Paula Harper Bethea • • •
Executive director of the South Carolina Education Lottery
Paula Harper Bethea was born in Hampton County, South Carolina, and graduated from Estill High School. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of South Carolina in 1975.
For 30 years she worked with her husband Bill at the family law firm, Bethea, Jordan and Griffin, P.A., in Hilton Head. From 2006 to 2009 she served as director of external relations with the McNair Law Firm and in 2010 she served as assistant to S.C. Speaker of the House Rex Carter.
She was one of nine South Carolinians chosen to serve on the initial lottery commission in 2001 and helped launch the state’s first successful lottery game the following year. In 2005 she was invited to serve on the board and later served as chairman of the Centers of Economic Excellence, which oversees the annual lottery proceeds. Since its inception, the South Carolina Education Lottery has generated more than $3.3 billion dollars: more than $2.5 billion has been allocated for scholarships and grants for higher education and more than $693 million to K-12 education. Bethea has served as executive director of the South Carolina Education Lottery since 2009.
She served as a director of First Financial and First Federal Bank (First Federal) from 1996 to 2010 and chairman until 2013, when the bank merged with SCBT Financial; she currently serves as vice chairman of the SCBT board of directors.
She is chairman emeritus of the United Way of America’s Board of Governors and was the first woman to serve as chairman. She was a member of the board of directors for United Way International, chairman of United Way of South Carolina and Beaufort County. She also served as the United Way liaison to the NFL.
In addition, she is a former board chairman of the Hilton Head Island Chamber of Commerce and the Wilkins Forum at Furman University. She is a founding board member of the Palmetto Institute, and has served on the board of the South Carolina Competitiveness Council.
She was vice chairman of the board at Presbyterian College, a member emeritus of the board of the Medical University of South Carolina Foundation, and is past chairman of the board of the Heart and Vascular Center at MUSC. She also has served as president of the University of South Carolina Alumni Association. She is a life member of Independent Colleges and Universities of South Carolina and is a member of the board of the MCI Heritage Classic Foundation.
She served on the State Chamber's Task Force for Restructuring State Government in 1991 and was a member and a Subcommittee Chairman of the Governor's Commission on Restructuring. In 1992, Gov. Campbell awarded her the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina's highest award for volunteer service.
In 2011 she received the Global Vision Award by the World Affairs Council, which is presented annually to the individual, organization or business that has demonstrated a vision toward the advancement of international affairs in South Carolina.
With her husband William “Bill,” she was named the 2006 South Carolina Business Leader of the Year. In 2003, she was awarded the Columbia College Medallion, the most distinguished commendation bestowed by the college; she is a former chairman of the board of trustees. In 1995, she received the South Carolina Women of Achievement Award. In 1998, she was awarded the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award by the University of South Carolina. In addition, she has received honorary doctorate degrees from the University of South Carolina and Presbyterian College.
Bethea was a speaker during the 2014 Women’s Leadership Conference and honored at the Celebration of Inspiring Women.
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