SC judge who wrote separate not equal honored - WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather

SC judge who wrote separate not equal honored

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Portrait of Judge Waring that hangs in the federal courthouse in Charleston. ( Portrait of Judge Waring that hangs in the federal courthouse in Charleston. (
(Stacy Jacobson/WCIV) (Stacy Jacobson/WCIV)
US Attorney Gen. Eric Holder speaking about Judge Waring (Stacy Jacobson/WCIV) US Attorney Gen. Eric Holder speaking about Judge Waring (Stacy Jacobson/WCIV)

By Stacy Jacobson

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV/AP) – U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder visited Charleston to help dedicate a statue of the first federal judge to write an opinion challenging separate but equal decades after the policy was declared the law by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ceremony was held Friday outside the courthouse where native Charlestonian Judge Waties Waring heard cases.

Applause and a statue now memorialize a man, once denigrated in his own city.

"Judge Waring became a pariah in his native city and state. A cross was burned in his yard, rocks were thrown though his windows," U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said.

U.S. District Judge Waties Waring served during a time when separate but equal was the law of the land.

In 1947, Waring made the decision for Elmore v. Rice, requiring the Democratic Party to allow black voter participation. Waring wrote that it was "time for South Carolina to rejoin the Union" and "to adopt the American way of conducting elections."

Waring's opinions in civil rights cases involving equal pay for black teachers, allowing blacks to vote in the state Democratic primary and school desegregation made him an outcast in his native Charleston during the days of segregation.

According to a release from event organizers, a cross was burned in Waring's yard, rocks were thrown through his windows, and he received constant threats.

But in 1951, he wrote a dissenting opinion that would make history. He was the first judge to say "separate but equal" was inherently unequal.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he even talked with President Obama about Friday's dedication.

"We were both talking about how difficult did that have to be. Then to hear what happened to the judge. To get run out of town for doing something that was morally right," Holder said.

Holder and an array of other leaders spoke at Friday's dedication. They talked about the man who preceded the Supreme Court with a landmark decision.

But national recognition did not make him a local hero. Experts said he went in to exile. Local civic leaders raised money to give Waring the respect they thought he deserved.

"Today we bring Judge Waties Waring from the dim and dusty archives of history and place him in the pantheon of heroes here in this beautiful public space in the city of his birth and service," Mayor Joe Riley said.

"Those 10 years were the most historical 10 years in the history of this country," Rep. James Clyburn said.

Once threatened for speaking out, but lauded today for making history. 

After retirement Waring moved away from South Carolina to finish his life in New York City.

Also attending the ceremony were William Traxler, the chief judge of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal and former governor and U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings.

The statue is paid for by contributions from legal and civic organizations across the state. It will stand in the Charleston Federal Courthouse Garden at the intersection of Meeting and Broad streets.

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