Congressman Clyburn’s Statement on Passage of H.R. 2131, to Rename Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse after J. Waties Waring

Jun 15, 2015 Issues: Congressional Issues

Columbia, S.C.  – The House of Representatives today passed H.R. 2131, a bill to designate the Federal building and United States courthouse located at 83 Meeting Street in Charleston, South Carolina, as the "J. Waties Waring Judicial Center."

The following statement by South Carolina Congressman and Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn in support of the bill was entered into the record:

            Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 2131, a bill to rename the federal courthouse in Charleston, South Carolina in honor of Judge J. Waties Waring.  This bill is a tribute to two men, two outstanding South Carolinians.  The first, Judge Waring, for whom the bill will name the courthouse, was a federal judge in South Carolina during the 1940s and 50s who made landmark and courageous rulings on civil rights. 

            The second is known to many in the Congress, Senator Ernest F. “Fritz” Hollings whose name is currently on this courthouse, and who has requested it be changed as a long overdue honor to Judge Waring.

            The son of a confederate soldier, Julius Waties Waring, was born July 27, 1880 in Charleston, and graduated from the College of Charleston in 1900.  He became an attorney and after practicing in Charleston for several decades was nominated by President Franklin Roosevelt to the U.S. District Court in 1941. 

            While there was little in his background that foretold an evolution on the issue, soon after ascending to the bench, Waring would become an iconoclast and an outcast in his hometown because of his rulings on civil rights cases.  

            In the 1944 Duvall v. School Board decision, Judge Waring ordered equal pay for teachers, regardless of race.

            In 1947, in Elmore v. Rice, Judge Waring struck down South Carolina’s all-white Democratic primary.

            In 1952, in his most famous opinion, Judge Waring dissented from the ruling in Briggs v. Elliott, arguing that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional.  While a dissenting opinion at the time, on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, his opinion would form the basis of the unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down racial segregation in all public schools in America.

            For my entire tenure in Congress, these words from Judge Waring’s dissent have been on the wall of my Congressional Office: “They showed beyond a doubt that the evils of segregation and color prejudice come from early training…and that is an evil that must be eradicated.”

            Taking these stands in the 1940s and 50s was not without consequence.  His experiences gave currency to the biblical admonition that “a prophet is not without honor save in his own homeland.”  Waring was ostracized in Charleston and endured harassment and attacks on his home.  He retired from the bench in 1952, left his hometown and moved to New York. 

            He had made his mark, however, and his legacy endures.  I recall attending his graveside services in 1968, which was sparsely attended except for several of Charleston’s African American community and a few whites who stood off at a distance.

            Thankfully, history has given Judge Waring the favorable recognition denied to him during his life, and passage of his bill will rightfully add to this acclaim. 

            It is often stated that “the difference between a moment and a movement is sacrifice.”  Judge Waring’s sacrifices put him at the forefront of a movement.  His courage in standing up for what was right, 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. 

            Of course, none of this today would be possible were it not for Senator Ernest Frederick Hollings.  Fritz Hollings’ record is familiar to all of us here. 

            Throughout his career, as Governor of South Carolina when Clemson University was integrated and in the United States Senate, when Fritz saw a problem he set about to solve it.  When the plight of the poor was exposed to him in the late 1960s, he authored the book, The Case Against Hunger

            He led hunger tours to highlight the problem, and ultimately championed the successful Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children or WIC.   As Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, he helped usher in a generation of landmark social policy, providing aid of the needy and protecting our environment. 

            He was never afraid to make difficult choices, or to change positions when he thought it warranted.

            In the 1980s, Fritz helped secure funding to build the annex to the Courthouse that is the subject of this legislation, and the entire facility was subsequently named in his honor. 

            Never content to allow past injustices to go unaddressed, however, he has publicly called on Congress to replace his name on the building, with that of the highly deserving, long unheralded, J. Waties Waring.  This selfless act of statesmanship is just the most recent example of Fritz’s visionary leadership. 

            I thank my colleagues in the South Carolina delegation for their unanimous support of this bill.  I urge its passage by the House to honor this outstanding South Carolinian and great American.