Nimrata Randhawa “Nikki” Haley (born January 20, 1972) is an American Republican politician who has served as the Governor of South Carolina since 2011. Prior to her election in 2010 as the 116th governor of the state, Haley represented Lexington County in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 2005 to 2011.
Haley is the first woman to serve as Governor of South Carolina, and at the age of 43, is the youngest current governor in the United States. She is the second Indian American governor in the United States, after Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. As governor, she also serves as chair, ex-officio, of the board of trustees of the University of South Carolina during her term in office.
On November 4, 2014, Haley was re-elected to a second term as the Governor, a term that will expire on January 9, 2019.
Haley delivered the Republican response to Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address on January 12, 2016. Haley has also been touted as a potential vice-presidential nominee for the Republican ticket
Early life and education
Haley was born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa in Bamberg, South Carolina, on January 20, 1972, to an Indian Sikh family. Her parents, Ajit Singh Randhawa and Raj Kaur Randhawa, are immigrants from Amritsar District, Punjab, India, where Ajit had been a professor at Punjab Agricultural University. Haley’s parents emigrated to Canada after her father received a scholarship offer from the University of British Columbia. After earning his PhD in 1969, Ajit moved his young family to South Carolina to accept a position as a professor at Voorhees College.
Haley has two brothers, Mitti, a retired member of the United States Army Chemical Corps who served in Desert Storm, and Charan, a web designer. She also has a sister, Simran, a radio host and Fashion Institute of Technology alumna, born in Singapore.
Haley is a graduate of Orangeburg Preparatory Schools, and Clemson University with a Bachelor of Science in accounting.
Haley worked for FCR Corporation, a waste management and recycling company, before joining her mother’s business, Exotica International, an upscale clothing firm, in 1994. The family business grew to become a multimillion-dollar company.
Haley was named to the board of directors of the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce in 1998. She was named to the board of directors of the Lexington Chamber of Commerce in 2003. Haley became treasurer of the National Association of Women Business Owners in 2003 and president in 2004. She chaired the Lexington Gala to raise funds for the local hospital. She also serves on the Lexington Medical Foundation, Lexington County Sheriff’s Foundation, West Metro Republican Women, President of the South Carolina Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, Chairman for 2006 Friends of Scouting Leadership Division campaign and is a member of the Rotary Club in Lexington.
Haley was born and raised as a Sikh. On September 6, 1996, she married Michael Haley in both a Methodist church ceremony and a Sikh gurdwara. Haley identifies herself today as a Christian, but attends both Sikh and Methodist services. She sits on the board for Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church.
Haley was accused of having an extramarital affair with conservative political writer Will Folks which she has denied although Folks stands by his allegation.
Her husband is an officer in the South Carolina Army National Guard and was sent on a year-long deployment to Afghanistan in January 2013. The couple has two children, Rena and Nalin.
In May 2015, she received an honorary doctorate in public service from the University of South Carolina.