South Carolina Senator Fritz Hollings (D-SC) made a remarkable request when he asked that the federal courthouse named for him be changed to that of Judge J. Waites Waring. Judge Waring is remembered for his important civil rights rulings. On Friday October 2nd, former South Carolina Senator Fritz Hollings participated in a ceremony changing the name of the federal courthouse in Charleston, South Carolina from the Fritz Hollings Judicial Center to the Judge J. Waites Waring Judicial Center.
Speakers at the renaming ceremony included South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn (D-SC-6), Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, Chief Justice Jean Hoefer Toal of the South Carolina Supreme Court, and Chief Judge William Traxler of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and Chief Judge Terry Wooten of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina (the court on which Judge Waring served). Senator Hollings, now age 93, also spoke.
LDF’s President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill was invited to speak about the relationship between Judge Waring and LDF founder and later Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. In her remarks, Ifill noted that Thurgood Marshall first met Judge Waring in 1943 when the LDF challenged the unequal pay afforded to Black teachers in South Carolina. According to Ifill, Marshall was so astonished by the fairness of Judge Waring during the trial that he described the experience as “the only case I ever tried with my mouth hanging open half the time.”
Appointed by President Franklin Roosevelt, Judge Waring served as a federal district court judge in Charleston during the 1940s and early 1950s. His rulings striking down segregation in a series of cases litigated by LDF during this period culminated in his searing dissent from the decision by a three-judge court in Briggs v. Elliott which would have upheld LDF’s challenge to school segregation. His dissent was prescient and ultimately became the template for the Supreme Court’s decision unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education.
But largely because of his bold stance against discrimination in his decisions, Judge Waring was ostracized by the white community in Charleston. He was subjected to physical threats and crosses were burned in the front of his home in downtown Charleston. After only ten years on the bench, he retired and moved to New York with his wife, never to return to South Carolina. Waring became a hero to civil rights lawyers and activists because of his courageous stance in the civil rights cases.
Read more here in the Post and Courier.