Don Fowler, Democratic Co-Chairman Under Clinton, Dies at 85

Mr. Fowler also found himself defending a plan to entice potential donors with a variety of perks in exchange for their dollars, including dinners with the Clintons, private meetings with administration officials, participation in “issue retreats” and “honored guest status” at the party’s 1996 convention in Chicago. In an editorial, The New York Times called the plan “seedy.”

In 1996, Mr. Fowler successfully fought off a lawsuit by the fringe candidate Lyndon LaRouche, who was seeking the Democratic nomination for the fifth time. He filed the suit after Mr. Fowler had instructed state parties to disregard votes for him. Mr. Fowler had described Mr. LaRouche’s views as “explicitly racist and anti-Semitic” and had accused him of defrauding donors and voters. Mr. LaRouche was not, he said, “a bona fide Democrat.”

Donald Lionel Fowler was born on Sept. 12, 1935, in Spartanburg, S.C. He earned a degree in psychology from Wofford College in Spartanburg, where he was a star basketball player; he was later inducted into its Hall of Fame. He received a master’s degree and a doctorate in political science from the University of Kentucky.

While holding his political posts and running an advertising and public relations business in Columbia, he taught political science for five decades at the University of South Carolina and also at the Citadel, South Carolina’s military college.

His first wife, Septima (Briggs) Fowler, with whom he had two children, died in 1997. In 2005, Mr. Fowler married Carol Khare. They had worked together at the Democratic National Committee and at his communications firm. Carol Fowler became chair of the state party in 2007.

Complete information on survivors was not immediately available.

This year, the Fowlers’ home in the Five Points area of Columbia, the state capital, became a regular stop for many Democrats seeking their party’s presidential nomination in the run-up to the South Carolina primary in February. Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Bill de Blasio were among those who showed up as dozens of people crowded into the Fowlers’ living room.

Representative Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the House majority whip and a frequent guest lecturer in Mr. Fowler’s classes, told the South Carolina newspaper The State, “Don was always the connector, the one bringing political friends and, sometimes, enemies together.”

The New York Times contributed reporting.