Governor James Byrnes | History of SC Slide Collection

James Byrnes

Born in Charleston in 1879, Governor James Byrnes (1879-1972) attended local schools. Because of his father's death, Byrnes had to begin working early in life to help support his mother. He worked as a stenographer in a law office in Charleston. Eventually, Byrnes moved to Aiken, where he studied law. In 1903 he was admitted to the bar and began practicing law in Aiken. He was also the part owner and editor of the Aiken "Journal and Review" from 1905 to 1906. Byrnes served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1911 to 1925, and the U.S. Senate from 1930 to 1941. He left the Senate after having been appointed by President Roosevelt to the U.S. Supreme Court, from which he resigned in October 1942 to become Director of the U.S. Office of Economic Services. Byrnes was generally regarded by the nation as the "Assistant President" during the latter years of President Roosevelt's tenure. He accompanied Roosevelt to the Yalta Conference in 1945. President Truman appointed Byrnes U.S. Secretary of State in July 1945, and he accompanied Truman to the Potsdam Conference. He headed U.S. delegations on special missions to London and Moscow, and at the first meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. He resigned as Secretary of State in 1947. At age 71, Byrnes was elected governor. While in this post, he resisted efforts by the House Committee on Un-American Activities to have him come to Washington to give testimony regarding certain appointments made during the Truman administration. Instead, he submitted his information in writing. As governor, Byrnes sponsored sales tax programs to improve funding for schools, and was critical of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in the areas of Civil Rights and school desegregation. Byrnes died in 1972. In this photograph, taken about 1955 by Manning Harris, Byrnes shows to Floyd Spence a 200 year old sword inscribed in gold, given to him by an Arab ruler. Spence was then a newly elected member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from West Columbia, later served in the South Carolina Senate, and in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1969 until his death in August, 2001.

Courtesy of "The State" newspaper.

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