Patterson, Elizabeth J. (1939—)

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Patterson, Elizabeth J. (1939—)

U.S. congressional representative, Democrat of South Carolina, 100th–102nd Congresses, January 3, 1987–January 3, 1993. Born Elizabeth Johnston on November 18, 1939, in Columbia, South Carolina; daughter of Olin D. Johnston (1896–1965, former governor of South Carolina as well as U.S. senator, 1945–65) and Gladys Atkinson Johnston; attended public schools in Kensington, Maryland, and Spartanburg, South Carolina; Columbia College, Columbia, South Carolina, B.A. in political science, 1961; graduate study at University of South Carolina, 1961–62; married Dwight Fleming Patterson, Jr., in 1967; children: Dwight Fleming DeWitt Patterson;Catherine Leigh Patterson .

Served as recruiting officer for the Peace Corps (1962–64); served as recruiting officer for VISTA (1965–67); was director of a Head Start program (1967–68); was staff assistant for Representative James R. Mann (1969–70); served on Spartanburg County Council (1975–76); was a member of South Carolina senate (1979–86); elected as a Democrat to

the 100th and to the two succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1987–January 3, 1993).

Born Elizabeth Johnston in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1939, Elizabeth J. Patterson began her political life in childhood. Even as a young girl, Patterson was permitted by her mother Gladys Atkinson Johnston and her father Olin D. Johnston to work on his Senate campaigns. Johnston, a former governor of South Carolina, served as a U.S. senator from 1945 to 1965.

Patterson attended public schools in Kensington, Maryland, and Spartanburg, South Carolina, later taking a B.A. in political science at Columbia College, where she graduated in 1961. After a stint at graduate school at the University of South Carolina, Patterson started on her own path towards public service. In the 1960s, she worked as a recruiting officer for the Peace Corps and VISTA, eventually becoming coordinator for the Head Start program for the South Carolina Office of Economic Opportunity.

In 1967, she had married Dwight Fleming Patterson, Jr., and they had two children, Dwight and Catherine. After two years working as staff assistant for South Carolina Representative James R. Mann, beginning in 1969, Patterson took a break from professional life. In 1975, ten years after her father's death, Patterson was elected to her first political office, serving on the Spartanburg County Council until 1976.

She became a member of the South Carolina senate in 1979, serving until 1986. That year, when four-term Republican Representative Carroll Campbell, Jr., decided not to seek reelection, Patterson declared her candidacy for the House seat in South Carolina's Fourth Congressional District. She was elected as a Democrat to the 100th Congress, taking her seat in 1987. In the 1988 election, Patterson managed to win reelection in a district that voted overwhelmingly for the Republican presidential candidate. Serving in three successive Congresses, Patterson sat on the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, the Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs, and the Select Committee on Hunger. In 1992, Patterson was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection to the 103rd Congress.


Office of the Historian. Women in Congress, 1917–1990. Commission on the Bicentenary of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1991.

Paula Morris , D.Phil., Brooklyn, New York

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Patterson, Elizabeth J. (1939—)

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