Cover photo for Louise Rodgers Ravenel Dougherty's Obituary
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Louise Rodgers Ravenel Dougherty

March 7, 1929 — October 15, 2023

Charleston

Louise Rodgers Ravenel Dougherty

Louise Rodgers Ravenel Dougherty, beloved matriarch and devoted advocate for people with disabilities, passed away peacefully at Bishop Gadsden on James Island on Sunday, October 15, 2023. She was 94. 

Born in Annapolis, MD, the daughter of Captain James Hunter Rodgers, USN, and Frances Biddle Rodgers, of San Francisco, she lived in many places as a child, moving to Charleston when she was 15. She graduated from Ashley Hall in 1946 and attended the College of Charleston, where she met her first husband, Arthur Ravenel, Jr. 

In 1959, after the birth of her son William with Down syndrome, Louise became committed to protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities, pushing for the creation of programs for them, lobbying for legislative changes that would improve their lives, and promoting programs for the prevention of disability. At every level of government she advocated for the rights of people with disabilities. 

Locally, she led the effort to establish an Advocacy for Handicapped Citizens group, the first such group in South Carolina. She helped establish Camp HiHopes; Hope Center; Charleston Rehabilitation Center; and the first classes for children with disabilities. She served as an officer or board member of almost every organization that advocates on behalf of people with disabilities in Charleston County. 

In 1969, she was appointed by President Nixon as South Carolina’s first member to the President’s Committee on Mental Retardation; a delegate to the White House Conference on Children and Youth the following year; and a member of the board of the National Association for Retarded Citizens. In 1973, she headed up the first National Symposium on the Mentally Retarded Citizen and the Criminal Justice System and was appointed by President Ford to his Commission on Mental Health and Mental Retardation. 

When Congress passed the Developmentally Disabled Assistance and Bill of Rights Act in 1976, the Governor chose Louise’s organization in Charleston, the Advocacy for Handicapped Citizens, to become that system in South Carolina. The Governor named Louise the executive director and broadened its scope to cover all disabilities. 

In 1982, she was appointed by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina to the “Willie M.” Review Panel, on which she served for 17 years. Most recently, Louise served for five years on the SC Commission for Mental Health, retiring in 2004. 

Over the years, Louise received many awards. In 1994 she won the Anthony Raymond Award, the SC Women of Achievement Award, a resolution for the SC Departments of Mental Health and Disabilities Commission, as well as a concurrent resolution from the SC General Assembly, and the Order of the Palmetto.

When awarding her the Order of the Palmetto, the SC legislature recognized that Louise’s “advocacy efforts personally and professionally have made it possible for many individuals with disabilities to move out of the darkened corners of institutions and into the light of their own communities.”  

Louise was described by a friend as “a person with a rare combination of political shrewdness and passion for what’s right - a combination that gets things done.”  

Beloved by her family, friends, and community, she had a great sense of humor and always lit up a room. She traveled extensively. Always the life of the party, Louise loved to dance and eat ice cream with every meal. She met her boyfriend, Nathan Heifetz, at the age of 86 on the dance floor. 

She is predeceased by her 2nd husband, Francis Stearns Dougherty, and her brother, Edward Burton Rodgers (Anne). She is survived by two brothers, Capt. James Biddle Rodgers (Sue) and John Chamberlain Rodgers (Elizabeth); her six children, Suzanne Courtney Ravenel, Arthur Ravenel, III (Heidi), Reneé Ravenel Brockinton (Harvey), Eva R. Ravenel, William Ravenel, Thomas J.J. Ravenel; three stepchildren, Reneé R. Dougherty, Park R. Dougherty (Martha), and Francie S. Dougherty; many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.  

The family would like to extend a special thank you to all her wonderful caregivers at Bishop Gadsden. 

Her funeral will be on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023 in The Chapel at Bishop Gadsden at 11:00 a.m. The family will receive friends at a reception following the service. Burial will be held in The French Huguenot Churchyard at 2:00 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Disability Rights South Carolina, 3710 Landmark Drive, Suite 208, Columbia, SC 29204 (disabilityrightssc.org). 

Arrangements by J. Henry Stuhr, Inc. Downtown Chapel. 

 

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Past Services

Funeral Service

Thursday, October 19, 2023

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Eastern time)

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Reception

Thursday, October 19, 2023

12:00 - 1:00 pm (Eastern time)

Bishop Gadsden, Blackmer Hall

Bishop Gadsden Way, Charleston, SC 29412

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Interment

Thursday, October 19, 2023

2:00 - 3:00 pm (Eastern time)

The (French) Huguenot Churchyard

141 Church St, Charleston, SC 29401

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