November 2006

Curtis Inabinett

Charleston County Councilman

Education: Graduate of South Carolina State University with a degree in Agriculture and a masters degree in Guidance and Agricultural Education

Curtis Inabinett lived a life where very little thing came easy. So Inabinett learned to lean on his quiet, persistent nature to get the education that would make him a leader. That meant riding his bike 17 miles to school each day. And in him grew an understanding of the simple power of showing up everyday. So when Inabinett went to work for his community as a teacher and principal, his reputation for always showing up made him the consummate fixer. It’s why the voters of Ravenel elected him as the city’s first African-American mayor and, later, sent him to the General Assembly.

Today, Inabinett is a member of the Charleston County Council. Inabinett is clear about what got him there. While material things were never abundant in his early life, Inabinett realized he had another sort of wealth — he had conscientious parents who taught him discipline and determination, the keys to a successful life. Inabinett was the oldest of six children, born to parents who were farmers. The family grew cotton, tobacco, peanuts and soybeans. In between school, and sometimes in lieu of school, Inabinett worked the fields. But education was still the most important thing in the Inabinett family. At 11, Inabinett would lose his father. He continued to work the fields to help support the family, but also continued to pursue his education. By that time, Inabinett understood well the value of education and the self-rewards inherent in hard work and effort. He took those values to the classroom. And his dedication to learning paid off when he earned a Sears-Roebuck Scholarship to study at what was then S.C. A&M College. The scholarship made college accessible. It would be one of the turning points in his life.

Inabinett went to S.C. State. He worked at night waiting tables to help pay his living expenses. His next job proved to be another turning point. He got a job at his hometown school district, working under W.R. Carter, then the supervisor for agriculture. Inabinett became an agriculture teacher. But he was drafted into the Army in 1955, which would put his teaching career on hold for two years. His army life offered him invaluable experience. Inabinett worked guided missile batteries in defense of the Capital. But he knew the Army wasn’t his calling. Teaching was. So Inabinett returned to S.C. State, resumed his teaching career and eventually earned his master’s degree. He climbed the ranks in the Charleston County School system, eventually becoming a principal. That responsibility is what pushed him into politics. Inabinett noticed that his students were often sick. At home, the children drank from shallow wells that were often contaminated. He found evidence of this in the school’s bathroom, where he would find parasites his students had passed. He decided to run for town council. He won and two years later he was elected mayor, the first African American to hold that office in Ravenel.

As mayor, Inabinett led the fight that got Ravenel getting its first public water system. Inabinett would serve as mayor for 10 years. Voters would later send him to the General Assembly, where he was a member of the S.C. House of Representatives. Among his accomplishments is introducing the bill that wound up ending the state’s constitutional ban on interracial marriage in 2000. “There is a lot of terrible evil in this country with reference to race,” Inabitnett then told The State. “Somebody had intentions years ago for enacting this legislation,” which made interracial marriage a crime punishable by jail time. Inabinett was also among the lawmakers who pushed the compromise that finally got the Confederate battle flag removed from the Statehouse dome. Inabinett’s quiet demeanor conceals the fighter that resides within. “Public service is something that no one should take lightly,” he said.

Currently, Curtis Inabinett is serving on the County Council of Charleston County (SC) for the past four years and also serving as Vice-Chairman of the Sea Island Comprehension Health Care Cooperation in Charleston County.