By Timothy Stucky, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law
I recently had the opportunity to read "Unexampled Courage," a book whose title is borrowed from Judge J. Waties Waring’s dissent in Briggs v. Elliott. Addressing the 66 plaintiffs in Briggs, Judge Waring addressed their strength of character directly, writing that “they have shown unexampled courage in bringing and presenting this cause at their own expense in the fact of the long established and age-old pattern of the way of life which the State of South Carolina has adopted and practiced and lived in since and as a result of the institution of human slavery.”
While much is known about the decisions that would later be consolidated on appeal, it was Judge Waring’s arguments in his Briggs dissent that would be adopted in the reasoning of the unanimous majority in Brown v. Board of Education. Of the 14 judges who heard the organic cases in Brown, only Judge Waring had authored an opinion holding that school segregation violated the Fourteenth Amendment. In this regard, Judge Waring became the sole outlier among federal judges in the United States in 1954.
Interestingly, the author of "Unexampled Courage" is Richard Gergel, a United States district judge who presides in the same courthouse in Charleston, South Carolina, where Judge Waring once served. Judge Gergel presided over the 2017 trial of white supremacist, Dylann Roof. A native of South Carolina, Judge Gergel earned undergraduate and law degrees from Duke University. With his wife, Dr. Belinda Gergel, he is also the author of "In Pursuit of the Tree of Life: A History of Early Jews in Columbia, South Carolina." Read more.
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