Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Knows My Dad

brian t shirley black and white

You don’t have to know who Arthur Ravenel, Jr. is to enjoy this story, but I’ll tell you who he is anyway. He served in the United States Marine Corps ( that’s pronounced “Core” by the way) from 1945 to 1946. He is a Realtor and general contractor. He served as a Democrat in the South Carolina State House of Representatives in the1950s and as a Republican for the SC Senate 1980-86. He then served as a member of the US Congress from 1987-1995. The cable-stayed bridge that stretches from Mount Pleasant, SC, to Charleston, SC, bears his name.

Now for my father. Larry D. Shirley is a life and health insurance broker who now owns his own business. It’s a huge firm with two employees, him and my stepmother Sam. That’s right, Sam’s living the dream! ( She would hit me right now for writing that if she were here.) Dad has also been a public servant as a Charleston City Councilman for 20 years. He elected not to run for another term once he reached that plateau, though he could have easily won. He’s your typical politician squared AND he sells insurance. This makes him a handshaking, business card handing out, name-dropping fool. I’ve seen him at it for over 25 years, ( I didn’t know him until I was 18, but that’s a rather short and funny story. See my stand up show sometime.) His moniker is “Hi, I’m Larry Shirley,” as he sticks that right hand out to give a firm handshake and a smile. Whoops, don’t forget that business card, Larry. He’s rubbed elbows and various other appendages with politicians from every level of government and every political ideology. He served his constituents well and made sure they knew who he was also. Whether at the post office, grocery store, the Joseph P. Riley ball park or his favorite watering hole, “Hi, I’m Larry Shirley,” can be heard wherever he goes. I’m convinced that somewhere there’s a baby whose first words were “Hi, I’m Larry Shirley,” because his mother ran into my Dad once too often while the child was an infant.

If you don’t have one of my father’s business cards then you didn’t exist in Charleston, SC, from about 1974 to present. He lamented to me one time about how he would see people whom he had presented a business card to that didn’t call him for an appointment. They had not sought him out for insurance, yet they had his number. What the hell? I told him to give them another card. He said that didn’t make sense. These people would just look at him and say, “Thanks Larry, but I already have one of your cards.”  I told my Dad that was when you look at them and say, “I know, but there’s something wrong with that card. I haven’t gotten a call from you for an appointment. Here, I’m almost positive this card will work. It’s from a different batch.”

Arthur Ravenel and my father ran in the same political circles and got along with each other very well. I’ve talked with Arthur several times and he’s a wonderful person. In 1996 my Dad was up for a very prestigious award from the Insurance industry. He had served in many capacities in that arena and is a Past President of The Life Underwriters Association. At this time he was nominated for the Carol H. Jones award, which is presented to the Life Insurance Agent of the year. He had no idea if he would be chosen until the night of the ceremony, as is the custom. I found out he was receiving the award before he did and with the help of his friends we planned for me to make it down for the presentation as a surprise. He thought I was on tour somewhere, so he didn’t expect for me to be there. In the weeks before the big dinner we shot a video of friends and family congratulating him that was to be shown right before they brought him on stage. They played my segment first. Later, my father told me as soon as he saw my face on the screen, he knew he had won. I was in the back of the room hiding to surprise him after he got the award. There were a lot of people in the video wishing my dad well but for me, I’ll never forget what Arthur Ravenel, Jr. said:

“Larry Shirley,” started Arthur in that beautiful southern drawl of his. “I’ve known Larry for many years and every time I see Larry Shirley he says to me, ‘Hi, I’m Larry Shirley.’  I’ve heard him say it so many times I think I’m Larry Shirley.”

And that brought down the house! God bless cousin Arthur!