Republican – Sumter
Elected Speaker of the S.C. House of Representatives in 2022
First elected to the S.C. House in 2001
B.A. in History and Government, 1990
Wofford Alumni Executive Committee 2003-2005
We are honored to inaugurate our SCICU Legislative Spotlight with S.C. House Speaker (and Wofford grad) Murrell Smith. We asked Speaker Smith a few questions about himself, his career, and the role Wofford played in it.
1. Why did you decide to attend Wofford?
I grew up with a deep admiration and respect for Wofford College, as I had many family members like my father and grandfather who were alumni. More importantly, when the time came, I knew I wanted a smaller, more intimate college education and experience. I did not want to get lost among the masses or sit in classes of 200+ students. Wofford’s size was an attractive selling point as I made a decision. Looking back, it was certainly the right one! I could not have been happier with my experience.
2. How did attending Wofford prepare you for your successful career?
Attending Wofford prepared me for a successful career in many ways. As previously mentioned, Wofford provided not only a more intimate educational experience through small class sizes but the opportunity to form relationships with faculty. Being a liberal arts institution, Wofford also exposed areas of learning that I may have avoided at other colleges. Some of those areas proved to be ones that I enjoyed and thrived at the most. This environment allowed me to be more engaged in my classes, interact with those around me, and gain experience speaking publicly. Specifically, being encouraged to think critically and gaining debate experience would prove to be extremely useful skills as I pursued law school and then in my eventual career both as a lawyer and a legislator.
3. Do you have a particular professor or class that made an impression on you? If so, how?
There have been many professors and classes that left a mark on me from my time at Wofford – two that come to the top of my mind in particular. I took a history course with Professor Brooks Simpson, where I developed a true love for history beyond just the facts. Prof. Simpson’s classes were full of engaging discussions, almost like a precursor to the courtroom or to the Statehouse chamber. His classes made me excited to be a History major, and consider the eventual career path I would take. I also had a professor of art history whom I admired greatly and who left an indelible mark on my life. Dr. Constance Armitage Antonsen, while a professor of art history, she was heavily involved in politics. She was a National Republican Woman of the Year, and had a personal relationship with many prominent politicians of the time. With her encouragement and help, I went to the Young Americans Foundation conference in Valley Forge, Pa. That began my political involvement and truly sparked my interest in politics beyond just academically.
4. Why did you decide to become a state legislator?
I always had an interest in politics, so when the opportunity arose to run for an open seat in the SC House of Representatives for my hometown, I took it! While I definitely felt fear and anxiety by taking this risk, I was encouraged by my family and friends and felt comforted by their support.
5. Of what achievement in the S.C. House are you most proud?
First and foremost, I am most proud to be Sumter’s elected representative for (going on) 22 years. There is no greater honor than to serve my hometown, and to have instilled a level of trust and support from my own community. Another great honor is having my colleagues elect and entrust me to important leadership positions within the House of Representatives, namely the Chairman of a Committee (Ways and Means) and (recently) Speaker of the House. When it comes to legislative achievements, I am extremely proud of this past year’s budget. Our budget was monumental and made truly transformational investments in important priorities that will positively affect our state and its people far into the future.
6. You’re a successful lawyer, but if you could pick another job, what would it be?
If I could pick another job, I think I would love to be a professor …maybe at Wofford!
7. What advice do you have for students attending Wofford and other SCICU member institutions?
My advice to students at Wofford and other SCICU institutions is this: take full advantage of the opportunities this type of education offers you. Find what interests you, pursue your passions even as you develop them, and build relationships. Work hard, but enjoy this special time! Know that if you embrace opportunity, your future is limitless.