Indian-American Nikki Haley set to become South Carolina governor

By Arun Kumar, IANS
Wednesday, January 12, 2011

WASHINGTON - Nikki Haley, the daughter of Sikh immigrant parents from Amritsar, is set to become the first woman governor of South Carolina and the first Indian American woman to take the top state office.

Republican Haley, born Nimrata (Nikki) Randhawa, will be sworn in as the first non-white governor of the State in an inaugural ceremony on the steps of Statehouse in Columbia at noon (10:30 p.m. IST) Wednesday.

The 38-year-old mother of two would be America’s second Indian-American governor after Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, also a Republican, who became the first with his election three years ago.

Inaugural activities for Haley began with a prayer service Wednesday morning. A bagpipe procession opened the ceremony at Trinity Cathedral, across the street from the Statehouse.

First gentleman Michael Haley, who is a member of the South Carolina National Guard, was in his army dress uniform.

An open house at the governor’s mansion and a gala Wednesday evening round out the activities.

Haley, who defeated Democrat Vincent Sheheen with a surprisingly close 51 percent-47 percent vote in the most expensive election in state history in November, has already like Jindal been mentioned as a “long shot” presidential candidate for 2012.

From a racial slur from a fellow lawmaker to unproven accusations of an affair by a political blogger, Haley saw quite a bit of controversy surround her campaign before the Republican primary earlier this year. But she still snagged the party nomination in a run-off in June with 65 percent votes.

Born in Bamberg, South Carolina, Nikki’s first job was keeping the books for her family’s clothing store - at the age of 13.

She went on to graduate from Clemson University with a BS degree in accounting and following her graduation worked as accounting supervisor for the Charlotte, North Carolina based corporation FCR, Inc. and five of its subsidiaries.

Nikki then went back to the family business where she helped oversee its growth into a multimillion dollar operation.

Nikki and her husband Michael, a full-time federal technician with the South Carolina National Guard and an officer in the Army National Guard, live in Lexington with their two children, Rena, 12, and Nalin, 8.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at

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