By the Honorable Richard Gergel
Delivered January 18, 2020
: The following is a speech transcript by Judge Richard Gergel, United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina and author of the book, “Unexampled Courage: The Blinding of Sgt. Isaac Woodard and the Awakening of President Harry S. Truman and Judge J. Waties Waring.” His presentation was made to the National Board of the American Board of Trial Advocates at The Hotel Bennett, Charleston, South Carolina, on Saturday, January 18, 2020. Luther J. Battiste, III, 2020 National President, presided over the meeting. Chief Justice Donald W. Beatty, Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court, introduced Judge Gergel.
When I assumed the bench in August 2010 and arrived in the Charleston federal courthouse, I wanted to learn more about a predecessor, United States District Judge J. Waties Waring, who had served in Charleston on the federal bench from 1942 to 1952 and was the first of the courageous Southern judges who upheld the rights of all citizens during the emergence of the early civil rights movement after World War II.
Some people think the civil rights movement began with Brown v. Board of Education. There was a whole universe before then, and some of the foundations of Brown occurred during this critical period between the end of World War II and 1954.
As I was awaiting confirmation, I decided to learn all I could about Judge Waring. And I this is the question I had: How did this Charleston blue blood become this civil rights visionary? While there were several parts of books and one biography written on him, no one really addressed that question. Judge Waring remained an enigma. What had caused this man to change? As I began searching for that answer, my book, Unexampled Courage, almost naturally emerged. Let me share with you the story.
As the clock struck 7:00 PM on August 14, 1945, President Harry S. Truman assembled the White House press corps in the oval office. The ebullient president, standing behind his desk, informed the reporters that earlier that afternoon, the Japanese government had unconditionally surrendered, bringing an end at last to World War II. The reporters spontaneously burst into applause and then raced for the door to share this historic announcement with the rest of the nation.
Thousands gathered in Lafayette Square across from the White House to celebrate, and soon there were calls. "We want Truman, we want Truman." The president went on to the north portico of the White House to make a few remarks. "This is a great day for free government of the world," Truman announced. "This is the day that fascism and police government ceases in the world. The great task ahead is to restore peace and bring free government to the world."
But beneath the veneer of America's grand self-image as the bastion of freedom and liberty was a stark reality. African-Americans residing in the old Confederacy lived on a twilight world between slavery and freedom. They no longer had masters, but they did not enjoy the rights of a free people. Black southerners were routinely denied the right to vote, segregated physically from the dominant white society as a matter of law, and relegated to the margins of American prosperity. Racial violence and lynchings festered just beneath the surface, ready to explode at any moment.
Lynchings were tragically common in the first half of the 20th Century, far more than 1,000, mostly in the South but also across the country. The NAACP flew a flag, known as the “lynching flag,” out of the window of its national office in New York each morning after a lynching in America. This was a common sight in New York during this era. As the nearly 900,000 African-American veterans returned home at the end of World War II, they quickly realized that little had changed and they began demanding their rightful place in America's free government.
Seen from today's perspective, the American triumph over Jim Crow, segregation, and disenfranchisement might seem to have been inevitable, the collapse of morally indivisible practices wholly inconsistent with the United States Constitution. But in 1945 with black Southerners almost entirely disenfranchised, white-dominated Southern state governments resolutely committed to the racial status quo, and the federal government largely a passive bystander, there was no obvious path to resolving this great American dilemma. Something had to be done, but what and by whom?
My book Unexampled Courage details the long-overlooked story of the beating and blinding of Sergeant Isaac Woodard, a battlefield-decorated African-American soldier, by the police chief of Batesburg, South Carolina on the day of his discharge from the military and while still in his dress uniform, and the transformative impact of this incident on President Harry Truman and United States District Judge J. Waties Waring of Charleston. Horrified and inspired by the injustice of this brutal event, President Truman would launch a civil rights program culminating in the ending of segregation in the Armed Forces of the United States, and Judge Waring would issue landmark civil rights decisions, including his great 1951 dissent in Briggs v. Elliott that would become the model for Brown v. Board of Education just three years later.
Late in the afternoon of February 12, 1946, Isaac Woodard boarded a Greyhound bus in Augusta, Georgia, after discharge hours earlier from nearby Camp Gordon. He was traveling to Columbia, South Carolina, and then to his hometown of Winnsboro where he was to rendezvous with his wife after several years of separation as a result of his military service. During one of the frequent stops along the way, Woodard approached the white bus driver and asked if he could step off the bus to relieve himself. At that time, interstate buses did not have restrooms and Greyhound drivers were instructed to accommodate such requests. Instead, the bus driver cursed Woodard, telling him, "I ain't got time to wait," and ordered him to return to his seat at the back of the bus. To the apparent astonishment of the bus driver, Sergeant Woodard cursed him back and told him, "Talk to me like I'm talking to you. I am a man just like you."
The stunned bus driver told Woodard to go ahead, but at the next stop in Batesburg, South Carolina, the bus driver, now no longer concerned with staying on schedule, departed his bus in search of a police officer to have Woodard removed from the bus and arrested. Woodard soon found himself confronted by the police chief of Batesburg, Lynwood Shull, who responded to Woodard's effort to explain himself by striking him over the head with his blackjack and escorting Woodard off to the town jail. On the way Woodard was repeatedly beaten with Shull's blackjack, ultimately driving the end of the baton into both of the sergeant's eyes. Woodard was then thrown in a semiconscious state in a jail cell for the night. When he awoke the next morning, he realized he could not see. Later that morning, Woodard was taken to the town court, and he was convicted of drunk and disorderly conduct.
Accounts of the Woodard beating and blinding were reported in the black press and received nationwide attention when Orson Welles focused on the incident in his weekly radio program on ABC Radio. Mass meetings were organized in black communities across the nation to protest Woodard's treatment, and a benefit concert in New York City headed by Joe Lewis and featuring such luminaries as Count Basie, Cab Calloway, and Nat King Cole played to a sold-out audience of 23,000.
Meanwhile, other black veterans returning to their homes in the rural South confronted other incidents of racial violence, including several racially-inspired murders. No state in the South prosecuted anyone in any of these incidents. On September 19, 1946, a delegation of civil rights leaders met with President Truman in the White House, deeply distressed about this wave of violence against African-American veterans. Prior to the meeting, Truman's staff advised him that despite the President's desire to respond to the concerns of the civil rights leaders, there was little he could do as a practical matter to address these incidents. Criminal prosecutions by the federal government for civil rights violations in the South were fraught with problems, most notably, all white juries deeply unsympathetic to the civil rights cases. And of course, why were the juries all white? Because the voter lists were the pools from which jurors were selected, and with disenfranchisement, virtually no African Americans served on juries. Further, Congress was under the control of powerful Southern committee chairs who were determined to block even the most modest civil rights legislation, even making lynching a federal crime.
As the meeting opened, civil rights leaders urged Truman to call Congress back into session to address the spreading violence against black veterans. The President expressed sympathy but lamented there was little he could do because there was not public support for new civil rights legislation. Leading the group was Walter White. Walter White is a largely forgotten figure, but in the '30s and '40s and until his death in the mid-'50s, he was the most important civil rights leader in America. He was the executive secretary of the NAACP, and important for this story, he was Truman's biggest supporter, political supporter in the civil rights community.
It was apparent to Mr. White that the President did not appreciate the gravity of the situation. White changed the discussion by sharing with Truman in detail the blinding of Isaac Woodard. As the tragic story unfolded, Truman sat, riveted, and became visibly agitated with the idea that a uniformed and decorated American soldier had been so cruelly treated. Abandoning the advice of his staff, Truman declared, "My God. I had no idea it was as terrible as that. We have got to do something." The following day Truman wrote a letter to his attorney general, Tom Clark, and shared with him the story of the blinding of Isaac Woodard, noting that the police officer had deliberately put out Woodard's eyes. Truman made it clear that the time for federal action had now arrived. He further indicated that he intended to appoint the first presidential committee on civil rights to propose a new agenda to address what was obviously America's serious racial problems.
Three business days after Truman's letter was delivered to the attorney general, the United States Department of Justice announced the prosecution of Batesburg Police Chief Lynwood Shull in the federal district court in South Carolina for the deprivation of the civil rights of Isaac Woodard. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice prepared the necessary documents to organize the first presidential committee on civil rights. Truman charged his committee in his first meeting on January 15, 1947, to be bold and to attack the root causes of America's deep-seated racial problems. He held the civil rights committee's first meeting in the Cabinet Room to emphasize the importance of its work.
In less than a year, the Truman Civil Rights Committee issued a landmark report to secure these rights, which graphically detailed America's profound racial challenges and proposed groundbreaking policies and legislation, including the ending of segregation in the Armed Forces of the United States. Truman publicly embraced the proposals of his civil rights committee, and on July 26, 1948, he issued Executive Order 9981 mandating the immediate integration of America's armed forces and its federal service.
What is remarkable is that Truman issued his executive order in the midst of his 1948 election campaign with the full knowledge that there would likely be significant political repercussions, and indeed there were. Southern segregationists created a third party, the Dixiecrats, and nominated South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond as president with the avowed purpose to punish Truman for his civil rights positions. An old friend of Truman's from Missouri, Ernest Roberts, wrote the president in July 1948 and urged him to back off his civil rights program or face the loss of the South, and thus the election. Truman responded in a private note to his friend, telling him that he needed to know what the facts are. He then shared with him the story of the blinding of Isaac Woodard and stated it was radically wrong for South Carolina officials not to prosecute the police officer involved. He concluded his letter by saying, "I can't approve of such going ons, and I shall never approve it. I am going to try to remedy it, and if that ends up in my failure to be reelected, that failure will have been in a good cause." Can you imagine anyone today making such a principled statement?
Truman refused to back down on civil rights, and many of those who disagreed with him admired his steadfastness and commitment to principle. Truman swept a victory and a stunning landslide, which including winning eight of the 12 Southern States, including winning every county in Texas. Truman's successful desegregation of the military marked the beginning of the end of Jim Crow in America.
The Justice Department's efforts to prosecute Lynwood Shull in the federal district court in Columbia, South Carolina, produced in the short term a predictable result. An all-white jury sitting in Columbia, South Carolina acquitted the police chief after only 28 minutes of deliberations. The case was tried before United States District Judge J. Waties Waring, a Charleston patrician whose father was a Confederate veteran, his uncle died in battle in the Civil War, and multiple generations of Warings and Watieses were slaveholders. Prior to the trial, Judge Waring was skeptical about the federal government's prosecution of a police officer, but his views changed when he heard the highly credible testimony of the blinded sergeant who described his arrest and vicious beating at the hands of Chief Shull. As Shull supporters cheered his acquittal, few noticed that Judge Waring's wife, Elizabeth, who had attended the trial, left the back of the courtroom in tears. Judge Waring joined his wife later that evening, and both were traumatized by the trial over which he had just presided. The Shull trial forced the judge and his wife to just stare directly into the southern racial abyss, a view that would forever transform both of them. Waring later described the Shull trial as his personal “baptism of fire” and his Michigan-born wife's “baptism in racial prejudice.”
The Warings returned home to Charleston after the Shull trial resolved to learn more about the issues of race and justice, which the Warings had previously thought little about. These were not subjects that could be openly discussed among white Charlestonians of the era. The Warings decided to undertake their own private, self-directed study. Each evening after dinner, Elizabeth would read a portion of a selected work to allow the judge to rest his eyes after a day of handling his judicial duties. The couple would then discuss what they had read, often while driving around Charleston, a favorite pastime. They did this day after day, week after week, month after month.
People ask me, "Well, what did they read?" Well, they began with Mind of the South by W.J. Cash. Cash was a southerner born in South Carolina. He was a reporter from one of the Charlotte newspapers. He was harshly critical of southern race relations, and he viewed slavery as a violent institution. That certainly wasn't the popular view, that slavery had somehow been a civilizing influence on enslaved persons. Cash said it was a violent, brutal institution and that lynching was a natural extension of slavery.
Waring and his wife then read Gunnar Myrdal's The American Dilemma. Right after the war, the Carnegie Foundation undertook a comprehensive study of race in America. Forty researchers were engaged to contribute to the study, which was headed by Gunnar Myrdal, a Swedish economist and social scientist. It was thought that Myrdal, not being American ,might see the American racial scene in a more honest and forthright way. The book, American Dilemma, is 1,400 pages long. I've read every page of it just like the Warings did. I didn't understand the Warings until I had read that book because once they finished 1,400 pages of an honest discussion about race in America, there was no turning back.
As Judge Waring's new views on race and justice emerged, George Elmore, an African-American businessman, filed suit in the federal district court in Columbia in 1947, challenging the South Carolina Democratic Party's all-white primary. Elmore was represented by Thurgood Marshall, the 39-year-old chief counsel of the NAACP, who was already developing a reputation of almost legendary proportions as a skilled litigator and legal strategist. South Carolina's political leaders were united in their determination to preserve the white primary, notwithstanding clear United States Supreme Court precedent holding white primaries unconstitutional.
If you remember from your constitutional history, Smith v. Allwright declared the Texas white primary unconstitutional. All the other southern states, at least on paper, agreed to allow African-Americans to vote in the Democratic primary, which was the only election that mattered in the South at the time. But South Carolina's political leaders called a special session, repealed every law relating to the primary, claimed there was no state action, and continued to disallow African-American participation in the primary. When Judge Waring got the case, he appreciated that if he ruled for the plaintiffs and recognized the right of minority citizens to vote, that this would produce intense hostility and possibly violent public reaction. He went home to Elizabeth and said, "If we do this, if I do this, our lives will never be the same." But Elizabeth was now a convert to the cause, and she said, "I'm with you from start to finish." Judge Waring would later say that his choice was “either to be entirely governed by the doctrine of white supremacy” or “to be a federal judge and decide the law.”
On July 12, 1947, Judge Waring issued his decision in Elmore v. Rice, declaring the South Carolina Democratic Party’s white primary unconstitutional. Waring ended his order by stating, "It is time for South Carolina to rejoin the Union and to adopt the American way of conducting elections." Let me just say, in some quarters, that was not well-received. The groundbreaking nature of the Elmore decision was immediately appreciated by the leadership of the NAACP. In a private note to Thurgood Marshall, William Hastie, who would later be appointed the first black federal judge in American history, stated, "Thurgood, I have read the South Carolina opinion three times, and I still don't believe it. In many respects, I think this is your greatest legal achievement." But the segregationists would not give up.
Soon, a new party rule was adopted allowing blacks to vote in the party primary so long as they pledged their support to racial segregation. Surprise, there was another lawsuit brought by Thurgood Marshall before Judge Waring. Judge Waring, upon receiving the suit, scheduled an emergency hearing in his courtroom and summoned all 93 members of the South Carolina Democratic Party's executive committee, the political leadership of the state, to his courtroom for a temporary injunction hearing.
At the hearing in which every seat was taken in the historic courtroom of the Charleston courthouse – the jury box, all the seats, they had the people standing-room only – Judge Waring denounced the defendants for defying his order and explained that a federal judge faced with contempt could impose a fine or a jail sentence. He wanted those present to know that if there were future violations of his orders, there would be no fines. Think about that one for a second. He was threatening to incarcerate the most powerful white men in South Carolina to protect the voting rights of African Americans. Thereafter, the dam broke and thousands of African Americans registered to vote in South Carolina. To give you an example, in Mississippi, in the 1948 Democratic Primary, 3,500 African Americans voted. In South Carolina, 35,000. And interestingly enough, two years later, Strom Thurman was running for the United States Senate. He lost by 5,000 votes. Guess what made the difference? It was the only race he ever lost.
The response of South Carolina's white supremacists was thunderous. The Warings received death threats, written and oral, almost daily. A cross was burned at their residence and bricks were thrown through their living room window. On the order of the United States attorney general, U.S. Marshals guarded Waring 24 hours a day because there were well-founded reports that there would be assassination attempts. Time magazine described Waring as the man they loved to hate, but also noted he was proving to be a person of cool courage.
If the purpose of the unprecedented vilification of Waring was intended to cower him, it did not work. Instead, he continued his study and reflection on race and justice in America and became convinced that the foundation of Jim Crow segregation, the Supreme Court's 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, was legally, historically, and morally wrong. Waring, then approaching 70 years of age and likely retirement, resolved to play a role in overturning the "separate but equal" doctrine. Waring developed a plan to place a school desegregation case onto the docket of the United States Supreme Court, firmly convinced that a majority of justices would overturn Plessy if they were required to directly confront the issue. That's exactly what he intended to do. He noted on his docket a case from Clarendon County, South Carolina, Briggs v. Elliott, which sought to equalize the facilities of the district's black and white schools, a classic Plessy claim.
Litigating civil rights cases in the '30s and '40s was a very tough slog. Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall, the leaders of the NAACP's legal defense operations, came up with a very smart strategy. They said, "Okay, we don't like Plessy, but we're going to live with it. We'll have the separate, but we're going to require equal." And they began bringing equalization suits, like the one in Clarendon County, where there was no argument. You could not credibily say that black and white schools were remotely equal. The white schools were brick buildings with indoor plumbing and modern books and furniture. African-American schools were ramshackled structures with outdoor privies and a well for water.
When the plaintiff's attorney, Thurgood Marshall, appeared at the Charleston courthouse on November 17, 1950, for a pretrial conference in this "separate but equal" case, he was advised by court security officers that Judge Waring wanted to see him in his chambers. I'm sure he thought, "What have I done?"
Well, I want to take just a moment and take an aside here to talk about this photograph. Anyone who knows something about the history of the South Carolina Civil Rights Movement knows the name of Cecil Williams, who was a documenter of the Civil Rights Movement of the '60s and '70s. Almost every major sit-in, other events, Cecil was there taking historic photographs.
Marshall was summoned into Judge Waring's chambers, alone. Judge Waring told Marshall, "Thurgood I don't want to try another separate but equal case. Bring me a frontal attack on segregation." Marshall responded, "Judge, it's on our agenda. It's just not tonight. We don't think this is the case. We don't think this is the time." Waring responded, "Thurgood. This is the case. This is the time."
Marshall urged the judge to think practically, noting that any decision by him overturning Plessy would be reversed on appeal by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Waring explained that since a challenge to public school segregation contested the constitutionality of a state law, he would request the appointment of a three-judge panel in which he would sit. Marshall responded, "Well, Judge, you'll lose two to one." He agreed but noted that any appeal from a three-judge panel went directly to the United States Supreme Court, by direct appeal, rather than for review by a petition for certiorari. And he said, "Thurgood, that's where you want to be." Waring's plan was bold, even brilliant, but conflicted with the highly successful litigation strategy of the NAACP that had carefully built one legal precedent on top of another, never getting ahead of the United States Supreme Court.
A few minutes after this dramatic encounter, Waring convened the pretrial conference and publicly pressed Marshall on whether he was prepared to challenge the constitutionality of public school segregation. Marshall stated that he was and agreed to dismiss his pending suit and refile Briggs v. Elliott as the first frontal attack on public school segregation in American history.
Although Marshall agreed to follow the judge's direction here, he had a little problem. He needed to obtain the consent of his clients for this dramatic change in legal strategy. Marshall had real concerns, legitimate concerns about the safety of his clients in rural and impoverished Summerton and Clarendon County if they took such a bold step, and he sent his top assistant, Bob Carter, later a United States district judge in the southern district of New York, to Summerton to discuss this change in legal strategy. Carter told a large crowd assembled at St. Mark's Church in Summerton that those agreeing to join the new suit could expect to lose their jobs and suffer other forms of retaliation, some perhaps violent. Carter told them there was no shame or embarrassment if any plaintiffs felt they could not participate further, but it was the feeling of Mr. Marshall and the NAACP that the time had come to confront segregation root and branch.An elderly gentlemen rose at the back of the room and stated, "Mr. Carter, we were wondering how long it would take you lawyers to figure this out." With only two exceptions, all the original Briggs plaintiffs chose to join the new suit.
The newly filed Briggs case was tried in the Charleston federal courthouse in May 1951 before a three-judge panel, which included Judge Waring. In prior years, civil rights cases in the South were sparsely attended by members of the black community, less they be identified as members of the NAACP or challengers to the racial status quo. But on the morning of May 28, 1951, as the sun rose in Charleston, African Americans lined up at the federal courthouse and down Broad Street as far as the eye could see, hoping to observe what many thought might be the most important case in American history.
As Thurgood Marshall entered the Charleston federal courthouse that morning, he turned to his young assistant Bob Carter and told him, "Bob, it's all over." Carter was perplexed. What did he mean? "They're not scared anymore." Judge Waring also observed the massive crowd from his office window, later describing the scene as a breath of freedom
Those in attendance in the courtroom were not disappointed by the performance of Thurgood Marshall and his trial team. The trial included the testimony of Dr. Kenneth Clark, a social psychologist who had done groundbreaking research on the effects of segregation on black children using black and white dolls. The crowd was also entertained by Marshall's devastating cross-examination of the state's key witness whose last name ironically was Crow. You can’t make it up. Many joked that Thurgood Marshall, “ sure loves to eat Crow," and one observed, referencing the state's renowned lead attorney Bob Figg, "Mr. Figg got his law degree when he finished school, but he just got his baccalaureate address from Thurgood Marshall."
As Waring predicted, the majority of the panel ruled that South Carolina's laws mandating segregated schools were lawful under the Plessy doctrine, but Waring, fully aware he was writing a dissent for the ages, wrote an elegant and brilliant attack on the foundations of segregation in America. He concluded by finding, "Segregation in education can never produce equality and it is an evil that must be eradicated. Segregation and education adopted and practiced in the state of South Carolina must go and go now. Segregation is per se inequality," written in June 1951. Judge Waring praised the Briggs plaintiffs in his dissent, who he was fully aware had suffered severe retaliation for their participation in the case, noting that they have "shown unexampled courage in bringing and presenting this cause in the face of the long-established and age-old way of life, which the state of South Carolina has adopted and practiced and lived in since and as a result of the institution of human slavery." Waring's dissent was the first challenge to the Plessy doctrine in the 55 years since its adoption, the first since Justice Harlan's great dissent in Plessy.
Some have asked how could Judge Waring, a United States district judge, presume to overrule an existing United States Supreme Court precedent, Plessy v. Ferguson. Judge Waring did not believe he was doing that. The year prior to his great dissent, the Supreme Court decided three important civil rights cases, one involving a separate but not equal law school, Sweat v. Painter. Another involving a graduate student at the University of Oklahoma, George McLaurin, who was allowed to enter the graduate school but required to sit outside the classroom. That was McLaurin v. Board of Regents of Oklahoma. And a third involving a challenge to segregated dining cars on interstate trains, Henderson v. The United States.
In all three of those cases, the plaintiffs won in a unanimous decision, but there was no mention at all of Plessy. Some commentators asserted that these civil rights victories represented a further whittling away of the Plessy doctrine. But Judge Waring, reading these three decisions together, concluded they stood for the proposition that separate could never be equal. Waring viewed his dissent as stating explicitly what he believed the Supreme Court had already ruled implicitly.
In early 1952, some six months after his great dissent and exhausted by his ostracism in Charleston, Judge Waring announced his retirement and moved to New York City. He followed closely later school desegregation cases filed in Virginia, Delaware, and Kansas, all which were consolidated before the United States Supreme Court with Briggs v. Elliott under the name Brown v. Board of Education. In all the other school desegregation cases involving 14 separate state and federal judges, only Waties Waring concluded that public school segregation, even if the facilities were equal, violated the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution.
On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court handed down its unanimously landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education. The second case in the caption was Briggs v. Elliott. The Supreme Court explicitly cast aside the separate but equal doctrine and adopted the per se rule that all government mandated segregation was unconstitutional, first advanced by Judge Waring in his historic Briggs dissent. Judge Waring met with Chief Justice Warren shortly after the Brown decision when Chief Justice Warren authored as chief justice. He expressed his admiration for the court's clear-cut decision and told him, "I felt greatly relieved when you boys finally decided to decide that school case. I've been pretty lonely out there by myself." The chief justice responded that Waring was the one to be admired, saying, "Waties, you did it the hard way."
Judge Waring was always philosophical about what he called the unpleasant repercussions of his civil rights decisions. In an oral history late in life, Judge Waring observed, "Taking the whole thing in balance, I think I'm enormously fortunate because you don't often have the opportunity to do something you really think is good. I think a great stroke of fortune came down my alley. The other penalties don't amount to anything. They're offset by what I think is a really important contribution to the history of our country."
As I completed Unexampled Courage, I visited the town of Batesburg-Leesville and retraced the fateful path of Isaac Woodard from the bus stop where he was removed from the Greyhound bus and arrested to the storefront around the corner where he was beaten and blinded, and to the location of the street where the town jail and court once stood. Joining me on the solemn walk was the mayor of Batesburg and the town attorney, both of whom had only recently learned of the Woodard incident from me. The mayor was deeply moved and began exploring ways in which the town could honestly confront its past.
On June 1, 2018, the town attorney on behalf of the town council and mayor, filed a motion to reopen the criminal conviction of Isaac Woodard, Town of Batesburg v. Isaac Woodard, to overturn his unjust conviction. The motion was granted, expunging Woodard's criminal record posthumously. Recently the town of Batesburg dedicated an historic marker candidly telling the story of the blinding of Isaac Woodard. Members of Sergeant Woodard's family traveled from New York for the ceremony, and the mayor publicly apologized on behalf of the town for the tragic events of that fateful evening, February 12, 1946.
The city of Charleston and the state of South Carolina have also come to recognize the great contributions of Judge Waring. In 2014, the Charleston Bar and others raised funds to place a life size statue of Judge Waring on the federal courthouse grounds. Attorney General Holder attended and was the keynote speaker, noting that he was born the year of the great dissent, 1951, and that his opportunities in life were tied to the courage of Judge Waring. And in 2016, Senator Ernest Hollings for whom the courthouse had been named made an unusual, unique request. He asked his name to be removed from the courthouse so that it could be named for Judge Waring. This had never been done; such a request had never been received before. With the support of Congressman Jim Clyburn and Senator Graham, Congress unanimously passed the bill and our courthouse was renamed the J. Waties Waring Federal Judicial Center. Unexampled Courage is a story that deserves to be told, with all of its pathos, its brutality, and its redemption of the American system of justice.
Thank you very much.