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Ernest A. Finney Jr.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ernest A. Finney Jr.
Chief Justice of South Carolina
In office
December 1994 – March 23, 2000
Preceded byA. Lee Chandler
Succeeded byJean H. Toal
Associate Justice of South Carolina
In office
1985 – December 1994
Preceded byJulius B. Ness
Succeeded byE. C. Burnett, III
Personal details
Ernest Adolphus Finney Jr.

(1931-03-23)March 23, 1931
Smithfield, Virginia, U.S.
DiedDecember 3, 2017(2017-12-03) (aged 86)
Columbia, South Carolina, U.S.
Spouse(s)Frances Davenport Finney
Alma materClaflin College (B.A. 1952)
South Carolina State University (J.D. 1954)

Ernest Adolphus Finney Jr. (March 23, 1931 – December 3, 2017) was the first African-American Supreme Court Justice appointed to the South Carolina Supreme Court since the Reconstruction Era.[1] He spent the last years of his life in Sumter, South Carolina. He was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.[2]

Early life, education

Finney was born in Smithfield, Virginia. His mother died when he was ten days old, so he was raised by his father, Dr. Ernest A. Finney Sr. Finney earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Claflin College in 1952. He then enrolled in South Carolina State College's School of Law, from which he graduated in 1954.

In the beginning, he was unable to find work as a lawyer, so he followed in his father's footsteps and worked as a teacher. In 1960, he moved to Sumter and began a full-time law practice.[3]

Legal career

In 1961, Finney represented the Friendship 9, a group of black junior college students arrested and charged when trying to desegregate McCrory's lunch counter in Rock Hill, South Carolina.[4]

In 1963, he served as chairman of the South Carolina Commission on Civil Rights. Finney was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1972. He was subsequently appointed a member of the House Judiciary Committee, making him the first African-American to serve on that key committee in modern times. Finney was one of the founders of the Legislative Black Caucus and served as charter Chairperson from 1973-75.[3]

In May 1994, the state's general assembly elected Ernest Finney to the position of Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court, effective December 1994, making him the first African-American Chief Justice of South Carolina since Reconstruction. In 1976, he won an election to become South Carolina's first black circuit judge. He has been on the state Supreme Court since 1985. Finney retired from the state Supreme Court in 2000 and was named interim president of South Carolina State University in 2002.[3]

In 2015, Finney represented the surviving eight members of the Friendship Nine at the court hearing where their convictions were overturned.[5]


Among Finney's other accomplishments are also a position on the National College of State Trial Judges, 1977; Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree, The Citadel & Johnson C. Smith University, 1995; Doctor of Humane Letters, SC State University, 1996; Doctor of Laws, Morris College, 1996; Doctorate, Claflin University; Honoree, S.C. Trial Lawyers Association, 1993; elected and qualified Judge of the Third Judicial Circuit, 1976; and elected and qualified Associate Justice, 1985.[3]


Finney died on December 3, 2017 at the age of 86 in Columbia, South Carolina from complications of Alzheimer's disease.[6][7]


Finney's daughter, Nikky Finney, is an award-winning poet and professor at the University of South Carolina.

Finney's son Ernest A. Finney III was the solicitor for the state of South Carolina who argued for the state against exoneration of George Stinney Jr.

Finney's son Jerry Finney Sr. owns and operates the Finney Law Firm, Inc., in Columbia. He provides a range of services in a variety of practice areas, including civil litigation, workers' compensation, and probate.


  1. ^ Roberts, Sam (7 December 2017). "Ernest Finney Jr., Rights Lawyer in 'Jail, Not Bail' Case, Dies at 86" – via
  2. ^ "Ernest A. Finney Jr". South Carolina Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2017-12-04.
  3. ^ a b c d Profile,; accessed December 11, 2017.
  4. ^ Michael Scoggins and David Rawlinson, "Rock Hill, Jail no Bail & the Friendship Nine" Archived 2011-11-17 at the Wayback Machine, Friendship College; retrieved January 19, 2012.
  5. ^ Amber Payne (January 28, 2015). "'Friendship Nine': Convictions Overturned For Famed Civil Rights Protesters". NBC News. Associated Press. Retrieved 2015-01-28.
  6. ^ TEGNA. "Former SC Supreme Court Justice Ernest Finney Jr. Dead at 86".
  7. ^ Shain, Andy. "Former S.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Ernest Finney Jr. passes away".

External links

  • Biography at the website of the Finney Law Firm, Inc
This page was last edited on 25 July 2020, at 03:54
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