Claflin News

Former S.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Ernest A. Finney Selected for S.C. Hall of Fame

Feb 17, 2012


1952 Claflin Unversity Graduate to be Inducted Feb. 13 in Myrtle Beach

Former South Carolina Supreme Court Justice Ernest A. Finney, Jr., '52, will be inducted into the S.C. Hall of Fame on Monday, Feb. 13 for his contributions to the state's legal, civil rights and educational realms.

“As a University that seeks to inspire visionary leaders, Claflin is beyond thrilled that our leal and loyal son, Chief Justice Ernest A. Finney, has been selected for induction to the South Carolina Hall of Fame. He is one of our state's greatest trailblazers and one of our most prominent alumni. Justice Finney is incredibly deserving of this distinction and we join together to say congratulations to this remarkable representative of what Claflin University is truly about,” said President Dr. Henry N. Tisdale.

Another Claflin alumnus, Dr. Leo Twiggs, '56, is the chairman of the S.C. Hall of Fame. He extended congratulations to Finney on his forthcoming induction.

“I am honored that Chief Justice Finney is being inducted during my tenure. He is a graduate of Claflin, as I am, and it is significant that the first African-American Supreme Court Justice in any state, Jonathan Jasper Wright, established the first Law Department at Claflin. Wright was elected to the South Carolina Supreme Court in 1870, just one year after Claflin was founded. As the first African-American Chief Justice in South Carolina, Chief Justice Finney continues a tradition of higher achievement that is the legacy of Claflin University,” said Twiggs.

Born in 1931 in Smithfield, Virginia, Finney graduated Claflin with a Bachelor of Arts Degree. In 1954, he received a law degree from South Carolina State University. Upon graduation, he taught in Conway's public school system for five years before setting up his law practice in Sumter.

In 1961, Finney represented the Friendship 9, a group of black college students who were arrested for trying to desegregate a McCrory's Lunch Counter in Rock Hill. Two years later, Finney was appointed as chairman of the S.C. Commission on Civil Rights.

Finney was elected to the S.C. House of Representatives in 1972 and was the first African-American to serve on the House Judiciary Committee since the Reconstruction era. In the House, Finney was a co-founder of the Legislative Black Caucus and served at its first chairman.

The Claflin alumnus was elected as a judge to S.C. Third Circuit Court in July 1976, becoming the Palmetto State's first African-American Circuit Court judge in the process. Nine years later, he was appointed to the S.C. Supreme Court, later becoming the Chief Justice. He held that position until he retired in March 2000.

Starting in 2002, he was the interim president of South Carolina State University, a post which he held for one year.

Finney served on Claflin's Board of Trustees for two decades, elected as its chairman in 1986. In 2003, the University granted him the status of trustees emeritus.

The civic minded Finney has been a member of many organizations, including the American Law Institute, the American Judges Association, the Conference of Chief Justices, the American and National Bar Associations, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America and the NAACP. He is a past chairman of the Board of Directors of Buena Vista Development Corporation.

He was received honorary degrees from Claflin, The Citadel, Johnson C. Smith University, Morris College, College of Charleston, South Carolina State University, Wofford College, Francis Marion University and the University of South Carolina. Finney is a 1998 inductee of the National Black College Hall of Fame, in addition to being a 1994 recipient of the South Carolina Order of the Palmetto.

The induction ceremony will take place on Monday, Feb. 13 starting at 10:30 am. at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

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