Charleston U.S. Justice Center Renamed for Pioneering Civil Rights Judge Julius Waties Waring
October 2, 2015
Charleston U.S. Justice Center Renamed for Pioneering 'Civil Rights' Judge Julius Waties Waring
Waring’s 1951 opinion was first to declare ‘separate but equal’ unconstitutional. Ceremony retires former building name of U.S. Senator Fritz Hollings, 93, who led renaming effort.
CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Today, the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) will mark the official renaming of Charleston’s U.S. courthouse annex in honor of the first federal judge to affirm the unconstitutionality of government-mandated racial segregation.
The J. Waties Waring Judicial Center -- located at 83 Meeting Street in Charleston -- will be formally dedicated during a 10 a.m. ceremony at neighboring St. Michael’s Episcopal Church. Former U.S. Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, U.S. Representative James Clyburn, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund President Sherrilyn Ifill and other officials will join U.S. District Court and GSA organizers for the event.
Graham and Clyburn introduced legislation renaming the facility at the behest of Hollings, for whom the building was previously named. Public Law 114-48 designating the J. Waties Waring Judicial Center was approved by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Obama in August 2015.
The ceremony also includes a special tribute to the 93-year-old Hollings who served six terms in the U.S. Senate and retired in 2004 as the eighth-longest-serving senator in U.S. history. While in office, Hollings supported civil rights and concentrated on the plight of the poor in South Carolina.
Richard M. Gergel, U.S. District Judge and principal ceremony organizer: “Waties Waring died, mostly forgotten by his native South Carolina. Now his extraordinary story has come to this remarkable day when Charleston, South Carolina, and America reclaim Judge J. Waties Waring as their own. For those of us who do the work of justice in this courthouse, it will be an enduring honor to work in the building now known as the ‘J. Waties Waring Judicial Center.’”
Torre Jessup, GSA Regional Administrator: “Judge Waties Waring helped lay the foundation for a more just nation. As landlord to the federal government, GSA is proud to serve as a steward of this facility that bears the name of a great American hero. We also salute Senator Hollings whose incredible act of selflessness helped make this moment possible.”
ABOUT JUDGE J. WATIES WARING
Charleston native Judge Julius Waties Waring, the son of a confederate veteran, was nominated to the federal court bench by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1942. He assumed the bulk of the South Carolina U.S. District Court’s civil rights docket and issued landmark rulings on Black teacher pay disparities, voter disenfranchisement, and school segregation cases. Waring’s 1951 Briggs v. Elliott opinion was America’s first federal judicial record to hold that government-mandated segregation violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. “Segregation,” Waring asserted, “is per se inequality.” The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Waring’s dissent and relied on his language and reasoning in casting its unanimous 1954 decision declaring the “separate but equal” doctrine unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education, which consolidated Briggs and other school segregation cases. Waring’s challenges to the racially discriminatory practices of that era came at great personal expense, as he and his family were vilified and received constant death threats. Waring retired from the bench in 1952 and moved to New York City, where he died on January 11, 1968 at age 87.
ABOUT THE J. WATIES WARING JUDICIAL CENTER
GSA constructed the four-floor, 25,000+ rentable square feet J. Waties Waring Judicial Center in 1988 as an annex building in downtown Charleston’s federal complex. It abuts the 1890s-era U.S. Post Office and Courthouse and was originally named the Hollings Judicial Center in honor of former U.S. Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings. The Judicial Center, Post Office, Courthouse and Josiah House constitute one anchor in Charleston’s renowned “Four Corners of the Law,” which is completed by Charleston City Hall, the County Courthouse, and St. Michael’s Episcopal Church.
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