The City Magazine Since 1975

City of Grace

City of Grace
November 2020

Mayor John Patrick Grace’s narrow victory signaled a change in power in the city

Mayor John Patrick Grace pushed for civic improvements; (inset) The Grace Bridge

If there is any predictable time for history to shift, it’s November, when opposing parties spar and voters decide elections. Such transitions of power occurred even when there was a one-party system, perhaps most memorably in Charleston in November 1911. 

When John Patrick Grace, considered an upstart Irishman, won the Democratic primary on November 7 against the Broad Street elite’s Tristam Hyde (2,999 votes to 2,805; and 109 to a third contender), you’d have thought the Bastille had fallen. 

Grace was a progressive who pushed for paving roads and civic improvements, saying that the aristocrats had a stranglehold on the city. Hyde supporters contested the results over whether a certificate of voter registration was filed the requisite number of days before the election. But Grace’s candidacy was validated, and he ran unopposed in the general election on December 12 to become the city’s 51st mayor.                                                

Born here in 1874, he would lose to Hyde four years later but win back the mayor’s seat in 1919 in another raucous election where ballots were thrown out of a window, a journalist was shot and killed, and a first tally gave his opponent a one-vote lead. Grace later led efforts to build the 1929 bridge that crossed the Cooper River, and three years after he died in 1940, it was renamed in his honor.