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Haley the 'Clemson girl' a rarity among governors

Nikki Haley is an oddity among S.C. governors for more than just her gender.

She's also the first Clemson graduate in the office in more than half a century.

The last was Strom Thurmond, who graduated from then-Clemson College. And while former Gov. David Beasley attended Clemson, he ultimately graduated from USC.

Being a gubernatorial standout doesn't bother Haley. The Lexington Republican has no problems letting everyone know she bleeds orange.

"I love all of our colleges here in South Carolina, but I'm a Clemson girl at heart," Haley said in an interview last week.

She's predicting a win for her Tigers in Saturday's matchup against the University of South Carolina in Columbia. "I think they win by 10," she said, adding she expects them to win the ACC championship in Charlotte, too.

But former Gov. Jim Hodges, a Columbia Democrat and USC graduate, predicts the Gamecocks will win "a close game" despite a series of injuries.

"They're playing at home," said Hodges, a USC season-ticket holder. "That's worth three or four points."

It's not that Haley, a 1994 Clemson graduate, doesn't like USC. In fact, she sometimes roots for the Gamecocks and attends home games. "If (USC) is ever playing anyone other than Clemson, it's easy to root for USC," she said.

And she's learning to navigate the difficult waters of governing a state where the USC/Clemson rivalry is serious business.

For instance, she rarely dons her Clemson lapel pin. "I have to be careful because some of my USC constituents don't like it," she said.

But her family's Clemson roots run deep. She and husband Michael met during Nikki Haley's first weekend at Clemson in 1989. The two later got engaged in the botanical garden at the school.

Now, they're raising two Clemson fans including son, Nalin, who dressed up as running back Andre Ellington this year for Halloween.

"He knows all kinds of player statistics," Haley said. "He makes Michael and I laugh."

Governors' schools

Nikki Haley (2011 to present): Undergraduate degree, Clemson University

Mark Sanford (2003 to 2011): Undergraduate degree, Furman University; master's, University of Virginia

Jim Hodges (1999 to 2003): Attended Davidson College; undergraduate and law degrees, USC

David Beasley (1995 to 1999): Attended Clemson; undergraduate and law degrees, USC

Carroll Campbell (1987 to 1995): Attended USC; undergraduate and master's degrees, American University in Washington

Dick Riley (1979 to 1987): Undergraduate degree, Furman University; law degree, USC

James Edwards (1975 to 1979): Undergraduate degree, College of Charleston; dental degree and post-doctoral work, University of Louisville, University of Pennsylvania

John West (1971 to 1975): Undergraduate degree, The Citadel

Robert McNair (1965 to 1971): Undergraduate and law degrees, USC

Donald Russell (1963 to 1965): Undergraduate degree, University of Michigan; law degree, USC

Fritz Hollings (1959 to 1963): Undergraduate degrees, The Citadel and USC

George Timmerman (1955 to 1959): Undergraduate degree, The Citadel; law degree, USC

James Byrnes (1951 to 1955): Did not attend college. Apprenticed to a lawyer and was admitted to the Bar.

Strom Thurmond (1947 to 1951): Undergraduate degree, Clemson Agricultural College (now Clemson University)