By Patra Taylor

On October 11, Phil Noble tossed his hat into the race for the state’s top spot — the governorship. As the campaign for the 2018 Democratic primary starts getting traction, some in-the-know politicians believed Noble’s “hat” felt more like a bomb, with several current legislators already dubbing him “our worst nightmare.”

“They’re right,” states the business and technology consultant from Charleston, his eyes twinkling with delight. “When a friend in the legislature told me I was being called their worst nightmare, I told him that is exactly what I’ll be as governor.”

Born in Greenville, a ninth generation South Carolinian, Mr. Noble spent the formative years of his youth growing up in Anniston, Alabama with his family. In 1960, at the age of nine, he remembers passing out leaflets on the street corners of Anniston for John F. Kennedy, his first act of political activism. Less than a year later, Anniston became the center of national controversy when a mob bombed a bus filled with civilian Freedom Riders, an integrated group protesting Alabama’s Jim Crow segregation laws.

“The city appointed a bi-racial commission that included my father to try to deal with Civil Rights there,” Mr. Noble says of the aftermath of the bombing. “It was the first bi-racial commission in the South. During the next four or five years, Anniston became a crucible of the Civil Rights Movement.”

Mr. Noble never forgot what unfolded in his adopted hometown. And he never forgot the words of his father, a Presbyterian preacher who, according to FBI records released a number of years later, made his way to the top of the Klan’s hit list for his role in the Civil Rights Movement. “When you are trying to figure something out,” his father often said, “if race is an issue, it is THE issue.”

According to Mr. Noble, what happened in Anniston in the 1960s is relevant to him today because it demonstrates just how far, how fast and how radically a society can change, how much progress it can make … when it wants to. Pushing for change on a number of important issues is the reason Mr. Noble decided to run for governor.

“That’s the beginning; that’s the end,” he says. “That’s the only reason. That’s why I’m running and that’s why I believe we can make radical, leapfrog changes in this state.”

Mr. Noble points to the Emanuel Nine as an example of how a society can change in a short period of time. “Race is the original sin,” continues Mr. Noble, who was deeply moved by the immediate act of forgiveness extended by the families of those murdered in the attack at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in June 2015. “There was an outpouring of love and forgiveness and compassion and understanding. It set off a chain reaction. First the Confederate flag was removed from the South Carolina Statehouse grounds. Then, Walmart stopped selling the flag. Then Alabama removed the flag from its statehouse grounds. What started here had a profound impact on the single most important and difficult issue … the issue of race. We forever turned a page.”

Asked if he is elected governor, does he want to turn pages on the issues of race, Mr. Noble answered emphatically, “No! I want to flip the whole book.”

He continues, “As a state, we’ve got to decide that we’re not interested in incremental steps, that you’re not interested in piddling around the edges, or kicking the can down the road. We’ve got to decide that we want to do things that are big and bold and radically different.”

Big, bold change is the lens from which he views public education in the Palmetto State. “We must totally re-invent our state’s public education system, from pre-kindergarten to post-graduate, to make our schools the best in the South,” explains Mr. Noble, who has served on advisory boards of a number of colleges and universities including Clemson University, the University of South Carolina and the College of Charleston. He also served as a fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. “It’s the single most important thing we will do. I want to build a brand new student-centered school system from the grassroots up. If we don’t fix education in this state, nothing else really matters.”

Mr. Noble backs his belief in public education with actions. He is the founder of two statewide nonprofit initiatives focused on education. They include One Laptop Per Child South Carolina and World Class Scholars, an online global student exchange program. He is also the founder of the Palmetto Project, an organization that’s mission is to identify innovative strategies to address the social and economic challenges facing the state and putting them into action.

Another legislative priority for Mr. Noble is to get to the bottom of the abandonment of the nuclear power project by SCE&G and Santee Cooper after nine years of work. “On my first day in office, I will fire the whole board of directors of Santee Cooper. I will find a way to force the entire board and senior management of SCE&G to resign and make them all give back their tens of millions of dollars in golden parachutes and obscene bonuses. I want to establish a truly independent commission to find out what went wrong and who was responsible. It’s really simple: We want our money back and people should go to jail.

Harkening back to Mr. Noble being the state legislature’s “worst nightmare,” as governor he states he will demand the toughest ethics laws in the country and run the crooks out. “There are good and decent people in the legislature and the state government in both parties,” he insists. “But too many of our statehouse politicians have been infected with the contagious disease of corruption. Its symptoms have not just contaminated the halls of our statehouse but have spread throughout our state and stopped us from becoming the state that we were meant to be.”

Mr. Noble’s plans to root-out corruption in favor of a clean and honest government is simple: First, legislators should not be doing personal business with state government or companies that hire lobbyists. Second, there should be 100 percent personal financial disclosure and transparency to stop “dark money” payments for retainer fees and consulting contracts to legislators.

“Politicians who sell out our state for a few pieces of silver should go to jail … for a long time.”

Mr. Noble concludes: “As a young boy, I often heard my preacher father repeat his favorite quotation, ‘Dream no little dreams for they have no power to move men’s souls.’ My campaign for governor is all about inspiring people to come together and go to work to bring about big change and real reform we all want and deserve.”

 

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