Justice James Byrnes

Justice James Byrnes joined the U.S. Supreme Court on July 8, 1941, replacing Justice James Clark McReynolds. Byrnes was born on May 2, 1882 in Charleston, South Carolina. He was admitted to the South Carolina bar in 1903 and briefly served as a district attorney from 1908 to 1910. Byrnes then was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat from South Carolina. He served seven terms in that chamber from 1911 to 1925.

After unsuccessfully pursuing a U.S. Senate seat in 1924, Byrnes spent the next several years in private practice. He won a seat in the Senate on his second attempt in 1930 and would serve there for 10 years. Byrnes generally supported the New Deal programs that President Franklin Roosevelt devised to ease recovery from the Great Depression. He won reelection in 1936 but did not complete his second term in the Senate.

On June 12, 1941, Roosevelt nominated Byrnes to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Senate confirmed him on the day of his nomination, and he took the judicial oath about a month later. Byrnes was the shortest-serving Associate Justice since 1800, staying on the bench for just 15 months. He left virtually no impact on the law.

Byrnes left the Court on October 3, 1942 and was replaced by Justice Wiley Blount Rutledge. He served in the Roosevelt administration during the Second World War, heading first the Office of Economic Stabilization and then the Office of War Mobilization. Shortly after Roosevelt died, President Harry Truman appointed Byrnes as the U.S. Secretary of State. He resigned after only a year and a half in this role, but his career was not yet over.

Byrnes served as Governor of South Carolina from 1951 to 1955. He opposed racial integration in schools, declaring that "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." Byrnes retired from politics when his term ended, several months after the Brown v. Board of Education decision. He died on April 9, 1972 in Columbia, South Carolina.