James F. Byrnes

James Francis Byrnes (US: /ˈbɜːrnz/ BURNZ; May 2, 1882 – April 9, 1972) was an American judge and politician from the state of South Carolina. A member of the Democratic Party, Byrnes served in Congress, the executive branch, and on the U.S. Supreme Court. He was also the 104th governor of South Carolina, making him one of the very few politicians to have served in the highest levels of all three branches of the American federal government while also being active in state government.

James F. Byrnes
104th Governor of South Carolina
In office
January 16, 1951  January 18, 1955
LieutenantGeorge Bell Timmerman Jr.
Preceded byStrom Thurmond
Succeeded byGeorge Bell Timmerman Jr.
49th United States Secretary of State
In office
July 3, 1945  January 21, 1947
PresidentHarry S. Truman
Preceded byEdward Stettinius Jr.
Succeeded byGeorge Marshall
Director of the Office of War Mobilization
In office
May 27, 1943  July 3, 1945
PresidentFranklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byJohn Wesley Snyder
Director of the Office of Economic Stabilization
In office
October 3, 1942  May 27, 1943
PresidentFranklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byFred M. Vinson
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
In office
June 25, 1941  October 3, 1942[1]
Nominated byFranklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded byJames Clark McReynolds
Succeeded byWiley Blount Rutledge
United States Senator
from South Carolina
In office
March 4, 1931  July 8, 1941
Preceded byColeman Livingston Blease
Succeeded byAlva M. Lumpkin
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 2nd district
In office
March 4, 1911  March 3, 1925
Preceded byJames Patterson
Succeeded byButler Hare
Personal details
James Francis Byrnes

(1882-05-02)May 2, 1882
Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.
DiedApril 9, 1972(1972-04-09) (aged 89)
Columbia, South Carolina, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Maude Busch
(m. 1906)

Born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, Byrnes pursued a legal career with the help of his cousin, Governor Miles Benjamin McSweeney. Byrnes won election to the U.S. House of Representatives and served from 1911 to 1925. He became a close ally of President Woodrow Wilson and a protégé of Senator Benjamin Tillman. He sought election to the U.S. Senate in 1924, but narrowly lost a runoff election to Coleman Livingston Blease, who had the backing of the Ku Klux Klan. Byrnes then moved his law practice to Spartanburg, South Carolina and prepared for a political comeback. He narrowly defeated Blease in the 1930 Democratic primary and joined the Senate in 1931.

Historian George E. Mowry called Byrnes "the most influential Southern member of Congress between John Calhoun and Lyndon Johnson."[2] In the Senate, Byrnes supported the policies of his longtime friend, President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Byrnes championed the New Deal and sought federal investment in South Carolina water projects. He also supported Roosevelt's foreign policy, calling for a hard line against Empire of Japan and Nazi Germany. On the other hand, Byrnes felt America was "a white man's country" and opposed anti-lynching legislation[citation needed] and other legislation designed for the betterment of African Americans. He also opposed some of the labor laws proposed by Roosevelt, such as the Fair Labor Standards Act, which established a minimum wage that hurt his state's competitive advantage of very low factory wages. Roosevelt appointed Byrnes to the Supreme Court in 1941 but asked him to join the executive branch after America's entry into World War II. During the war, Byrnes led the Office of Economic Stabilization and the Office of War Mobilization. He was a candidate to replace Henry A. Wallace as Roosevelt's running mate in the 1944 election, but instead Harry S. Truman was nominated by the 1944 Democratic National Convention.

After Roosevelt's death, Byrnes served as a close adviser to Truman and became U.S. Secretary of State in July 1945. In that capacity, Byrnes attended the Potsdam Conference and the Paris Conference. However, relations between Byrnes and Truman soured, and Byrnes resigned from the Cabinet in January 1947. He returned to elective politics in 1950 by winning election as the governor of South Carolina.

As governor, he opposed the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education and sought to establish "separate but equal" as a realistic alternative to the desegregation of schools. Though he remained a Democrat himself, he endorsed most Republican presidential nominees after 1948 and supported Strom Thurmond's switch to the Republican Party in 1964.