Ernest A. Finney, Jr., was born in Smithfield, Virginia during the depression, on March 23, 1931. His mother died 10 days after he was born and his father was a teacher who traveled as part of his work. When his father was working in Washington, D.C, Finney as he was called, was impressed with the well-dressed, articulate lawyers with whom his father then worked. Even as he followed his father into the teaching profession, he’d set his sights on a career in law. In 1954 Finney got his juris degree from South Carolina State University, and also married Frances Davenport and the pair moved to Sumter, S.C.
Finney earned a reputation as an outstanding defense lawyer and civil rights advocate and was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1972. He subsequently was appointed a member of the House Judiciary Committee, making him the first African-American to serve on that committee. Finney was one of the founders of the Legislative Black Caucus and was quick to say of his career and accomplishments, he didn’t do it alone.
Finney noted the good will of South Carolina and used the resources that the State of South Carolina had made available to him. It was said that he pushed Brown vs. the Board of Education as far as it could go, not just in the area of education, but rights in private and public accommodations. He was especially proud of defending the Friendship 9 and being part of the Civil Rights movement in South Carolina
Chief Justice Ernest A. Finney, Jr and his wife Frances Davenport Finney were both interviewed as part of this program.
The program includes a reading by Nikky Finney of her poem, "He Never Had It Made," which Finney wrote about her father and read on the day Finney was sworn in.
Chief Justice Finney retired from the S.C. Supreme Court in 2000 and was named interim president of S.C. State University in 2002. He died on Dec. 3, 2017.
See also S.C. Chief Justice Ernest Finney | S.C. Hall of Fame
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