LAKE CITY, SC (WBTW) – She went from Lake City, SC, tobacco fields to Washington’s political arena, to Wall Street and then home again.
Financier and philanthropist Darla Moore makes women’s history and a difference in her hometown, state, and country.
Moore is a multi-millionaire and could live anywhere in the world. But she chooses her family’s original homesite in Lake City, South Carolina, to call home.
That choice is the foundation of her work ethic, success, and giving spirit. “The roots are very powerful and have been extremely influential in my life,” Moore says. “Where I come from, I would say, is why I was able to achieve as much as I have.”
Moore describes herself as a lifelong learner. “The foundation of anyone’s success is their education,” she says.
Moore graduated from Lake City High, the University of South Carolina, and then George Washington University. “I was 22 years old, I think, when I drove my little car up to Washington and settled into DC for about five or six years and worked at the Republican National Committee. And this would’ve been during Reagan’s first election.”
“And then I realized pretty quickly after about two campaign cycles that I would starve to death if I didn’t get a real job outside of politics, so I went back to business school. Coming from a small, southern town I had fantasies and dreams as a young girl that I was going to seek my fame and fortune somewhere else.”
And she did in New York City in banking, specializing in restructuring and bankruptcy takeovers. But it wasn’t her first choice. She wanted to be a part of the leverage buyout business dominated by men.
“I was female. I was Southern. I didn’t have the pedigree and there was not a chance. And there were no women deals. Women were not in that business. There just weren’t any. So, I was not allowed to play in that arena. And then by default, I fell into an area which was at the time very much considered the backwater of finance, because you didn’t talk about companies that were in trouble.”
She saved countless troubled companies, such as Macy’s, making her one of the most successful women in the banking industry and the highest-paid woman in banking.
Among the numerous awards and recognitions, she became the first women featured on the cover of Fortune Magazine, the first woman to become a member of Augusta National, and the first in the U.S. to have a business school named after a woman.
“Having been in finance and banking, done the things I’ve done business-wise, has been a marvelous foundation for me to hopefully be better and more thoughtful about the way I do engage in philanthropy now, ” said Moore.
Philanthropy is now her focus. She contributes millions to South Carolina colleges and other education programs creating opportunities for thousands of students through the Darla Moore School of Business and the Darla Moore Foundation.
And in her hometown of Lake City, she orchestrated the reinvention of this once vibrant farm community with the art competition, Artfields. “We said we would invite artists from the 12 southeastern states to come to this little town and compete, and we put up a good bit of money. And that’s how Artfields started. And we had no idea whether anybody would show up or not, but they did. And it has become a signature of not only our town but of SC.”
She describes the 10-day event as an economic engine that grows annually, making ArtFields just one of countless ways she pays it forward. “So many people helped me. I see it as my job and role to help those coming up behind me.”
Even on Moore’s family property, she considers others. She created the Moore Farms Botanical Garden, a 65-acre garden for people to tour along with educational and social events.
Moore told me she finds joy in helping young people succeed. She shares this advice on how to achieve success: “Be open. Be willing to work. Be resilient. Be resilient. You got to be able to get up when you’ve been knocked down.”
Below you will find more of my interview with Moore. It includes her thoughts on the #metoo movement, what inspires her, her biggest influencers, South Carolina’s future and what she says are the state’s biggest assets, the one outdoor chore that she finds most fulfilling, and the one thing that brings her a lot of joy that you may not know about.
As for Artfields, it runs April 26 through May 4.
Moore Farms Botanical Garden http://moorefarmsbg.org/
Darla Moore School of Business https://sc.edu/study/colleges_schools/moore/index.php
The Darla Moore Foundation (843) 374-4478