Nikki Haley, an American politician and diplomat, held the position of the 116th governor of South Carolina from 2011 to 2017 and served as the 29th United States ambassador to the United Nations from January 2017 to December 2018.
Affiliated with the Republican Party, Haley made history as the first Indian American to serve in a presidential cabinet. Currently, she is a contender in the 2024 Republican Party presidential primaries.
Before entering politics, Haley was involved in her family’s clothing business and later took on roles such as treasurer and president of the National Association of Women Business Owners. She began her political career by being elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2004, where she served for three terms.
In 2010, during her third term, she secured the position of governor, becoming South Carolina’s first female governor and the second U.S. governor of Indian descent, following Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
In January 2017, Haley resigned from the governorship to assume the role of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in Donald Trump’s administration. Confirmed by the U.S. Senate with a vote of 96–4, she completed her tenure as ambassador on December 31, 2018.
Notably, Haley declared her candidacy for the President of the United States in February 2023. As of January 23, 2024, Haley and Trump are the sole major candidates currently competing in the Republican primaries.
Nikki Haley Parents Nationality
Haley, originally named Nimarata Nikki Randhawa, was born in Bamberg County Hospital, Bamberg, South Carolina, to Sikh immigrant parents from Amritsar, Punjab, India. Her father, Ajit Singh Randhawa, worked as a professor at Punjab Agricultural University, while her mother, Raj Kaur Randhawa, earned her law degree from the University of Delhi.
In 1964, her parents relocated to Canada after Ajit received a scholarship from the University of British Columbia. Following his completion of a PhD in 1969, the family moved to South Carolina, where he became a biology professor at Voorhees College, a historically black institution in Denmark, South Carolina. Ajit retired from teaching in 1998.
Raj, with a master’s degree in education, taught for seven years in Bamberg public schools before venturing into entrepreneurship. In May 1976, she established the popular women’s clothing boutique, Exotica International, in West Columbia. Nikki Randhawa started assisting with bookkeeping at the store at the age of 12. In 1993, the family opened The Gentlemen’s Quarters, a male counterpart to Exotica, which closed in 2008 upon Raj’s retirement from merchandising.
Haley, who has two brothers and a sister, attended Orangeburg Preparatory Schools and graduated in 1989. She obtained a BS degree in accounting and finance from Clemson University in 1994. Since birth, Haley has been commonly known by her middle name, Nikki, a Punjabi term meaning “little one.”