Jonathan Green, a well known low-country artist, has done a painting commemorating the late United States District Court Judge J. Waties Waring’s role in ushering in the modern Civil Rights era in the United States.
Entitled “Breath of Freedom,” Mr. Green’s painting shows the scene of the Charleston federal courthouse, with Judge Waring and his balliff in the window, surrounded by a crowd, mainly from Summerton, SC, who came to listen and watch the trial of Briggs v. Elliot. The newspapers said the crowd was lined up, “up and down Broad street.”
Briggs v. Elliot was a federal lawsuit brought by plaintiffs seeking a school bus for African-American students like the bus provided for white students. Judge Waring was the resident district court judge in Charleston from 1942 to 1952. While the court upheld the doctrine of separate-but-equal facilities for blacks and whites, Judge Waring wrote a dissent in the case in which he stated that “segregation in education can never produce equality and that it is an evil that must be eradicated….Segregation is per se inequality.” His dissent became a basis for Brown v. Board of Education, which led to the desegregation of public schools throughout the country.
On April 11, a commemorative event was held outside the federal courthouse in Charleston in which a statue was dedicated to Judge Waring. (For a description of the event and Judge Waring’s role in the civil rights movement, see John Kassel’s “View from Here” column in the June 2014 issue of our newsletter, On the Plaintiff’s Side).