Marjorie Amos-Frazier

Marjorie Amost-Frazier, once described as “a one-person social service agency with a sweet demeanor and a will of steel,” has spent her life breaking down barriers. The first woman to be elected to the Charleston County Council in 1974, she went on to even greater triumphs six years later when she was elected commissioner on the South Carolina Public Service Commission. Until that time, the commission had been a bastion of the state’s white male legislators. Amos-Frazier was the first woman, the first African-American and the first non-legislator to hold a position on that body. Born in 1926 in Manning, South Carolina, Marjorie Amos relocated to Charleston where she married and had five children. She faced the burden of raising them alone when she and her husband divorced after 16 years of marriage. “Times were hard but I was determined to make it,” she admits. Working at the American Tobacco Company’s plant in Charleston gave Amos-Frazier the foundation for her later involvement in local and state politics. As a shop steward, she negotiated contracts and solicited memberships to the union. A strong civil rights campaigner, Amos-Frazier encouraged Charleston’s African-Americans to register to vote during the 1940’s and 1950’s. As financial secretary of the NAACP, she worked to desegregate the restaurants, theaters and other public places of the city. As director of the Alliance of Concerned Citizens for Better Government between 1972 and 1976, she focused her attentions on providing better conditions for the poor. Concern for the plight of poor Charlestonians motivated Amos-Frazier to run for public office. “You had to find a way to get on the inside,” she said, “to know what was available to help people.” She beat seven other candidates to win a seat on the Charleston County Council in 1974. “I had seen so much wrong doings and I felt there needed to be a change.” As a member of the council for six years, Amos-Frazier concentrated her efforts on securing better services for the poor and needy. As chairperson of the Human Services Committee, she spearheaded the negotiations between the county and the Medical University of South Carolina for indigent health care. She was instrumental in establishing a senior citizens center in Charleston County and in creating new facilities for substance abuse programs. In 1980, Amos-Frazier was unanimously elected by the General Assembly to represent the First Congressional District on the South Carolina Public Service Commission, an institution which regulates utilities such as gas and electric companies, telephone utilities and water systems. In 1988, she became vice-chairperson of the Commission and two years later she became chairperson. Retiring from the Commission in 1993, Amos-Frazier expressed the hope “that I have been fair to all concerned and have made good utility service for the less fortunate.” Amos-Frazier’s passion for politics and concern for the welfare of the underprivileged have always gone hand in hand. Between 1971 and 1975, she served as vice-chairperson of Charleston’s Democratic Party. When Governor Richard Riley created a task force on critical human needs, she was an obvious choice as a member. She has received countless awards, including an honorary doctorate degree from Allen University, the NAACP’s “Women of the Year” in 1973, and in 1993 a potion of I-26 was named in her honor. She is the only African-American to have been installed into the Charleston Federation of Women’s Club Hall of Fame–yet another first for a dedicated public servant. Some of her other accomplishments include participation in two White House briefings during President Jimmy Carter’s administration, appointed one of fifteen members of the Judicial Council for the National Democratic Party, appointed by the U.S. Justice Department to serve on the Dispute Alternative Resolution Committee to find alternative solutions for resolving minor crimes. In 1981, she traveled to Israel as a member of a delegation led by then Governor Richard W. Riley on a fact-finding trip. She has traveled to Africa as a delegation member the African American Episcopal Church to attend the World Methodist Conference and visited Nairobi, Maseru, Lesotho, Bloemfontein, Capetown and Johannesburg, South Africa in 1986. She is listed in the 1977-78 edition of Personalities of the South and the first edition of Personalities of America.