FATHERLESS CHILDREN STORY 009
by Winsome Solo
This child was born in 1882, in Charleston, South Carolina, to an Irish-American dressmaker. His father, a civil servant, had died of tuberculosis before his birth. His widowed mother sent him to Catholic school, where he did well, but his family was too poor for him to continue his formal education, So he left at age 14 to go to work as a law clerk for a judge, using his older sister's forged birth certificate to get the job.
While he was clerking, he studied to be a lawyer. He as a diligent apprentice, and a few years later became a court reporter. He was admitted to the bar in 1903, at only 21 years old. In 1906, he married a South Carolina Episcopalian girl and converted to her religion.
In 1910, at age 28 and now a prosecutor, he entered politics and started representing South Carolina as a Democrat in the House of Representatives. Henry Ford had introduced the automobile to America, so this young politician backed major roadbuilding programs in the 1920s. He became a trusted helper to President Woodrow Wilson, who gave him important tasks.
In 1924, he ran for the Senate, but didn't win. He moved to the western part of the state and returned to practicing law, became involved with organizing workers in the textile mills there, and gained their votes. The next time he ran, he won.
He supported then-president Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal legislation that helped Americans get back on their feet during the Great Depression. On this basis, he was re-elected to the Senate in 1936, promising: "I admit I am a New Dealer, and if it takes money from the few who have controlled the country and gives it back to the average man, I am going to Washington to help the President work for the people of South Carolina and the country." As a senator, he sponsored dam-building and inland waterway funding for his state, generating electrical power for many homes.
To reward him for his support on many issues, FDR appointed him to the Supreme Court in July 1941, where he was the last Supreme Court Justice to serve without a law degree. He left this post to head the Office of Economic Stabilization and then the Office of War Mobilization, where he created jobs by building munitions factories all over the U.S., helping to bring the Great Depression hardship to an end.
Roosevelt brought him to the 1945 Yalta Conference, where his early training as a clerk and court reporter came in handy. His notes are now known as one of most complete records of the "Big Three" meetings. After Roosevelt's death, he became Secretary of State under Truman and participated in many key postwar peace conferences.
He took a hard line against the Soviets in the Cold War, and was named TIME's Man of the Year in 1947. He went on to become governor of South Carolina (1951-55). Though not a progressive on race issues, he did put state money into making black schools just as good as white ones, buying more teachers, books and buses for them. He said:
They seem more afraid of life than death."
By the time he died at age 89, this high school dropout had served in the highest ranks of all three branches of the federal government.
He was U.S. Senator, Secretary of State, and Supreme Court Justice
James Francis Byrnes, a boy from a "fatherless home".
The term "fatherless" ("fatherlessness" or "father-absent") is used in this series as it is in research and "father absence" policy rhetoric by the U.S. government, DHHS, the National Fatherhood Initiative, U.S. states in connection with child custody law and policy, and various family values and fatherhood policy and lobbying groups. The effects of father absence can be seen in the fatherless children stories. Citations to research and studies on the effects of father-absence can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
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