Robert V. Royall, Jr. | Legacy of Leadership Interview

Robert V. Royall (1934 - )

After David Beasley was elected governor of South Carolina in 1994, his first priority was choosing a secretary to head the Department of Commerce, a new Cabinet post that was part of a reorganized state government. Bob Royall was a clear choice.  

Royall, a member of the State Ports Authority board for 12 years, 10 of which he served as chairman, had retired in 1990 after a brilliant career with Citizens & Southern National Bank. Two months later, he joined NBSC Corporation as chairman and chief executive officer. By 1994, he had reorganized NBSC's management team and established a strategic plan for the bank and its holding company. He was available for new challenges.

Thus, Bob Royall became Secretary of Commerce, the governor's first appointee. And he performed as expected.

Once on the job, Royall restructured the department, which formerly had been the State Development Board, both to create a more efficient organization and to implement the state's strategic plan for economic development he and Governor Beasley established in 1995.

During 1995, Royall's first year on the job, the state set records in economic development success, records expected to endure possibly for years. Then came 1996. All 1995 records were broken. In 1995, the state recorded an unprecedented $5 billion in capital investment, setting an economic development record. The next year, South Carolina shattered that record, posting a remarkable $5.7 billion in investment.

Over Royall's four-year tenure at the South Carolina Department of Commerce, new and existing industries invested more than $22 billion in capital and created 105,000 new jobs.

Robert V. Royall, Jr., was born December 11, 1934, in Montgomery, Alabama, the younger of two sons of Robert V. and Eleanor Williams Royall of York. While Mount Pleasant was home for the Royalls, the Depression had forced Robert Royall, Sr., a civil engineer, to accept a job in Montgomery and begin his family there. The family returned to Upstate South Carolina in 1935 and to Mount Pleasant in time for Robert, Jr., to begin the second grade.

He and Edith Gregorie ("Greg") Frampton were second-grade classmates and remained friends and eventually sweethearts throughout grade school, high school, and his college years. They were married July 30, 1955, in Mount Pleasant.

Royall graduated from Moultrie High School in 1952 and enrolled at the University of South Carolina, graduating in 1956 with a bachelor's degree. He served for three years in the Marine Corps and was discharged in 1959 as a first lieutenant. He then served in the Marine Reserve, later attaining the rank of captain.

In 1960, Royall joined the Citizens & Southern National Bank of South Carolina as a management trainee in Charleston. He was later transferred to Sumter, where, at age 28, he was named city executive. Next, he moved to Florence to head the Florence region. Then, in 1970, he was transferred to Columbia to head various city banking offices around the state and to form a retail banking division.     

Four years later, at 38, Royall was president of the bank. In 1986, he was named chief executive officer and chairman of the board and later vice chairman of C&S Corporation, the bank's parent company. Royall worked in the corporate office in Atlanta for a year, and in August 1990, C&S completed its merger with Sovran Corporation. In December 1990, at age 56, Royall retired.     

When he joined NBSC Corporation in February 1991, he persuaded William L. Pherigo, his right-hand man at C&S, to join him at NBSC as president and chief operating officer. Together, they moved NBSC to new heights in service and profitability.

So successful were they that NBSC attracted the attention of Synovus Financial Corporation of Columbus, Georgia. A merger was agreed on and was completed about the time Royall was considering the governor's invitation to head the state's new Department of Commerce.

His success as Commerce secretary was reminiscent of his accomplishments at the State Ports Authority. Appointed by Governor Dick Riley in 1982, he became chairman in 1984. During his tenure, SPA revenue rose 64 percent, and total cargo tonnage rose from 4,115,000 tons in 1982 to 8,944,000 tons in 1994.

Royall has served as a trustee of Winthrop, Limestone, Columbia, and Benedict colleges and as a trustee of the Medical University of South Carolina and the College of Charleston.

He has received honorary degrees from the College of Charleston, Winthrop University, and the University of South Carolina. And USC awarded him its Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for distinguished service in 1990. In 1986, Royall was named Ambassador of the Year by the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, and in 1989, he was the first recipient of the NAACP's Humanitarian Award. The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce named him its Businessman of the Year in 1992, and the Columbia Israel Bonds Committee presented him its Declaration of Independence Award in 1996.     

He is a trustee of the University of South Carolina Business Partnership Foundation and a director of Synovus Financial Corporation and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of South Carolina.  He serves on the advisory board of Junior Achievement of Central South Carolina.     

Royall and his wife, Greg, have three daughters, Eleanor Royall Parker, Edith Royall Smith, and Margaret Royall Shore, all of Mount Pleasant, and six grandsons.

The Royalls worship at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Mount Pleasant.

Royall was inducted into the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame in 1997.     

© 1999 South Carolina Business Hall of Fame