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Judge J. Waties Waring and the Secret Plan that Sparked a Civil Rights Movement

A portrait of Judge J. Waities Waring hangs in the courthouse that bears his name.
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

Four years before the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education, a federal judge in Charleston 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.

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. In fact, he helped guide Marshall down a narrow legal path that led to the end of segregation schools.

Brian Hicks talks with Walter Edgar about Waring’s plan, and about his life, in the new book, In Darkest South Carolina: J. Waties Waring and the Secret Plan that Sparked a Civil Rights Movement (2017, Post and Courier Books).

- Originally broadcast 01/25/19 -

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.