CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- Despite being hundreds of miles from the political epicenter of Washington, D.C., Charleston is no stranger to the nation’s highest office.

Once referred to as the “presidential port,” the Holy City has a rich tradition of welcoming sitting and future commanders-in-chief to the city dating back to George Washington’s Southern Tour in 1791.

In more recent memory, South Carolina itself has cemented itself as a sort of stepping stone to the White House as the “First in the South” primary for both major political parties.

In recognition of President’s Day, here we’ll take a look back at some of the presidential visits to Charleston in the past two decades:

George W. Bush addresses cadets at the Citadel in December 2001

Just a few months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President Bush delivered a speech to the Citadel’s Corps of Cadets about the ensuing War on Terror. “When I committed U.S. forces to this battle, I had every confidence that they would be up to the task,” he said. “And they have proven me right.”

George W. Bush visits Charleston AFB in July 2007

In July 2007, President Bush attended a luncheon at the Charleston Air Force Base at the invitation of Sen. Lindsey Graham. In his address to a crowd of 300 airmen, sailors, marines, and coast guardsmen, President Bush spoke about the efforts and achievements of Charleston AFB in the global war on terror.

Obama speaks at the College of Charleston in January 2008

Shortly after winning the Iowa Democratic Party caucus in 2008, then Sen. Obama spoke at an event in the Cistern Yard on the College of Charleston campus. During this event, Sen. John Kerry officially endorsed Obama, propelling the future president to victory in the South Carolina primary.

Obama visits after the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting in June 2015

In the days after the massacre, President Obama traveled to Charleston to deliver a eulogy for state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of Emanuel AME. The speech shifted focus from the trauma of the event to the healing power of unity and sang ‘Amazing Grace.’ First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden also attended the funeral. 

Trump holds a rally in North Charleston in February 2016

Donald Trump made a final plea to voters on Feb. 19, 2016, at the North Charleston Convention Center ahead of the South Carolina GOP primary.

Trump visits Boeing in February 2017

Former President Donald Trump visited Boeing in North Charleston for the rollout of the first 787-10 Dreamliner in February 2017. This was his first visit to the state since winning the Republican primary in 2016.

Biden campaigns for James Smith in October 2018

In October 2018, former Vice President Joe Biden stopped in the Lowcountry to campaign for James Smith, the Democratic nominee for Governor.

Biden appears in the 10th Democratic presidential debate in February 2020

The 10th Democratic presidential debate took place at the Gaillard Center Tuesday, February 25. This was a huge push for Democratic candidates with the “First in the South” South Carolina primary that happened on February 29. The debate featured the seven of the remaining Democratic candidates: former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Former Vice President Joe Biden, and Businessman Tom Steyer.


Trump holds rally in North Charleston in February 2020

On Feb. 28, 2020 — just one day before the Democratic presidential primary — President Trump held a rally in North Charleston. Despite tickets being made available on a first-come, first-served basis many supporters began lining up for the event as early as Thursday afternoon.

President Biden vacations on Kiawah Island in August 2022

President Biden and the First Lady visited Kiawah Island in August 2022 for a family vacation. The Bidens have been known to vacation on Kiawah Island over the years. The president visited Kiawah while serving as Vice President in 2009, 2013, and in 2015. The Bidens were seen riding bikes along the beach at Kiawah Island during their vacation. First lady Jill Biden tested positive for COVID-19 on August 16 during her stay on Kiawah Island. The positive test led the family to extend their trip.