James Byrnes

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James F. “Jimmy” Byrnes
James Francis Byrnes, at his desk, 1943.jpg
Former Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
From: July 8, 1941 – October 3, 1942
Nominator Franklin Roosevelt
Predecessor James McReynolds
Successor Wiley Blount Rutledge
104th Governor of South Carolina
From: January 16, 1951 – January 18, 1955
Predecessor Strom Thurmond
Successor George Bell Timmerman, Jr.
49th United States Secretary of State
From: July 3, 1945 – January 21, 1947
President Harry Truman
Predecessor Edward Stettinius, Jr.
Successor George Marshall
U.S. Senator from South Carolina
From: April 5, 1931 – July 8, 1941
Predecessor Coleman L. Blease
Successor Alva M. Lumpkin
Former U.S. Representative from South Carolina's 2nd Congressional District
From: March 4, 1911 – March 4, 1925
Predecessor James O'H. Patterson
Successor Butler Hare
Party Democratic
Spouse(s) Maude Perkins Busch
Religion Episcopalian

James Francis Byrnes (May 2, 1882 – April 9, 1972), also known as Jimmy Byrnes, was a politician from South Carolina. During his career he served in all three branches of the federal government—the executive branch (as Secretary of State), the legislative branch (in both houses of Congress) and the judicial branch as a Supreme Court Associate Justice.

Brynes was a confidant of Franklin Roosevelt, whose foreign policy he supported; he resigned from the Court to become director of the Office of War Mobilization in 1943 and later Secretary of State under President Truman. Byrnes was involved in the decision to drop a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima.

An influential South Carolina politician, Byrnes was an avowed segregationist who held high-level positions in state and federal government for more than four decades. As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate for more than two decades, Byrnes personally blocked a Senate investigation of a South Carolina lynching and opposed Republican anti-lynching legislation in 1922 (the Dyer Bill) as a congressman,[1][2][3] insisting that "rape is responsible, directly and indirectly, for most of the lynching in America."[4] In 1935, he joined the Southern Democratic filibuster against the Costigan–Wagner Act (also known as the Anti-Lynching Bill of 1935),[5] and opposed the subsequent Wagner–Van Nuys Act.[6]

When Byrnes was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1941, the NAACP opposed his confirmation in a telegram to the White House: "If Senator Byrnes at any time in his long public career failed to take a position inimical to the human and citizenship rights of 13 million American Negro citizens, close scrutiny of his record fails to reveal it." Byrnes was confirmed to the Court, and later held the office of Secretary of State under President Harry Truman.[4]

He remained a vocal opponent of integration throughout his term as South Carolina governor from 1951 to 1955. In his inaugural address, Byrnes proclaimed, "Whatever is necessary to continue the separation of the races in the schools of South Carolina is going to be done by the white people of the state. That is my ticket as a private citizen. It will be my ticket [as governor]."[4]

Since his death in 1972, Byrnes has been widely recognized; a building and a professorship at the University of South Carolina bear his name, as do Byrnes Auditorium at Winthrop University, Byrnes Hall dormitory at Clemson University, and James F. Byrnes High School in Duncan, South Carolina.


  1. Waldrep, Christopher (2008). African Americans Confront Lynching: Strategies of Resistance from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Era, p. 74. Google Books. Retrieved May 24, 2023.
  2. Francis, Megan Ming (April 21, 2014). Civil Rights and the Making of the Modern American State, p. 112. Google Books. Retrieved May 24, 2023.
  3. Perman, Michael (2012). The Southern Political Tradition, p. 38. Google Books. Retrieved May 24, 2023.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 “Segregation Forever”: Leaders of White Supremacy. Equal Justice Initiative.
  5. Greenbaum, Fred (1967). "The Anti-Lynching Bill of 1935: The Irony of "Equal Justice—Under Law"," p. 79–82. Internet Archive. Retrieved December 3, 2022.
  6. Fleegler, Robert L. Theodore G. Bilbo and the Decline of Public Racism, 1938–1947. pp. 8–9. Internet Archive. Retrieved May 24, 2023.

External links

  • Profile at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  • Profile at The Political Graveyard