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A family's School of Law legacy spanning more than 100 years

It’s a family affair that started more than 100 years ago, when Clint Graydon graduated from the University of South Carolina law program in 1913. Now, his legacy and name carry on in his great-grandson, Clint Wallace, one of the School of Law’s newest faculty members.

Bridging the gap between the generations was Sarah McCrory, Graydon’s daughter, Wallace’s grandmother, and a 1944 alumna. In her graduating class of 10, she was one of two women. But upon reflection, she said she didn’t think being a woman in law school, even in the 1940s, was that special. Her father told her she could do anything as long as she worked for it.

“I thought I might be governor one day, or maybe even president,” said McCrory.

Her love for political science and government enticed her to attend law school, and her fondest memories during her time here included learning from some of the country’s top legal professors. Her favorite professor was a peer of her father’s and a prominent figure in the School of Law’s history—Coleman Karesh.

“I adored Coleman Karesh. And he gave me the best compliment I’ve ever received. He told me I had a mind like my father’s,” she said. “And that is a great compliment because Clint Graydon was a brilliant attorney, not just in South Carolina, but across the country.”

Shortly after graduation, she married and raised five children. She worked at her father’s law firm, assisting with probate work in Richland County. But she found a different calling after her father passed in 1962. He left behind hundreds of boxes filled with thousands of cases in their basement.

“I spent the whole of a winter in the basement, going through those boxes,” McCrory said. “There were about 10,000 law files. By the time I finished, I decided there was plenty in there for a book.”

That’s when she wrote “Clint and Raven: A Lawyer and His Lady,” a book about her parents, the brilliant defense attorney and his gracious hostess wife. Since her first book, she’s written and published 27 more.

While her career path was far from that of a traditional lawyer, she said the skills and passions she developed at South Carolina Law helped her in her new career: “I love doing the research. And I just love figuring out what was going on back then. I love history.”

Clint Wallace, for his part, said it was an easy decision to return to his roots. After attending law school and starting a career in New York, the tax law professor accepted a position at South Carolina Law in the summer of 2017 — 77 years after his grandmother began her time at the same institution.

“I knew about the history of this law school producing people who I really look up to in my family,” Wallace said, “but then walking into this new building, you can just feel the energy and that people are excited about the school, about Columbia and about the state.”

He said it’s a bar and legal community that feels close-knit and welcoming — much like a family. And as he settles in with his new extended family, he said perhaps the sweetest treat was
being able to walk around the new law school building with his 97-year-old grandmother, listening to the stories and history of her life and the man from whom he gets his name.

“This spot connects to so many events in the past, not just in my family, but in the history of this state,” he said. “And this school has been in the middle of so many of those historical legal events and now we’re physically in the middle, looking towards the legal future.”

*Sadly, Sarah McCrory died on October 24, 2017, just months after her grandson arrived on campus. We interviewed her in July for this story.