Richard Harpootlian

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Richard A. "Dick" Harpootlian is the South Carolina representative to the Democratic Party. He began his liberal activism while editor of The Tiger in the early 1970's. On November 13, 1970 he published the f-word on the front page of The Tiger - sort of - in connection with campus censorship issues of the day (which see). R.C. chastises and rebukes him. He is a member of the Class of 1971 with a BA in History. He then earned his post-graduate law degree at the University of South Carolina - Law in 1974. He has a solo law practice in Columbia, primarily representing individual plantiffs rather than corporations.

From the West Legal Directory ( :

Upon his admission to the South Carolina Bar in November of 1974, Richard "Dick" Harpootlian was employed by the Fifth Circuit Solicitor's (District Attorney's Office) as a prosecutor. The Fifth Circuit is composed of Richland and Kershaw Counties, and is one of the largest of the 16 judicial circuits in the state. Richland County, South Carolina is the county which encompasses Columbia, the state capital of South Carolina.

Harpootlian was named Deputy Solicitor in 1976, and assumed responsibility for the administration and supervision of approximately 20 attorneys and some 50 support staff. He also oversaw the implementation of the first automated case management system in any Solicitor's Office in the state, along with other county supported programs which are still in use today.

He was Chief Homicide Prosecutor for the Solicitor's Office and personally prosecuted hundreds of murder cases, including twelve death penalty cases.

In 1983, he co-prosecuted Donald "Pee Wee" Gaskins, the largest mass murderer in the history of the state, who committed a contract killing on a death row inmate while housed on death row. Harpootlian successfully obtained a conviction and "Pee Wee" Gaskins was sentenced to death and later executed. Just weeks prior to his execution, Gaskins attempted to have Harpootlian's young daughter kidnapped and held hostage. The plot was thwarted by law enforcement when they received a tip from one of those that Gaskins had recruited.

In 1983, Harpootlian went into private practice with the nationally renowned criminal defense lawyer, Jack Swerling. He and Swerling had a partnership of Swerling & Harpootlian until January of 1991.

In 1990, the incumbent Solicitor, who hired Harpootlian in 1975, decided not to run for re-election. Harpootlian ran for the job of the Fifth Circuit Solicitor and was elected by an almost 2 to 1 majority.

Harpootlian served as Solicitor from January 1991 until January 1995. During his tenure, he personally prosecuted and obtained convictions in a number of high profile cases, including the woman who hit and killed United States Senator Strom Thurmond's daughter. He prosecuted James Holderman, the former President of the University of South Carolina, and a number of other high profile murder, drug and public corruption cases.

He also argued to the United States Supreme Court in 1994, the case of South Carolina v. Simmons.

In 1986, Harpootlian ran for and was elected to the Richland County Council. Richland County has approximately 300,000 residents. He served on County Council until 1991.

In 1994, Harpootlian ran for the state's Attorney General's office and was unsuccessful.

In 1995, Harpootlian opened his own private law firm, Richard A. Harpootlian, P.A.

As a personal request of United States Senator Ernest F. "Fritz" Hollings, Harpootlian ran for and was elected the Chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party in May of 1998. During his first year as Party Chairman, he orchestrated the Party's successful election bids of United States Senator Fritz Hollings, Congressman Jim Clyburn and Governor James Hodges. Hodges, with Harpootlian's help, became the first man in the history of South Carolina politics to unseat an incumbent Governor in his bid for re-election. Harpootlian's efforts also resulted in electing four other Democrats to state wide office. Harpootlian served as Party Chairman until May of 2003.

While Party Chairman, Harpootlian brought President Bill Clinton to South Carolina in 2000 to raise money for the South Carolina Democratic Party. He has brought Vice President Al Gore in 1998, Senator Bill Bradley in 1999, Senator Joe Lieberman in 2001, Senator John Kerry in 2002 and the United States Senator from Louisiana Mary Landrau in 2003.

Further, Harpootlian has been a Delegate to the 1992, 1996 and 2000 National Democratic Conventions.

Also, as a result of his successful law practice and his role as State Party Chairman, Harpootlian has appeared on numerous national news programs, including 60 Minutes with Dan Rather, 60 Minutes with Leslie Stahl, ABC Nightly News, NBC Nightly News, Dateline NBC, and various CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and Fox News broadcasts. He is also frequently quoted in several national publications such as TIME Magazine, the NY Times, the Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times. He has been recognized for his million dollar verdicts in National Lawyer's Weekly and South Carolina Lawyer's Weekly publication, as well as other legal publications.

Over the course of the years, the South Carolina Bar Association has asked Harpootlian to speak at various seminars on myriad topics, including class action litigation and criminal defense. Also, he is the past Chairman of the Criminal Law Section of the South Carolina Bar Association and a past member of the South Carolina Bar's Board of Grievance and Discipline. He has served on the South Carolina Chief Justice's Blue Ribbon Committee on Docketing and he is a former Adjunct Professor of Law at the USC School of Law.

Harpootlian hosted George Stephanopolis and ABC News when Stephanopolis moderated the nationally televised Democratic Presidential Primary Debate in May of 2003 in Columbia, South Carolina.

Dick Harpootlian is married to Jamie Lindler Harpootlian. He has a daughter, Kate Harpootlian, from a previous marriage to the former Pamela K. McCreary, a 1972 Clemson class member, who graduated with a BA in Psychology.