Three times the legal spotlight shined on Greenville
When we think of Greenville, our minds often go straight to waterfalls, downtowns and textiles. And sometimes not in that order. However, Greenville does have a fascinating legal history. Several times the national spotlight has shown directly on our community, both because of the larger-than-life citizens of Greenville involved in making history and/or because of the importance of the issues surrounding our community. Here are three examples:
Shoeless Joe Jackson’s Legal Will: A baseball legend, Shoeless Joe Jackson typically refused to sign any kind of memorabilia, meaning there were only a handful of records that contained his signature, one of which being his will. If you understand sports memorabilia, that makes his signature as rare as a needle in a haystack and very valuable. After he and his wife passed, the South Carolina affiliates from the American Heart Association and American Cancer Associations filed a lawsuit to attempt to gain ownership of the will after his widowed wife left the assets of the estate to the charities. However, the will was determined to be public property and could not be passed down in ownership. It is now kept in a museum.
Greenville native Clement F. Haynsworth, Jr. is best known for serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, having been appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1957 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. He eventually was appointed Chief Judge, and he was nominated by President Richard M. Nixon for the United States Supreme Court in 1969. Our main federal building on Washington Street is named after him. As a former federal prosecutor, I’ve spent a lot of time in that building.
A.J. Whittenberg: Although most people know about Brown vs. Board of Education, most people don’t know that some school districts remained segregated long after Brown was decided, including Greenville’s schools. In 1963, A.J. Whittenberg noticed the books at the all-white school were crisp and new whereas the books at the predominantly black school that his daughter, Elaine, attended were not. When he asked if she could be transferred to the white school, the Greenville County School Board refused, and Whittenberg sued the county. This lawsuit prevented the school board from denying students access to certain schools based on their race.