Unanimous support to rename federal courthouse for Judge J. Waties Waring

A statue of U.S. District Judge J. Waties Waring was placed outside the federal courthouse in Charleston last year honoring his landmark rulings on desegregation. South Carolina lawmakers back renaming the courthouse in his honor.

The federal courthouse in Charleston is likely to be renamed for pioneering U.S. District Judge J. Waties Waring, whose landmark rulings helped reverse segregation in the state.

All of South Carolina’s congressional delegation has signed on to support the change, which was outlined in legislation introduced this week.

The U.S. District Courthouse on Meeting Street is currently named for former Democratic U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings, who initiated the idea.

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., on Thursday filed a bill in the House as a companion piece to legislation in the Senate.

Waring’s courage “in standing up for what was right, even at the cost of social ostracism, will endure in our nation’s memory as a powerful example of statesmanship that must continually be sought regardless of the issues of the day,” Clyburn said.

Beginning in the 1940s, Waring, of Charleston, issued several landmark opinions on discrimination complaints filed in South Carolina. Some of his decisions were deemed so controversial at the time that he was shunned by his white neighbors.

In 1944 he ordered the equalization of teacher pay in South Carolina. In the 1947 Elmore v. Rice decision, he struck down South Carolina’s whites-only Democratic primary.

Perhaps his most significant opinion was the dissent in Briggs v. Elliott where he said “separate but equal” was unconstitutional. His writings became part of the foundation for the U.S. Supreme Court to adopt its Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954, striking down racial segregation in the nation’s public schools.

Clyburn acknowledged Hollings as the leading voice in advocating the change, even though it will remove his own name from the building. He called it a “selfless act of statesmanship.”

Hollings in March contacted U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham about the name shift. Graham and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, both South Carolina Republicans, filed the Senate version of the bill.

“I’m proud to be sponsoring legislation to rename the Hollings Judicial Center in honor of J. Waties Waring,” said Graham. “The request to rename the center came as a personal request from Senator Hollings, and I think it speaks volumes about his character and leadership.”

In a joint statement released by both senators, Scott agreed with Graham and said he was excited to see the entire Congressional delegation come together to honor Waring.

“Although not widely celebrated during his lifetime, Judge Waring’s contributions to the Civil Rights movement were incredibly important,” Scott said. History will not forget his efforts, and I am proud we are able to honor his memory in this way. I also want to thank Senator Hollings for his selfless request to change the name of the courthouse — he is truly a man of integrity and character.”

The site would be renamed the J. Waties Waring Judicial Center.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.