". University of South Carolina Libraries.
  3. ^ a b "Donald Fowler - Roosevelt Institute".
  4. ^ Binning, William C; Esterly, Larry Eugene; Sracic, Paul A (1999). "Encyclopedia of American parties, campaigns, and elections". Greenwood Press: 167. ISBN 978-0-313-30312-8. fairness commission democrats. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ Case: court=dc no=967191a
  6. ^ Bligh, Gur. "Extremism in the Electoral Arena: Challenging the Myth of American Exceptionalism". Brigham Young University Law Review. Provo. 2008 (5): 1367.
  7. ^ LaRouche v. Fowler, 152 F.3d 974 (United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit Aug. 28, 1998).
  8. ^ Hotline On Call: Carville's Still On A Tear, But Rahm and Dean Will Bury The Hatchet Archived November 18, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Political expert molds young minds". 1 November 2016.

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Harry Lightsey
Chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party
Succeeded by
William Dorn
Preceded by
Debra DeLee
as Chair of the Democratic National Committee
National Chair of the Democratic National Committee
Served alongside: Chris Dodd (General Chair)
Succeeded by
Steve Grossman
This page was last edited on 2 June 2020, at 17:46
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