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Statue Of Civil Rights Jurist J. Waties Waring To Be Unveiled April 11
Published:
4/2/2014 3:19:19 PM


Judge J. Waties Waring statue
 
By Barney Blakeney


Judge J. Waites Waring, the son of a Confederate veteran, was born into the southern aristocracy in Charleston 15 years after the Civil War. He grew up privileged and was used to being tended by servants and butlers. But as a man he would be ostracized and eventually exiled for his legal renderings. April 11, some 62 years after he left Charleston in social disgrace, the legal community will honor him with a statue at the federal courthouse in downtown Charleston.

Although he grew up among Charleston’s socially elite white aristocracy, Waring was an advocate for civil rights early in his career. He’d received a private school education and in 1900 graduated second in his class from the College of Charleston with an A.B. Degree. He began practice in Charleston in 1913.

Waring’s involvement in the Democratic politics of the day led to his appointment as Assistant U.S. Attorney for South Carolina in 1914. Waring’s social and political ties continued to work to his advantage. In 1931 he was appointed Charleston’s city attorney. Those ties ultimately won him appointment as U.S, District Court Judge in Charleston in 1942.

Waring was considered a moderate civil rights advocate, but in 1944 he started handing down more socially radical decisions. He ordered the equalization of pay for Black and white teachers. Black teachers had been paid one-third less than white teachers. Waring also ordered the desegregation of the state’s law school or the creation of an equal one for Blacks which resulted in the development of the law school at South Carolina State College.

Waring also challenged social mores. In 1945 he divorced his his wife of more than 30 years and married a northern woman whom he said fueled his growing passion for justice. It was that passion which led to his dissent in the decision rejecting a 1951 challenge to South Carolina’s segregated public schools.

Although the two other judges’ decisions prevailed, Waring admonished attorney Thurgood Marshal to continue the challenge. Eventually Marshal’s challenge led to the Supreme Court decision in Brown v Board of Education, Topeka Kansas which struck down segregated public schools in the U.S.

Waring’s decisions so outraged whites he became the target of constant threats and cross burnings in the yard of his Meeting Street home. A social outcast, he moved to New York, N.Y. after retiring in 1952.

In 2011, the 60th anniversary of Waring’s 1951 Briggs v. Elliott dissent, he was honored posthumously. A group of attorneys then committed to erecting a statue at Charleston’s federal court house. The unveiling of that statue will be 2 p.m. April 11 on the grounds of the Hollings Judicial Center located at 83 Meeting St.

Federal Judge Richard M. Gergel, describing Waring as an incredible visionary whose reasoning and decisions led to profound changes in American society, said the statue in part will serve to reclaim legacy and to play a role in civic education.

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