Elizabeth Johnston Patterson (born November 18, 1939, Columbia, South Carolina) is an American politician from the Democratic Party. She was a three-term member of the United States House of Representatives. Her father, Olin D. Johnston, served as Governor of South Carolina and as a long-term member of the United States Senate.
Early life and education
Elizabeth Johnston, known as "Liz", was born into a political Democratic family. Her father Olin D. Johnston had been governor of the state in the 1930s and was a long-term member of the US Senate, from 1945 to his death in 1965. Her family lived outside Washington, DC in Kensington, Maryland, where she grew up during those years. She returned to South Carolina for college, graduating from Columbia College and doing graduate work at the University of South Carolina.
Johnston was attracted to politics and government, working in Washington, D.C., for the Peace Corps and the Office of Economic Opportunity during the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Patterson also worked as the South Carolina director of the Head Start Program and as an assistant to Congressman James R. Mann.
She returned to live in Spartanburg County, where she was elected to the County Council, serving from 1975 to 1976. In 1978 she was elected to the South Carolina State Senate, serving from 1979 to 1986. She was the second woman in the South Carolina Senate, after Mary Gordon Ellis.
In 1986 Patterson was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from South Carolina's 4th congressional district in 1986, succeeding Carroll A. Campbell, Jr., who had given up the seat to make a successful run for governor of South Carolina. She narrowly defeated Bill Workman, the mayor of Greenville, despite Campbell's presence at the top of the Republican ticket. Patterson was the first woman elected to Congress from South Carolina in her own right; the previous three, Elizabeth Hawley Gasque, Willa L. Fulmer, and Corinne Boyd Riley, served as caretakers after their husbands died in office. She served on the House committees on Banking and Veterans Affairs.
Workman's father, W. D. Workman, Jr., a journalist and author, had been her father's Republican opponent in the 1962 general election, when Johnston won his last term in the U.S. Senate. Johnston died three years later in 1965 without completing that term.
Patterson was narrowly reelected in 1988, when she defeated Republican attorney and city councilman Knox H. White. George H. W. Bush carried the 4th district by the largest margin in the state.
She won a third term with a greater margin in 1990 over Terry Haskins, a state Representative from Greenville. That year Campbell, as the Republican incumbent, won reelection as governor in a landslide.
Although Patterson represented a district that had been trending Republican for some time, she was thought to be a fairly secure incumbent, given her family ties and her victory in three successive elections under difficult conditions. She was narrowly defeated for re-election in 1992 by Republican Bob Inglis, an attorney who had never run for office before. As in 1988, George H. W. Bush carried the 4th with his largest margin in the state. No woman has served in Congress from South Carolina since Patterson left office, and the Democrats have only tallied more than 40 percent in the district once since then.
Patterson was the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina in 1994. Patterson is teaching political science at Spartanburg Methodist College and is the chairwoman of the Spartanburg County Democratic Party.