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          William H. Brawley, LL. D., judge United States court for the district of South Carolina, was born in Chester county, South Carolina on May 13, 1841. After taking the usual preparatory courses he entered the South Carolina College institution. He graduated in 1860. In April 1861, he enlisted as a private in the sixth regiment South Carolina Volunteers. He was with this command at the time of the attack on Fort Sumter. Soon after the regiment went to Virginia. He participated in all the battles along with his regiment, but his military career was cut short at the battle of Seven Pines, where on the afternoon of May 31, 1862, he received a wound that required the amputation of his left arm. He remained in the Richmond hospital for three months to recover. He returned shortly after his father died and took control of the plantation until April of 1864. Since his health had not completely returned and his education had not been completed he ran a blockade and went to Europe. There, he remained to study and recover until November of 1865, when he returned home.

          There, he studied law, and in 1866 he was admitted to the bar. He was elected solicitor of the sixth circuit in 1868, and was again re-elected in 1872. In 1874 he resigned the office and moved back to Charleston, where he became associated in the practice of Mr. W. D. Porter’s firm. When Mr. Porter retired and William Brawley became the associate of Mr. Joseph W. Barnwell. He was elected to the legislature from Charleston in 1882 and by successive re-elections remained in the legislature until his election to Congress in 1890. He was chairman of the judiciary committee of the house during the last years of his service with the legislature. His mastery of public problems and ability to dispel the illusions of the hour and present questions in their true light, soon secured him respectful attention and influence. His delicate political tact and astute judgement of human nature made him at once a powerful ally or formidable adversary. His speech in opposittion to granting the railroad commission full power to fix rates, without giving any right of appeal, was conceded to be one of the ablest arguments ever made in the South Carolina legislature. His appeal to the house on behalf of the suffers of the Charleston earthquake on 1886, was one of impassioned bursts of oratory heard only from gifted speakers on rare occasions. His influence in legisture and position as chairman of the judiciary committee, made him the acknowledged leader in the house of representatives at the time of his retirement in 1890, when he was elected to the fifty-first Congress.

          Possessing scholarly attainments, a complete master of the English language, with accurate and comprehensive knowledge of the public issues of the day, Mr. Brawley entered Congress fully equipped for the work before him. In March of 1892, the people of the United States became acquainted with his ability and power through his speech in the debate on the silver question in opposition to the Bland bill for free coinage at the ratio of sixteen to one. This speech elicited most favorable and extended comments from prominent men in public life. It headed newspapers of the country and was regarded as one of the most valuable utterances on the question.

          Demonstrating the careful study, preparation and thorough knowledge he had on the subject. The closing paragraph of his speech was referred to by many as a model of style as well as sentiment. Even the late speaker Reed, pronounced it “worthy of the finest old Stoic who ever talked philosophy.”

          His speech on the bill to repeal the Sherman Act, in September of 1893, elicited like comments and again demonstrated his fitness for leadership in public affairs. So much so, that many of his constituents voiced great regret when they learned of his retirment from Congress, in February of 1894, to accept the appointment from President Cleveland as United States judge for South Carolina. An appointment freely given without any influence of his desire for the office.

          His career as judge has been marked by the same abilities and steadfastness of purpose, as was characterized by his public life. The value of his decisions have covered a wide field, from questions of admiralty, to patent and prize laws.

          The degree of LL. D. was confered on him by the South Carolina College at it’s centennial celebration in 1905.


Men Of Mark in South Carolina, Volume I


James Calvin Hemphill



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