South Carolina’s first black chief justice dies at 86

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – Ernest Finney, South Carolina’s first African-American chief justice since Reconstruction, has died. He was 86.

South Carolina Deputy Supreme Court Clerk Brenda Shealy said Finney died Sunday afternoon. She did not have details on the death.

Finney spent a lifetime breaking racial barriers in South Carolina.

He was one of just a handful of black lawyers in the state when he graduated from the former South Carolina State College law school in 1954. Finney worked as a waiter and other jobs to make ends meet. The first time he attended a State Bar meeting was as a waiter at a Myrtle Beach hotel because the state lawyers’ organization was still all white.

Finney was elected chief justice of South Carolina in 1994 and retired from the court in 2000.

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