In Darkest South Carolina: FOUR YEARS BEFORE THE LANDMARK U.S. SUPREME COURT DECISION BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION, A FEDERAL JUDGE IN CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA, HATCHED HIS SECRET PLAN TO END SEGREGATION IN AMERICA.
Julius Waties Waring was perhaps the most unlikely civil rights hero in history. An eighth-generation Charlestonian, the son of a Confederate veteran and scion of a family of slave owners, Waring was appointed to the federal bench in the early days of World War II. He had coveted a judgeship his entire life, but circumstance and fate denied him until he was 61. When Waring finally donned the robe, it changed everything he’d ever known.
Faced with a growing demand for equal rights from black South Carolinians, and a determined and savvy NAACP attorney named Thurgood Marshall, Waring did what he thought was right: He followed the law, and the United States Constitution. Shaken by the bigotry and backlash that followed each of his rulings, Waring soon had a moral awakening – and decided to set the world right.
In the midst of rebelling against home and heritage, Waring crossed two lines from which there was no return: He abandoned his wife of 30 years and married an intellectual Yankee divorcee, which led to his ostracism from Charleston’s South of Broad society. Then, Waring ordered the South Carolina Democratic Party to allow African Americans to vote in its primary – and the entire state damned his soul.
The Ku Klux Klan bombarded Waring with threatening calls, letters and burning crosses. Charleston newspapers declared war. Demagogue politicians promised to run the judge from the bench – and out of South Carolina. Waring’s ruling against discrimination in voting booths even inspired Gov. Strom Thurmond’s infamous Dixiecrat presidential bid. But the judge wasn’t finished. By 1950, Waring believed he’d found a way to destroy all Jim Crow laws, so long as he could carry out his scheme before he was impeached … or killed.
This is the story of 20th century America, where Harry Truman and Strom Thurmond carried on battles begun by Teddy Roosevelt and Ben Tillman, where a Clarendon County preacher risked his life for equality, and a gentle Charleston teacher showed thousands how to claim their civil rights. This is the story of Judge J. Waties Waring, his incredible life and the country he changed. And it all began in darkest South Carolina.