James F. Byrnes was born in Charleston, May 2, 1882. He left his schooling to help support his widowed mother. He served as a Court Reporter in Aiken in 1900, read law and, in 1903, was admitted to the Bar.
In 1908, Byrnes was elected as a Circuit Solicitor, and served as a United States Congressman from 1910 until 1925. In 1924, he ran unsuccessfully for the United States Senate and resumed private practice in Spartanburg. In 1930 and 1936, he was elected to the United States Senate. In 1941, he was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. He served for only 16 months at which time he was selected by President Roosevelt to be the Director of the Office of Economic Stabilization. He also served as the Director of War Mobilization under President Roosevelt and became known as “Assistant President.” On August 13, 1945, President Roosevelt recognized Byrnes’ contributions by awarding him the Distinguished Service Medal.
Byrnes continued to serve his country under President Harry Truman as Truman’s Secretary of State. A speech which he gave at Stuttgart, West Germany set post-war United States foreign policy. He served as the Governor of the State of South Carolina from 1951 through 1955.
He was a Mason and a member of the Episcopal Church. He authored “Speaking Frankly” and “All in One Lifetime”, the royalties of which created the Byrnes Foundation offering scholarships to South Carolina orphans.
A life devoted to public service was his legacy.
Located in the Legal History Room, 250.