John Jenrette

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John Jenrette
John Jenrette.png
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 6th district
In office
January 3, 1975 – December 10, 1980
Preceded byEdward Lunn Young
Succeeded byJohn Light Napier
Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives
from the Horry County district
In office
Preceded byMulti-member district
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Personal details
John Wilson Jenrette Jr.

(1936-05-19) May 19, 1936 (age 86)
Conway, South Carolina, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
(m. 1976; div. 1981)
EducationWofford College (BA)
University of South Carolina (LLB)

John Wilson Jenrette Jr. (born May 19, 1936) is an American former politician from South Carolina, best known for his involvement in the Abscam corruption scandal, and being the husband of actress and model Rita Jenrette. He was in the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat from January 1975 until December 1980. He was convicted of accepting a bribe in the FBI's Abscam operation.


Jenrette was born in Conway, South Carolina, in 1936 and grew up in Loris, South Carolina.[1] He graduated from Loris High School in 1954. He then earned a B.A. at Wofford College in 1958. After graduating from law school at the University of South Carolina, he worked as a city attorney, then a judge, as he attempted to reach higher office.

South Carolina House of Representatives[edit]

Jenrette was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1964, where he represented Myrtle Beach. He retired from the state house to run for a seat in the U.S. House in 1972.

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Jenrette defeated the seventeen-term Congressman John L. McMillan in the primary, but lost the general election to the Republican, Edward Lunn Young. Undaunted, he again ran for the seat in 1974. In part because of the extreme unpopularity of Republican Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal, Jenrette won.

Jenrette, a liberal, seemed out of place representing his rather conservative waterfront congressional district. However, he was locally well-known and the South Carolina Republican Party was not especially well-organized at the time in that part of the state. Jenrette easily defeated Young again in 1976 and was unopposed in 1978.

Jenrette is most famous for two things during his days as a Congressman. First, he allegedly[2] had sex with his then-wife, Rita Jenrette, behind a pillar on the steps of the Capitol Building during a break in a late night session of Congress. (The comedy group "Capitol Steps" take its name from this escapade.)

Second, he was charged with and convicted of accepting a $50,000 bribe in the FBI sting operation known as Abscam which was conducted in 1980. He was recorded saying he had been given a cash bribe by an associate.[3] Jenrette was sentenced to two years in prison, of which he served 13 months.[4]

His wife, Rita, separated from him in January 1981 and they divorced later the same year.

Jenrette was defeated for re-election in 1980 and resigned from Congress on December 10, just days before the end of his term. He subsequently ran a public relations firm called Lehuguenot, Ltd.,[5] in Myrtle Beach and developed property in nearby Cherry Grove.


In 1989, he was apprehended after shoplifting a necktie from a department store in Bailey's Crossroads, Virginia. Convicted of a misdemeanor, he was sentenced to serve 30 days in a local jail.[6]

In 2017, the book Capitol Steps and Missteps: The Wild, Improbable Ride of Congressman John Jenrette was published. It was written by two of Jenrette's former aides. While promoting the book, Jenrette described his years since Congress as including "marketing an experimental balloon-operated flotation device; running (and then folding) a national chain of timeshares; breeding horses in Bulgaria; and selling cigarettes in Eastern Europe immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union".[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Burbage, John M. (September 2, 2017). "Ex-congressional aides take a new look at John Jenrette". The Post and Courier. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  2. ^ Roberts, Roxanne (28 November 2011). "Rita Jenrette's new take on an old sex scandal: That night on the Capitol steps". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 5 November 2012. Retrieved 26 December 2013.
  3. ^ "EX-REP. JENRETTE GETS TWO YEARS IN ABSCAM CASE". The New York Times. UPI. December 10, 1983.
    - Judi Hasson (October 7, 1980). "Rep. John Jenrette, D-S.C., an admitted alcoholic who said..." UPI.
  4. ^ "JENRETTE FREED AS JUDGE CRITICIZES ABSCAM PROBE". The Chicago Tribune. United Press International. May 14, 1986.
  5. ^ "Lehuguenot, Ltd". Manta.
  6. ^ "Ex-Rep. Jenrette Gets 30-Day Term for Shoplifting, Says He's Broke". The Los Angeles Times. Times wire services. August 18, 1989.
  7. ^ Chloe Johnson (February 3, 2018). "Former U.S. Rep. John Jenrette discusses life after politics, new book". The Post and Courier.

External links[edit]


  • ""Destination Scandal" tour of DC". The Washington Post.
  • The Hill, May 29, 2002
  • The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC), November 17, 1999
  • The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC), July 22, 2000
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 6th congressional district

Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former US Representative Order of precedence of the United States
as Former US Representative
Succeeded byas Former US Representative