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Charles Cecil Wyche Papers

 Collection
Identifier: SCU-SCPC-030
The collection consists of four linear feet of papers, 1903-1969, arranged in six series: Judicial Papers, Topical Files, Personal, Speeches, Clippings, and Photographs.

The collection as a whole consists largely of correspondence – letters to and from Judge Wyche on a number of topics, both quotidian and unique. From letters he wrote to his mother while at The Citadel, to letters to and from other judges, to letters of condolence to his secretary, Mrs. Frances D. Staples, upon the Judge’s death in 1966, the scope and content of the collection are rich and varied. Correspondents of note include fellow judges George Bell Timmerman and Ashton Williams, as well as hundreds of prison inmates seeking to reduce or appeal their sentences.

The Judicial Papers series contains these letters from inmates which illustrate Judge Wyche’s compassionate nature, but also his firm sense of justice; his belief that the sentences imposed are for the good of those serving them, and can help reform them into law-abiding citizens. In one letter dated 18 December 1952, for example, Judge Wyche wrote to the mother of a man he sentenced to prison:

“In every case it is not the defendant who suffers, but his relatives – his mother, his father, his wife, his children – and I realize, of course, that you will suffer more than he while he is serving his sentence.

“In my opinion it is better for him to serve this sentence, and maybe this sentence will cause him to change his ways and bring him into the Church, as you have so devoutly prayed for.”

In response to many letters the Judge received from financially suffering family members of inmates, or from the inmates themselves detailing their family problems, he arranged for welfare assistance for the family while their primary bread winner was absent. He was particularly passionate about helping to reform juvenile offenders. In a letter dated 10 December 1951, to the Honorable William J. Barker of Tampa, Florida, regarding the possibility of Judge Wyche holding a term of court in Tampa, he expresses a heartfelt sentiment: “Frankly, I prefer to try civil cases rather than criminal cases. I get enough breaking people’s hearts in my own district.”

Also within the Judicial Papers series is information about Wyche’s judicial appointments. Included here are the letters of endorsement and congratulations regarding Wyche’s appointment as U.S. District Judge in 1936. Other papers in this section reveal his bid for an appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in 1939 upon the retirement of the Honorable Elliott Northcutt. Judge Wyche did not receive this appointment; President Franklin D. Roosevelt instead appointed Judge Armistead Mason Dobie of Virginia.

Judicial Papers also documents the routine operation of a federal district court with information about employee salaries and periods of annual leave. Also included are papers tracing Wyche’s effort to create a montage of portraits of all the past and present federal judges from South Carolina to hang in his chambers. The portrait of one judge, Thomas Bee, proved forever elusive.

The Topical Files series includes papers on topics ranging from respected professionals in Wyche’s life to special events to the thorny issue of segregation during the 1950s and 1960s. The “Persons” section delves into Wyche’s personal life, and illustrates his loyalty to friends and colleagues such as Judge Robert A. Cooper, attorney Oscar H. Doyle, and his longtime Clerk of Court, Wilbur D. White.

Included in the correspondence relating to Wyche’s appointment as U.S. District Attorney is a letter to Abbeville mayor R.B. Cheatham, 12 June 1933, reflecting on his military experience in the First World War: “I too often recall how near you and I came to being buried at sea when we with thousands of others were attacked with influenza on the voyage overseas.” In a letter to Greenville attorney W.D. Workman, 16 June 1933, Wyche expressed his high opinion of law partner Donald Russell: “I want to assure you that Donald Russell is one man I am not going to appoint as my assistant....He is too valuable for our firm to release to be an assistant district attorney.” Wyche instead offered this position to J. Strom Thurmond, who did not accept it.

The Segregation section within the Topical Files provides reference material and tracts illustrating the viewpoints of contemporary Southerners on the desegregation movement. These viewpoints range from a perceived link between the NAACP and communism, an alleged biblical sanction of segregation, and the opinion that the Supreme Court overstepped its legal bounds in the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, decision of 1954, and other similar school desegregation decisions.

Also regarding desegregation, the Clippings series provides important primary source information about the 1962-1963 trials regarding Harvey B. Gantt, a young African-American architectural student, and his admission to the all-white Clemson College. These trials, over which Judge Wyche presided, were among the first major ramifications of desegregation in South Carolina.

Several eulogies are present, including one delivered by C.T. Graydon for Coleman L. Blease, and one Wyche himself presented in 1947, on the passing of his predecessor on the District Court, the Honorable Henry Hitt Watkins.

Researchers may also reference the Donald Russell collection housed in South Carolina Political Collections for more information about Wyche. Among Donald Russell’s personal papers are correspondence with Wyche and a copy of his living will.

Dates

  • 1903 - 1969

Creator

Access

Library Use Only

Extent

4 Linear Feet

Abstract

Charles Cecil Wyche served as the U.S. District Judge for the Western District of South Carolina for almost thirty years. He began his public career by representing Spartanburg County in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1913 to 1914. He served in the U.S. Army during World War I as a First Lieutenant and later a Major. From 1919 to 1933, he served as city and then county attorney for Spartanburg. In 1924, Wyche was specially appointed associate justice to the South Carolina Supreme Court. Between 1933 and 1937, he served as the U.S. District Attorney for the Western District in South Carolina. He was appointed U.S. District Judge for the Western District on January 30, 1937, and served until the time of his death in 1966.

Biographical Note

C.C. Wyche once noted, “A Judge cannot be a great Judge unless the members of the Bar of his State are great lawyers. Lawyers teach Judges the law. That feeling that Judges know all the law is clearly erroneous.” Wyche would have known. The South Carolina native served for thirty years as a U.S. District Judge in Spartanburg.

Judge Charles Cecil Wyche was born in Prosperity on July 7, 1885, to Cyril and Carrie Wyche. He graduated from The Citadel in 1906 and then attended Georgetown University. In 1909, he was admitted to the bar in South Carolina and began practicing law in Spartanburg. On March 12, 1916, he married Evelyn Crawford; the two later had a daughter, Evelyn (Mrs. Charles T. Camp).

Wyche represented Spartanburg County in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1913 to 1914. During World War I, he was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army. From 1919 to 1933 he served as city and then county attorney for Spartanburg. In 1929 he was specially appointed associate justice to the South Carolina Supreme Court. He served as the U.S. Attorney for the Western District in South Carolina from 1933 to 1937. On January 30, 1937, he was appointed U.S. District Judge for the Western District. He continued to serve until the time of his death in 1966 and was succeeded as U.S. District Judge by his former law partner, Donald S. Russell.

Timeline

1885 Charles Cecil Wyche is born, 7 July, in Prosperity, S.C. to Cyril Thomas and Carrie Wyche.

1906 graduates from the Citadel

1908-09 studies at Georgetown University

1909 admitted to the S.C. bar

1913-14 member of the S.C. House of Representatives

1916 marries Evelyn Crawford, 12 March

1917-18 serves in the U.S. Army

1919-22 serves as Spartanburg city attorney

1919-33 serves as county attorney for Spartanburg County

1924 specially appointed circuit judge for the Court of Common Pleas

1929 serves as associate justice for the S.C. Supreme Court by special appointment

1933-37 serves as U.S. district attorney for the Western District of S.C.

1937 appointed U.S. district judge for the Western District of S.C., 30 January

1966 September, Judge C.C. Wyche dies

Provenance

Donated by C. Thomas Wyche.

Copyright

Copyright of the Charles Cecil Wyche Papers has been transferred to the University of South Carolina.

Processing Information

Processed by Craig Keeney and Meredith Bouchard, 1999; revisions by Julie Milo, 2008.

Repository Details

Part of the South Carolina Political Collections Repository

Contact:
Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library
1322 Greene St.
University of South Carolina
Columbia SC 29208 USA
803-777-0577