Born in Williston, South Carolina, JOSEPH EMILE HARLEY attended the University of South Carolina. He was a sergeant with the First South Carolina Volunteers during the Spanish-American War and rose to the rank of Colonel with the South Carolina National Guard. In addition to practicing law, he was President of the First National Bank of Barnwell for a number of years. Involved in politics from an early age, he worked on the staff of South Carolina Governor Thomas McLeod. He was also a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives for several non-consecutive terms, served as Mayor of Barnwell, South Carolina for ten years, and was appointed a Special Judge by the South Carolina Supreme Court. He served as South Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor from 1934 until 1941, when he succeeded to the governorship upon the resignation of Burnet R. Maybank, who had been elected to the U.S. Senate. Harley died just four months after assuming the governorship, but during his brief tenure, the United States entered into World War II, and Harley helped prepare South Carolina for the war effort. In addition, he triggered an investigation of corruption in the administration of the state penitentiary that led to the superintendent’s conviction.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 37. New York: James T. White & Company.