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Alumni Judges

Written By: information_management - Apr• 16•09

I’ve talked a lot in the past year about faculty of years past, of buildings on the campus, and about various student activities and ceremonies.  I haven’t written much about alumni.  Over the next few weeks, I’m going to try to highlight some noteworthy alumni who have distinguished themselves – and the college – in their professions.

We’ve never had an alum to become a justice of the United States Supreme Court, but by my count, we’ve had three judges serve on the U. S. Court of Appeals for the fourth circuit.  One, Judge Dennis Shedd, of the class of 1975, is a current member of that court.  Another, Judge Clyde Hamilton, class of 1956, was a district judge from 1982 to1991, and became a member of the Fourth Circuit Court in 1991.  Another member of that court served long ago.  Charles Albert Woods, of Wofford’s class of 1872, was the college’s first prominent jurist.  Born near Darlington in 1852, Judge Woods taught and read law after graduating from Wofford.  He began practicing law in Marion, SC in 1873.  He became more successful when he partnered with Henry McIver, and his success continued after McIver was elected to the state supreme court in 1877.  He was a community leader in Marion throughout the late 19th century, and in 1902, he became president of the South Carolina Bar Association.  The next year, Wofford gave him an honorary doctorate.  He also served on Wofford’s board of trustees.  In 1903, he was elected to a seat on the state supreme court, a seat made vacant by the death of his mentor, Chief Justice McIver.  After ten years on the state’s highest court, Justice Woods was named by President Woodrow Wilson to a seat on the 4th circuit court of appeals in Richmond, VA.  He served on that court until his death in 1925.  One item in the file suggest he was at least considered for an appointment to the U. S. Supreme Court in 1916, an appointment that eventually went to Louis Brandeis.  When he died in 1925, he was the presiding judge and senior member of the circuit court
Several South Carolina Supreme Court justices have earned Wofford degrees.  A few years ago, three of the five sitting justices were Wofford alumni – justices John Waller, E. C. Burnett III, and Costa Pleicones.  The first Wofford alum to become Chief Justice of South Carolina was John G. Stabler, a member of the class of 1905, who joined the supreme court in 1926 and became chief justice in 1935.  In later years, C. Bruce Littlejohn, of the class of 1934, served as chief justice for 16 months in 1984 and 1985.
Stabler001 Chief Justice Stabler graduated from Wofford in 1905 and taught Latin at the college’s Carlisle Fitting School in Bamberg.  Taking a law degree from USC in 1908, he practiced law in St. Matthews, SC, in Calhoun County.  He was active in his local Methodist church and in civic actiities, and in 1920, was elected to the state senate by the voters in his county.  He served for six years, as in January 1926 he was elected by the General Assembly to the state supreme court. He took his seat in July.  In 1935, he was elected chief justice, and served until his death in 1940.
Chief Justice Littlejohn graduated from Wofford
in 1935 – he actually left the college for law school in 1933 and upon completion of two years in law school, Wofford gave him his AB degree.  He finished law school, started practicing law, and won the first of 5 terms in the state house of representatives all within a few months, in 1936.  He saw service in World War II, serving as an army lawyer and prosecutor in some of the postwar war crimes trials.  Returning to the legislature in 1947 at the head of a young veterans’ movement, he was elected speaker of the house.  Two years later, he was elected to the circuit court, where he served until his election to the state supreme court in 1966.  After almost 18 years as an associate justice, he was elected chief justice in 1984.  His tenure saw a number of important reforms, and he helped revise a number of judicial procedures.  LittlejohnCB001
Of course, other Wofford alumni have held high positions in the practice of law, and quite a few others have been federal district judges, South Carolina circuit court judges, United States Attorneys (including the current U.S. Attorney for South Carolina), South Carolina attorneys general, and bar association presidents.  Those serving today continue a proud tradition of Wofford graduates who have contributed to the law and the judiciary.

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