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Charleston Stage's THE SEAT OF JUSTICE Opens February 17th at the Historic Dock Street Theatre
1/22/2016 11:45:25 AM


South Carolina's pivotal role in the United States Supreme Court's landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education desegregation ruling will be celebrated in a new production of Julian Wiles's acclaimed play, The Seat of Justice.  Chronicling the heroic efforts of the brave citizens of rural Clarendon County, their leader the Rev. Joseph DeLaine, and Charleston's farsighted Federal Judge Waties Waring, The Seat of Justice tells the story of the fight for justice that led from the cotton fields of Clarendon Country, South Carolina, to the Federal Courthouse in Charleston and ultimately to the United States Supreme Court.

"This is a story," says playwright and Charleston Stage Founder, Julian Wiles, "that needs to be told and retold. Too many people are unaware of South Carolina's pivotal role in these landmark cases and the story of the brave individuals who fought for freedom and justice in the 1940's and 50's, really the beginning of the modern Civil Rights Movement. These brave individuals, through the cases of Pearson v. Elliott, Briggs vs. Elliott, literally changed the world-all because a group of ordinary parents stood up and demanded a better world for their children. Their brave stand was not without retribution however-many lost their jobs, their credit, and their homes. Shots were fired into their houses, and they saw their homes and churches go up in flames."

Wiles, who grew up on a cotton farm in nearby Calhoun County a few years after the events of the play, remembers those times well, and yet, he only discovered this story as an adult. "Although my grandparents had grown up in Clarendon Country, I didn't learn of this amazing struggle until much later in my life. It was amazing to me that this struggle had taken place literally on my doorstep, and yet, I knew nothing about it. It was something my family simply did not discuss.  That discussion is long overdue and I am hopeful this new production of The Seat of Justice will help spark those conversations. I truly believe that only by confronting our past can we truly move forward, and The Seat of Justice is an effort to do just that. The history of that time, the individual struggles and even the violence are all part of this story, but at its center are the brave men and women who stood up and fought for a better tomorrow. More than anything through The Seat of Justice, I hope to honor them. For it wasn't the lawyers or judges-even the lofty nine judges of The United States Supreme Court-who truly set the wheels of justice in motion. Instead, it was a community of brave tenant farmers, housemaids, mechanics and schoolteachers-simple mothers and fathers who took their seat one by one in the seat of justice and changed the world. They are the ones who as Dr. King once said, 'bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice.'"

The Seat of Justice features a cast of 22 led by professional New York actors Marvin Bell, who will play the Rev. Joseph DeLaine, one of the ministers who led the desegregation movement in Clarendon County and Crystin Gilmore, who will play Mrs. Ruby Cornwell, the legendary Charleston Civil Rights leader who sat on the front row of the Federal Courthouse in Charleston when the case of Briggs v. Elliott came to trial in 1950. Bell and Gilmore will be joined by members of Charleston Stage's Resident Professional Acting Company, as well as, leading Charleston based performers. In addition, students from Ashley River Creative Arts, Charleston Development Academy, Charleston School of the Arts, Howe Hall Aims and Mason Prep will play the students of Clarendon County.

The production will feature a number of special performances, enrichment events and other activities to provide additional insight into this moving story. These will begin with a special performance on Wednesday, February 17, 2016, for members of the surrounding and state Bar Associations that will feature and post show discussion featuring South Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Costa M. Pleicones, United States District Judge Richard Gergel and moderated by South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman. The discussion will focus on the ethical issues, the struggle and the legal case of Briggs v. Elliott brought to the forefront. The 2pm private matinee on Saturday, February 20th, hosted by The College of Charleston's Avery Institute for Afro-American History and Culture will honor the descendants of the Briggs vs. Elliott parents who signed a desegregation petition demanding desegregation in 1948, as well as, honoring descendants of other key players in the struggle for freedom and justice. Following the 3pm matinee performance on Sunday, February 21st, a special post show panel discussion, sponsored by The International African American Museum and moderated by College of Charleston Professor of History, Bernard Powers, will provide insights into the historical context of the story. The panel will include Dr. Jon Hale from the College of Charleston, Dr. Marcus Cox from the Citadel and Reverend Joseph A. Darby. In addition to the 3 weeks of public performances, more than 5,000 area school students will also attend special school day matinee performances including performances for the present day Clarendon County students, who go to school in Summerton, where this struggle for freedom and justice began. An exhibit of Civil Rights photographs taken by Cecil Williams, a native of Orangeburg and acclaimed photographer who captured the images of many of the players portrayed in The Seat of Justice, will be on exhibit during the run of The Seat of Justice.



Receiving a special recognition award in 2004 by the Charleston branch of the NAACP, Julian Wiles's The Seat of Justice is based on original transcripts from the Briggs v. Elliott case. The Seat of Justice is told through the eyes of the late Mrs. Ruby Cornwell, a Charleston civil rights leader who, until her death at the age of 100, was at the forefront of the struggle for justice and equality in Charleston. When the Briggs v. Elliott case was heard in Charleston, Mrs. Cornwell sat on the very front row for every day of the trial. One of the judges on the panel of three, J. Waties Waring was an outspoken advocate of Civil Rights and a friend to the struggle. Over time, Mrs. Cornwell became a close friend with Mrs. Waring, the Judge's wife who too was quite progressive and an outspoken critic of the current social order. When Mrs. Waring invited Mrs. Cornwell to her home for tea in the early 1950's, it was the first time that a black person had been invited as a guest to a white home in Charleston for a social occasion. Wiles interviewed Mrs. Cornwell prior to her death in 2003 to gain her insights on the case. His research also led him to conversations with Joseph DeLaine, Jr., son of The Rev. Joseph DeLaine, as well as, conversations with Joe Elliott, grandson of Roderick Elliott, the Chairman of the Clarendon Country School District 22 Board of Trustees.


Crystin Gilmore: 

An award-winning actress based in New York and born the daughter of a preacher and an educator from the outskirts of Memphis, Tennessee, Crystin found her love for performing in the church. She received a B.F.A. in Performance from the University of Memphis. Crystin's award-winning roles include Shug in The Color Purple at Playhouse on the Square and Speakeasy Stage Company ~Ostrander, IRNE and Arts Impulse Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical, playing Dottie Moffat in Caroline, OrChange ~Ostrander for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical at Playhouse on the Square, and Pearl in Black Pearl Sings! at Circuit Playhouse ~Ostrander Award for Best Lead in a Drama. A former member of Charleston Stage's Professional Resident Acting Company, she appeared on the stage at the Dock Street Theatre playing characters such as Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray, Evilene in The Wiz, Peggy Clark in Blue and Momma Morton in Chicago, The Musical.  Recent credits include: Wanda in Beehive: The 60's Musical! at Greenbrier Valley Theatre, Sophia in The Clark Doll, A Bedtime Story at Manhattan Repertory Theatre and an Ensemble role in Summer Blue at the Theatre for a New City. Crystin currently lives in New York with her loving husband Jules.   

Marvin Bell:

Marvin Bell is making his debut appearance with Charleston Stage.  Most recently, he has appeared as Hoke in consecutive productions of Driving MIss Daisy at the Flat Rock Playhouse in Hendersonville, NC, and the Garage Theater Group in Teaneck, NJ, a role that won him a 2013 Broadway World nomination for 'Best Feature Actor in a Play' for his performance at the Playhouse on Park in West Hartford, CT. Additionally he has appeared as Doaker in August Wilson's The Piano Lesson at the Cape Fear Theater in Fayetteville, NC, and as Jim Bono in Fences at the New Harmony Theater in New Harmony, IN. 


Bell is originally from St. Louis, MO, where he appeared in several productions with The St. Louis Black Repertory Company. A veteran comedian with more than three decades of stand-up experience, Marvin treasures every opportunity to take on stage roles.


Playwright Julian Wiles is the Founder and Producing Artistic Director of Charleston Stage, Charleston, South Carolina's largest professional theatre company in residence at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. Wiles grew up on a cotton farm in Ft. Motte, South Carolina. He attended Clemson University, received a history degree from the College of Charleston in 1974 and an MFA in Dramatic Art from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1976. Wiles has written or adapted 27 original plays and musicals for the company, many of which are published and produced around the county. These include the boy who stole the stars, Nevermore! Edgar Allan Poe, the Final Mystery, The Seat of Justice, Denmark Vesey: Insurrection, Gershwin at Folly, Helium and most recently, Inga Binga. Wiles is a recipient of the 2010 Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Award, the highest honor in the arts awarded by the South Carolina Arts Commission. Wiles is also a member of the Dramatists Guild.




Wednesday, February 17, 2016 from 5pm-10pm:

Special Continuing Legal Education night for South Carolina members of the Bar featuring a panel discussion by SC Supreme Court Chief Justice Costa M. Pleicones and featuring South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman and US District Judge Richard Gergel after the performance and includes a pre-show reception.


Saturday, February 20, 2016 at 2pm:

A special private performance for the descendants of the original petitioners and key players in the Briggs v. Elliottcase followed by a reception sponsored by the College of Charleston's Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture.


Sunday, February 21, 2016:

Following the 3pm matinee performance on Sunday, February 21st, a special post show panel discussion, sponsored by The International African American Museum and moderated by College of Charleston Professor of History, Bernard Powers, will provide insights into the historical context of the story.  The panel will include Dr. Jon Hale from the College of Charleston, Dr. Marcus Cox from the Citadel and Reverend Joseph A. Darby.


February 23 and March 1, 2016 at 9:30am:

Students from Clarendon County will be attending special school day matinees of The Seat of Justice.






The Seat of Justice tells the remarkable true story of how a group of concerned parents in rural Clarendon County, South Carolina in the late 1940's and early 1950's brought a series of lawsuits asking for fair treatment in their public schools. One of these suits, Briggs v. Elliott was the first lawsuit in the country demanding desegregation of the public schools. This case would be combined with 4 other cases to become the lead case in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education lawsuit. Thurgood Marshall, lead attorney for the NAACP, came to South Carolina to represent the children and their parents in this case. The first trial was held at the Federal Courthouse in Charleston in March, 1948.


The play's narrator is the late Mrs. Ruby Cornwell, a leading civil rights advocate, who sat on the front row at this trial in Charleston. Mrs. Cornwell passed away in 2003 at the age of 100, having shared her story with journalists, historians and playwright Julian Wiles, who is the author of The Seat of Justice.


The play tells the story of the many brave people who came forward to risk their lives, their liberty and their sacred honor in the pursuit of social justice. Notable among these were Levi Pearson, who brought the first suit in 1947. For his trouble, he found it difficult afterwards to find anyone to gin his cotton. Another leader in this case, the Reverend Joseph A. De Laine, a teacher and preacher in Clarendon County and a leader in organizing the plaintiffs for the case, was subsequently fired from his teaching job plus saw his church and home burned to the ground. Later, after shots were fired into his home, he fled the state of his birth...never to return. Harry Briggs, an auto mechanic who was first to sign the parents petition and thus his name leads in the case of Briggs v. Elliott, was later fired from his job of 15 years. Through the struggles of Pearson, Briggs, De Laine and scores of others, the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case would eventually strike down the flawed concept of "separate but equal" and bring a new birth of freedom and opportunity to millions of American children.


TIMELINE: Briggs v. Elliott and the journey to Brown v. Board of Education


1942: The Rev. J. A. De Laine, a resident, active pastor and elementary school principal in Clarendon County, helped form the Clarendon County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.


June 1947: During a summer school session at Allen University in Columbia, De Laine was greatly inspired by James Hinton, Executive Director of the State Conference of the NAACP, who argued that black residents needed to go to court to get school buses for their children.


1947: Seventeen parents of the Davis Station community purchased a bus for the transportation of their children to the Scott's Branch High School in Summerton. Maintenance and operational costs were expensive and the parents could not afford the upkeep so they decided to ask the county to help with these costs. They turned to community leader, pastor and elementary school principal, the Rev. J. A. De Laine to make their case. De Laine approached Roderick Elliott, the school board chairman, who turned down their request. Nearby, the newly completed white high school in the county had a brand new fleet of buses for their students.


March 1948: Inspired by the Rev. James Hinton, now state president of the NAACP, and the Rev. De Laine, who had helped found the Clarendon County NAACP chapter, Levi Pearson a farmer from the rural Davis Station area of Clarendon County filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of his three children. He was represented by the NAACP's legal team, Harold Boulware from the state office and Thurgood Marshall from the national office. In court, Boulware and Marshall argued that Pearson's children suffered "irreparable damage" because they did not have the access to good and safe transportation enjoyed by the county's white children. The case faltered on a technicality: since Pearson's farm straddled two separate school districts, the state was able to show that Pearson paid taxes in one district but his children actually attended school in another district. The legal team had no choice but to withdraw the suit.


January 1949: De Laine and Pearson attended the NAACP state conference meeting in Charleston to bring attention to the plight of black schools in Clarendon County and to seek support for further litigation to alleviate these conditions. Harold Boulware urged them to meet again with Thurgood Marshall to discuss a new suit.


March 1949: The Rev. De Laine, the Rev. J. W. Seals and five members of the Pearson family met with Marshall in Columbia. An agreement was reached at this meeting that the NAACP would entertain the development of a new federal lawsuit to demand not only school bus funds but also the full "equalization of educational opportunity" in Clarendon schools for black children.


April 1949: Led by the Rev. De Laine and others, meetings were held at four locations around Clarendon County to explain the proposed litigation to the black community and to identify potential plaintiffs.


May 1949: Since Clarendon County had many school districts at the time, Marshall and his team suggested the case be narrowed to one district. They chose Clarendon County School District No. 22, since it had separate white and black high schools-the Scott's Branch High School for black students and Summerton High School for white students.


November 1949: A petition was circulated in the community seeking the full "equalization of educational opportunities" for all the children of Clarendon County. Ultimately, 107 signatures of parents and children filled this petition. Turned down again by the Clarendon County School Board, Marshall and his team filed a new federal lawsuit in the US District Court in Charleston. The case was assigned to Federal Judge Waties Waring, a Charleston native who had grown up with the customs and norms of segregated South Carolina society. But some years earlier, after presiding over the Isaac Woodward case in 1947, he had become a stalwart defender of equal rights. Isaac Woodward, after being honorably discharged from the United States Army in 1946 and still in his uniform, was on a bus heading to his home. When the bus stopped in Aiken, SC, Woodward had an altercation with the white bus driver when Woodward asked for time to use the restroom before the bus left. The driver waited but was livid. At the next stop in Batesburg, SC, the irate driver had Woodward dragged from the bus and arrested by the town police chief, Linwood Shull. During the night, Shull brutally beat and blinded Woodward. A national outcry followed the news of this brutal attack and when the state of South Carolina refused to act, a Federal case was brought against Chief Shull. Judge Waring, from a prominent Old Charleston family, presided. At the trial, the US Attorney presented a half-hearted case and the all-white jury quickly cleared Shull. (Blacks at the time were precluded from serving on juries). The case, however, transformed Judge Waring. He began to look at, what at the time was called "the race question," in new ways. He later wrote, "I was shocked by the hypocrisy of my submitting that disgraceful case....". Over the next few years, to the consternation of the South Carolina legal establishment, Waring became a stalwart defender of equal rights. In 1947, he ruled that the state had to pay black and white teachers equally. In 1948, when the state Democratic Party alleged it was a private club and could deny ballots to black voters, Waring ordered their primaries open to all...regardless of race.


July 1950: A new suit narrowed the case to just 20 plaintiffs-each plaintiff a parent of a child attending school in Clarendon County District 22. This second petition, with these 20 names, was prepared. When this too was turned down by the school board, yet a new case was filed in Charleston, this one dramatically taking segregation head-on. It demanded the elimination of segregated facilities in the public schools of Clarendon County. The case would be known as Briggs v. Elliot, the first desegregation case filed America. The case was named for Harry Briggs, alphabetically the first name on the new petition and for R. M. Elliott, Chairman of Clarendon County District 22 School Board. Because the case would be focusing on constitutional issues, a panel of Federal Judges was assigned with two additional judges joining Judge Waring.


1951: Realizing the inequality of the black schools in South Carolina, Governor Jimmy Burns moved to pre-empt the federal lawsuit. At his urging, the South Carolina Legislature passed a three percent sales tax (the state's first) to build and update schools. By updating facilities, the state hoped to soon be in a position to argue that schools were separate and equal for black and white students. At the same time, legislation was passed to block state aid to any public school that became integrated.


February 1951: The State of South Carolina, bringing its full legal forces to bear, entered the case on behalf of Clarendon County.


March 1951: With tensions high because of the pending lawsuit, Rev. De Laine's home in Summerton was destroyed by fire. Arson was suspected but never proved.


May 28, 1951: The three-judge panel heard the Briggs v. Elliott arguments in Charleston. In the opening statements by Robert Figg, the attorney for the state of South Carolina, he surprisingly conceded to the court that the state realized that separate school facilities in the state were not yet equal but argued the state's school sales tax and new building program would soon rectify that and make the pending case moot. The court, however, decided that the plaintiffs could still make their case and it moved forward.


June 23, 1951: At the end of the trial, though all three judges agreed the schools were not equal for black and white children in the state, Judges John J. Parker and George Bell Timmerman agreed to give the state time to rectify this condition and noted that, "it is a late day" to call segregation unconstitutional. Judge J. Waites Waring, however, firmly disagreed with his colleagues by issuing a fiery dissent concluding that "segregation per se is inequality" and is blatantly unconstitutional.


July 1951: Using Judge Waring's dissent as the basis for their argument, Marshall and his team appealed the case to the United States Supreme Court. While Waring's dissent would help move the case forward, personally Waring and his wife, Elizabeth, were totally ostracized from Charleston Society. Their strong political beliefs and their recent remarriage (they were both divorcees-a scandal in conservative Charleston) led them from Charleston to New York where they resettled. Before departing Charleston, after a long and distinguished career, Judge Waring retired from the bench.


January 28, 1952: The Supreme Court returned the Briggs case to the Federal District Court in Charleston to review a progress report filed by Clarendon County. At this hearing, Clarendon County school officials reported that they were planning to build three new schools for black students and that they had equalized teacher salaries, equipment and curricula plus buses were now being provided to black students. They argued that the county's separate facilities for black and white students would soon be equal and the case should be dismissed.


March 13, 1952: The new three-judge panel ruled in favor of the county school board. Judge Armistead M. Dobie, having replaced the retired Waring, made the ruling unanimous. But Thurgood Marshall and his legal team did not give up. Once more, they appealed this new Briggs v. Elliott ruling to the United States Supreme Court, again arguing that "separate but equal" was unconstitutional and, in and of itself, harmful to black students.


November 1952: Governor Burns took action to further the state's case. He engaged John Davis, the nation's most respected appellate attorney, to make South Carolina's case before the Supreme Court. At the next election, at the urging of Governor Byrnes, a majority of South Carolinian eligible voters (most black voters at the time were disenfranchised) approved an amendment to the state constitution ending the requirement of a public school system for the children of South Carolina. This raised the specter that if the "separate but equal" doctrine was struck down by the Supreme Court, the state might totally abandon the public schools in South Carolina.


December 9, 1952: The US Supreme Court heard South Carolina's Briggs vs. Elliott case, the nation's first desegregation case, which had now been consolidated with four other cases: Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County (filed in Virginia), Gebhart v. Belton (filed in Delaware), Bolling v. Sharpe (filed in Washington D.C.) and Brown v. Board of Education, (filed in Topeka, Kansas). On this date, oral arguments began. Though Briggs was the first case filed and alphabetically should be first (tradition being the case which the combined cases were expected to be named) the case, instead, would be known in history under the name of the Kansas Case, Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka. Some said the court made this choice so as not to focus on the South, choosing a western state instead. But the Briggs case remained the lead case and the one that Thurgood Marshall himself argued before the court.


June 8, 1953: In a somewhat unusual move, the Supreme Court asked the litigants to reargue the case the next year, this time asking the litigants to focus on the intent of Congress when passing the 14th Amendment and the state's understanding of this amendment when ratified. Much of the case hinged on the "equal protection" clause of this amendment.


May 17, 1954: The US Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of Briggs vs. Elliott and the other plaintiffs. Reading the unanimous decision from the bench, Chief Justice Earl Warren dramatically announced that the nine-member Supreme Court found that the law "separate but equal" and the segregation of public schools to be unconstitutional. In doing so, the court struck down the long held precedent of "separate but equal" set forth in the 19th century Plessy v. Ferguson ruling.


April 11, 1955: At the court's request, the plaintiffs returned to the Supreme Court once more to present arguments as to how the Brown ruling should be enforced-whether the states should desegregate immediately or use some gradual approach.


May 31, 1955: The Supreme Court ruled that states must move to desegregate their schools with all "deliberate speed."


October 1955: Retribution continued against the Briggs v. Elliott plaintiffs. Sharecroppers were forced off their land and plaintiffs lost their jobs. After two months of vandalism and harassment, the Rev. De Laine (now living in Lake City, SC) was told to leave town or suffer the consequences. Soon after, De Laine's church, St. James, was completely destroyed by arson.


Midnight, October 10, 1955: Three separate volleys of gunfire were directed into the Rev. De Laine's residence by passing automobiles. The third time the shots were fired, De Laine shot back, allegedly injuring more than one occupant in the automobiles. De Laine and his family fled in the dead of night, making their way to New York City. The State of South Carolina issued a warrant for De Laine's arrest, alleging he was at fault and charging De Laine with "assault and battery with the intent to kill." The State of New York, however, refused to extradite De Laine.


Late 1950's/Early 1960's: Legislatures in South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Virginia adopted resolutions declaring the Brown v. Board decision "null, void and no effect." Later they passed additional resolutions delaying legislation such as "Freedom of Choice" provisions that allowed black students to attend white schools only if there was "room" in the white schools.


1963: With States and school districts continuing to defy the Supreme Court's ruling, a new Federal desegregation case was filed in Charleston, nine years after the Brown case. The court ruled that Charleston schools must immediately admit 11 black students. The district then tried to use test scores to deny any further transfers.


Fall 1965: After still another federal court suit, Clarendon County schools were finally ordered to admit several black students to the all-white Summerton High School. Two years later to avoid further integration, Clarendon County's District 22 School Board voted to close all of the white schools in the district. Those schools have never reopened. White parents in Summerton formed their own white-only private academy abandoning the public schools.


1968: Judge J. Waites Waring died in New York. His body was returned to Charleston for internment. Hundreds of black citizens turned out to honor him while less than a half-dozen whites attended.


February 1970: Following more than 16 years of additional litigation, as the state of South Carolina sought to thwart school integration, the federal courts finally ruled that all South Carolina Public Schools must integrate not "with all deliberate speed" but immediately. The Greenville County school district complied with a court order and became the first district in the state to fully integrate. Other districts across the state complied as well. Soon many whites fled the public school system and segregation academies were established across the state.


August 1974: The Rev. De Laine died in Charlotte, NC, where he had lived since retiring in 1971.


October 10, 2000: The South Carolina Parole Board granted Rev. De Laine a posthumous pardon in response to those who had fired into his home and forcing him to flee the state in 1955.


April 11, 2014: Eric Holder, the first African American U.S. Attorney General and leaders of the Federal Bar unveiled a statue of Judge Waring on the grounds of the Federal Courthouse in Charleston. A movement continues to rename the courthouse in his honor.



In 1949, in a series of meetings held at Liberty Hill Church and other locations around Clarendon County, 114 parents came forward to sign a petition asking the county school board for equal educational opportunities for their children. Many would face evictions from their homes, loss of their jobs and faced other retribution for their bravery and commitment to the cause.


(Listed in the order signed)

Robert Georgia

Jervine Georgia

Carrie Georgia

Charlie Georgia

Gladys Hilton

Joseph Hilton

Gussie Hilton

Roosevelt Hilton

Henrietta Huggins

Lila May Huggins

Celestine Huggins

Juanita Huggins

Thomas Johnson

Blanch Johnson

Lillie Eva Johnson

Ruby Lee Johnson

Betty J. Johnson

Bobby M. Johnson

Preston Johnson, Jr.

Raymond Lawson

Harry Briggs Sr.

Eliza Briggs

Harry Briggs, Jr.

Thomas Lee Briggs

Reverdy Wells

Francis Lawson

Katherine Eliza Briggs

Susan Lawson

Thomas Gamble

Henry Brown

Thelma Brown

Eva Brown

Willie H. Brown

Marion Brown

Ethel Mae Brown

Howard Brown

Beatrice Brown

James Brown

Theola Brown

Thomas Brown

Euralia Brown

Joe Morris Brown

Onetha Bennett

Hilton C. Bennett

Willie Gibson

Annie Gibson

Maxine Gibson

Harold Gibson

Julia Gibson

William Gibson, Jr.

Billie S. Fleming

Mary O. Lawson

Hercules Bennett

Eddie Lee Lawson

Susan Ann Lawson

Fredick Oliver

Willie Oliver

Mary Oliver

Mose Oliver

Leroy Oliver

Mitchel Oliver

Bennie Parson, Jr.

Plummie Parson

Celestine Parson

Edward Ragin

Sarah Ragin

Shirley Ragin

Delores Ragin

Hazel Ragin

Zelia Ragin

Mable Ragin

Rebecca Ragin

Sarah Ellen Ragin

William Ragin

Glen Ragin

Lucrisher Richardson

Joseph Emmerson Wheeler

Sherlie Wheeler

Elane Richardson

Emanuel Richardson

Rebecca Richburg

E. E. Richburg

Rebecca I. Richburg

Albert Richburg

Lee Johnson

Bessie Johnson

Morgan Johnson

Samuel Gary Johnson

Lee Richardson

James Richardson

Charles Richardson

Annie L. Richardson

Dorothy Richardson

Jackson D. Richardson

Mary J. Oliver

Daisy Oliver

Louis Oliver, Jr.

Esther F. Singletary

Janie L. Fludd

Henry Scott

Irene Scott

Mary Scott

Sue Esther Hilton

Bennie Lee Lawson

Willie M. Stukes

Gardenia Stukes

Gardenia E. Stukes

Louis W. Stukes

Willie M. Stukes, Jr.

Annie Lee Tindal

Mary L. Bennett

Lillian Bennett

James Bennett

Gilbert Henry



Later, the NAACP legal team decided it would be best to have a new petition prepared that only included parents of children in schools in Clarendon County District 22. The following are parents who signed the second petition which is the one used in the Briggs v. Elliott litigation:


(Listed in the order signed)

Harry Brigg

Anne Gibson

Moses Oliver

Bennie Parson

Edward Ragin

William Ragin

Lachrisha Richardson

Lee Richardson

James H. Bennett

Mary Oliver

William M. Stukes

G.H. Henry

Robert Georgia

Rebecca Richburg

Gabriel Tyndal

Susan Lawson

Frederick Oliver

Onetha Bennett

Hazel Ragin

Henry Scott




Music used in The Seat of Justice is drawn from authentic music of the period. We know, for instance, that at the mass meetings held in Clarendon County, used to rally support for the petition effort, that the hymn "Together Let Us Sweetly Live" (Jesus, Great Shepherd of the Sheep) was sung. In the play, this hymn and all other songs are sung in the traditional manner without accompaniment.


For a remarkable glimpse into the music and life of the period, the works of Guy and Candy Carawan are highly recommended. They recorded songs and conducted interviews on Johns Island in the early 1960's, just after the period of the play. Their book Ain't You Got a Tree of Life and the Nonesuch recording "Been in the Storm So Long" chronicle this remarkable treasure of authentic African-American music. Several tunes in the play are adapted from these sources. Later, many years after the story told in The Seat of Justice, it was Guy Carawan who introduced We Shall Overcome and later Eyes on the Prize to the Civil Rights movement. Both were collected from South Carolina sources. Because they came from a later period in the Civil Rights movement, they are not included in The Seat of Justice.








The Historic Dock Street Theatre (135 Church Street)



February 17, 2016           W 5:00pm / *Event for Continuing Legal Education

February 19, 2016           Fr/Opening Night 7:30pm

February 20, 2016           Sa 2:00pm / *Private Event for Descendants of Original Petitioners

February 20, 2016           Sa 7:30pm

February 21, 2016           Su 3:00pm / *Special Post Show Panel Discussion 


February 25, 2016          Th 7:30pm

February 26, 2016           Fr 7:30pm

February 27, 2016           Sa 7:30pm

February 28, 2016           Su 3:00pm


March 3, 2015           Th 7:30pm

March 4, 2015           Fr 7:30pm

March 5, 2015           Sa 7:30pm

March 6, 2015           Su 3:00pm




Adult: $30.00 - $63.00

Seniors (60+): $28.00 - $63.00

Student: $25.00 - $63.00


Tickets Now On Sale:

Order by Phone (843) 577-7183

Order online at

Group Rates Available: Call Michelle Miller, Donor Relations Manager, at (843) 647-7363

Student Rush: College student tickets, with proof of valid ID, are $10.00 one hour before curtain (subject to availability)


By Julian Wiles 

Direction by Julian Wiles

Lead Title Sponsor: Fred E. Pittman, M.D.

Associate Sponsor: Dr. Del and Linda Schutte


Supporting Sponsor: BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina 


THE SEAT OF JUSTICE Cast (In Alphabetical Order):


Rev. J.A. De Laine  -  Marvin Bell*

Fireman  -  Dwaine Bennett

Mr. Sonny  -  Nathan Burke***

Supreme Court Clerk, Mr. Harrigan, Fire Chief  -  Pen Chance***

Judge Waties Waring  -  Victor Clark

Mrs. Viola Pearson, YWCA Guest, Cora  -  Letty Clay

Mrs. Elizabeth Waring  -  Beth Curley

Jury Foreman, R.M. Elliott  -  Chad Estel

Mrs. Ruby Cornwell  -  Crystin Gilmore**

Daisy Pearson  -  Jailyn Harris

Isaac  -  Moses lane

States Attorney Figg, Rep Garrett  -  David Loar

Levi Pearson, Dr. Kenneth Clark  -  Anthony McCutchen

Thurgood Marshall  -  Henry Clay Middleton

Robert Carter  -  Randolph Middleton

Liza, YWCA Guest, Ensemble  -  Lisa Montgomery

James Pearson, Issac Woodard  -  Malcolm Palmer****

Eloise Pearson  -  Kayla Peake

Reverend McCord  -  Kent Reynolds***

Mrs. Elizabeth, Gossip  -  Maggie Saunders***

Silas, Mr. Howard Boulware  -  John Smalls

Rosalee, Mrs. De Laine  -  Teresa Smith

Sonnyboy  -  Tawes Wenz

Harry Briggs  -  Adolphus F. Williams

Harry Briggs, Jr.  -  Gregory Williams

Levi Pearson, Jr.  -  Rormello Young

* The Actor appears through the courtesy of Actors' Equity Association,

the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

** New York Guest Actor

** A Member of Charleston Stage's Professional Resident Acting Company

**** A Member of Charleston Stage's Performance Troupe 



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