Murray represents the Hollywood area | Photo Provided

Newly elected S.C. Rep. Chardale Murray may be the first woman to represent House District 116, but it’s hardly her first time charting a course for herself. The Democrat from Hollywood heads to Columbia as the hand-picked successor to Rep. Robert Brown, who retired after 20 years in office.

District 116, a rural district, includes the Hollywood area as well as Ravenel, Meggett, Rockville and other Lowcountry municipalities. Murray won a four-way Democratic primary outright in June and, earlier this month, defeated Republican Carroll O’Neal with 50.78% of the vote.

Murray, 44, attended Talladega University and spent time in Columbia as a teacher and auditor before returning to Charleston to take graduate classes and apprentice in a funeral home. Eventually she settled into the funeral business full-time and now owns Murray’s Mortuary which she first opened in Hollywood in 2004. In 2013, she moved to a larger facility on Rivers Avenue in North Charleston.

When she first set up shop, Murray said she was one of the youngest funeral home owners in the state.

“I did everything from scratch, no loans,” she told the City Paper, despite doubters who were skeptical of her success. “I guess I proved them wrong.”

“I think that’s why Mr. Brown wanted me to run because he said he wanted someone who was compassionate and concerned about the community and well-liked,” she said. “And I just, actually, said, ‘Why not?'”

Murray had little experience in politics before she was elected to Hollywood Town Council in 2019. And she never thought she’d run for office when she helped out her friend Maurice Washington with campaign events for former Gov. Nikki Haley and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott.

“Never in my wildest dreams,” she thought. “Hats off to them, that is not me.”

“I think the time is just right, because the people in my area, they’re not looking for the average attorney or somebody who just wants to be in the position for the name,” she said. “They know that they can trust me,” she said, pointing out that she received more votes than anyone on the local ballot when she ran last year.

Murray thinks she’s in a good position to bring a new perspective to the Hollywood seat as one of two Black women entering as members of the S.C. House of Representatives this year.

“So I think that more [women] getting involved will help other females feel like, ‘Hey, why not?'” she said.