Despite the wealth and prestige Mrs. Sanford brought to her marriage, friends say she was not one to put on airs. Friends in South Carolina described her as a “down-to-earth” mother who insisted that her four sons set the dining room table even once they were living inside the governor’s mansion and had a staff…

Mrs. Sanford attended a private, Catholic all-girls school in Lake Forest, Ill. At Georgetown University, where she graduated magna cum laude in 1984 with a finance degree, she was viewed as whip smart and a hard worker. A fellow student recalled her entering an accounting exam she had not prepared well for. The test was not timed, though, so Mrs. Sanford arrived with a six-pack of Tab and worked for eight hours on it. As the classmate recalls it, her grade was among the highest that day.

“She is one of those people who is always the smartest person in the room,” said Marjory Wentworth, a friend who is also the poet laureate of South Carolina…

From home, Mrs. Sanford managed that first [congressional] campaign in 1994, and then his run for governor…

Friends … credit Mrs. Sanford with the ultimate juggling act: happily serving as a first lady who would choose one of her son’s class plays over a presidential dinner anytime, but who was also perfectly comfortable discussing intricacies of the state’s finances.