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Sarah Leverette Papers

Identifier: SCU-SCPC-SL

The Leverette collection consists of 19 linear feet of material. Series include General, Topical, Audiovisual, Speeches, Clippings, Vertical File Materials, and Scrapbooks. Within the Topical series, the most extensive subseries pertains to the League of Women Voters, documenting Leverette’s and her colleagues’ work in that organization, including research, discussion, and advocacy efforts on political and governmental issues; outreach and education; and voter service and protection. The earliest papers date from the 1940s, although the bulk of the materials ranges in date from the 1990s through the 2010s. The series includes publications, information about events, minutes of board meetings, and organizational and topical information. The series is primarily made up of materials from the League of Women Voters of South Carolina (LWVSC) although there is, naturally, a significant amount of overlap in the memberships and activities of the state and local Leagues, and Leverette also served as the Columbia League’s State Liaison. As a result, some records relate to the Columbia Area League of Women Voters as well as the state League.
The largest subseries of LWV is the Topical subseries, which documents the League’s research and advocacy of its positions—the process, known as “program planning,” of determining stands on current issues. Then-LWVSC president Barbara Zia wrote in 2012, “In the League, the members determine the positions through study and agreement. Program planning by our members is a unique LWV feature and the grassroots heart of the League.” In part due to Leverette’s longtime leadership role as state contact for the Effective State and Local Government program area, the collection’s best-documented subjects include public education, judicial independence and diversity, voting rights, and ethics in political campaigning and in the government in general.
Education materials document issues including private school vouchers, public school funding, school board governance, and public interest lawsuits in which the League filed amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs. Also present are files relating to the South Carolina School Boards Association’s Friends of Education group, in which Leverette participated as a representative of the LWV. Judiciary materials deal with independence and diversity in South Carolina’s judiciary system and its selection process. In the last decade, the national League conducted an initiative project over the course of several years called Safeguarding U.S. Democracy: Promoting an Independent Judiciary, sometimes known as Quest for a More Diverse Judiciary, to promote awareness of the system. The LWVSC and some of its chapters hosted several conventions and events as part of this project, with Leverette serving as project coordinator for a September 2008 Constitution Day panel discussion about judicial independence and diversity. This event was co-hosted by the South Carolina League and the South Carolina Women Lawyers Association; co-sponsors included many groups in which Leverette was also actively involved, including the American Association of University Women of South Carolina and Common Cause of South Carolina.
Elections and Voting files are extensive, reflecting the League’s emphasis on providing voter education, protection, and service. Documented here are South Carolina’s and other states’ efforts, c. 2010, to enact voter identification laws, and counter-efforts to block these laws; public debate about voting machines and electronic voting; attempts, opposed by the LWV, to outlaw third-party voter registration; and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), specifically a project launched in collaboration with Project Vote to investigate and enforce provisions of the NVRA in South Carolina.

Local Government relates mainly to the League’s interest in governance in Richland County and the City of Columbia. Included is information about land use and proposed regulatory takings legislation, a form of eminent domain designed to limit urban sprawl. Leverette served as the incorporator of a non-profit corporation, officially named “The Rich Land Foundation,” alternately referred to as the “Preserve Richland Foundation”; its articles of incorporation, certificate of incorporation, bylaws, and other materials are included. She also served on the Imagine Richland 2020 Comprehensive Plan which was adopted by the Richland County Council in 1999 and whose purpose was to limit urban sprawl and make the best use of available land. Also documented here is the controversial 2013 public vote on a “strong mayor” form of government for Columbia.

The War on Terror materials focus heavily on the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 and include many news articles and commentaries about the original Act, its successors, and related court cases. Leverette gave a number of presentations on the subject, and much of the material, dating from 2001 to 2005, seems to comprise research for her talks.

Legal Profession relates to Leverette’s extensive involvement with the South Carolina Women Lawyers’ Association and the South Carolina Bar Association and Foundation. The SCWLA materials include publications, notes, and information about events and board meetings. Also present are materials related to her work on the South Carolina Bar’s committee for “Memory Hold the Door,” an annual memorial for notable Bar members.

Also present in the Topical series are files on subjects and organizations in which Leverette had an interest. Her activities and affiliations, as documented here, include work with groups concerned with ethical government, women’s issues, and Democratic Party and progressive politics. Leverette’s lifelong interest in, and connection with, the University of South Carolina is shown by materials dating from her law school years forward. The Year Book of the Seldon Society was a School of Law publication; issues in the collection range in date from 1943 to 1948. One issue contains an article written by Leverette about fee simple conditional (an estate in land) and possibility of reverter (a future interest in land).

Family papers include one of the oldest items in the collection, the 1944-56 diary of Leverette’s brother-in-law, Captain Robert I. Lane, chronicling his service with the U.S. Army in Europe during World War II.

Speeches, 1967-2013, (see Appendix I for item-level index) contains drafts and final copies of many of Leverette’s speeches, chiefly on politics, law, and the role of women.

Writings (see Appendix II for item-level index) contains items written by or contributed to by Leverette, including some of her work on the South Carolina Constitutional Revision Committee as the co-author of state constitutional revision procedure.

Audiovisual includes primarily photographs. A DVD shows events, including a LWVSC judicial forum on October 8, 2010.

Clippings, chiefly from The State, cover a variety of topics, some having to do with Leverette herself and others having to do with issues and organizations of interest to her.

Vertical File Materials contain information gathered by SCPC relating to Leverette and may duplicate information already present in the collection.


  • c. 1943-2017
  • Majority of material found within 2002 - 2013


Copyright and Use

Library use only. Copyright of the Sarah Leverette Papers has been transferred to the University of South Carolina.


19 Linear Feet

Biographical / Historical

Sarah Leverette dedicated her life to public service in South Carolina. As a member of the legal profession for over fifty years, she worked as an attorney, law librarian, workers’ compensation commissioner, and legal consultant. Outside of her professional life, she was a devoted and active member of numerous community organizations, most notably the League of Women Voters.

Leverette was born on December 30, 1919 in Iva, South Carolina, to Captain Stephen Ernest Leverette and Allie E. (McGee) Leverette. She earned her associate’s degree at Anderson College in 1938 and her bachelor’s degree at the University of South Carolina in 1940. She went on to study at USC’s School of Law, graduating magna cum laude in 1943, one of the law school’s first female graduates. She was admitted to the South Carolina Bar that same year, the 35th woman ever so admitted. Later in life, Leverette said that she had been “supported and encouraged by an understanding and ahead of their time mother & father.” In a 1998 speech, she elaborated on their influence: "My interest in the study of law was kindled early in life by observing my parents—my father, a magistrate in our little town, was turned to as a wise adjudicator and problem-solver by all in the area…My mother[’s]…principles included 1) A deep sense of fairness 2) A love for order AND the ability to maintain a quiet peace and love in a family of six—a tall order. I also saw in the law 1) An order that kept human beings relatively compatible 2) and the opportunity to be a part of the effort toward peace through reason and responsible action."

Leverette’s first position in the legal field was with a small practice, where she eventually felt stifled by her colleagues’ requests that she handle secretarial and menial work. She then worked as a legal researcher for the South Carolina Department of Labor from 1945 to 1947. During that time, she completed postgraduate study in legal research at Columbia University in New York.

In 1947, Leverette began her longtime career as a librarian at the University of South Carolina School of Law, where she assisted students with research and taught legal writing and workers’ compensation law. During her time at the law school, she also served on the board of the South Carolina State Employees Association. In 1967, Governor Robert E. McNair appointed her to a committee tasked with revising South Carolina’s state constitution of 1895. Governor John C. West later appointed her to the South Carolina Constitutional Revision Committee, where she was involved in writing the procedural outline for amending the South Carolina Constitution.

In 1972, after twenty-five years on the faculty at USC, Leverette retired from the law library. That same year, West appointed her to the South Carolina Industrial Commission, now known as the Workers’ Compensation Commission. When Leverette was suggested for the post, West wrote that she would be “a top-notch appointment.” She served for six years, including a term as chair from 1976 to 1977. After her term ended in 1978, she remained at the Commission as a consultant until 1985. After spending time in private practice, she retired from law. However, in a speech in 2002, Leverette said, “I do not believe in retirement as a way of life….I soon discovered that retirement was the most boring state of existence imaginable.” She took on a new career as a realtor with Russell & Jeffcoat, Inc., as well as continuing her active work with groups such as the South Carolina Women Lawyers’ Association (SCWLA) and the American Association of University Women (AAUW).
Leverette’s most substantial community involvement was likely with the League of Women Voters (LWV), of which she was a member for over fifty years. She served as president of the LWV of the Columbia Area from 1958 to 1961, and she held numerous other local and state level leadership positions, including longtime state board member. On the mission of the LWV, Leverette remarked, “Each step that we take on the intellectual and cultural soil of another’s land is an act of sharing ourselves with each other—sharing that leads to mutual understanding—understanding which when fully developed, leads to mutual respect—a respect that produces a cooperative and peaceful relationship, a goal that is sought by all men and women of good will throughout the world.”

Leverette received many honors for her work in the community, among them the SCWLA's highest honor, the Jean Galloway Bissell Award (2001); the Girl Scout Council of the Congaree Area’s Women of Distinction Award (2006); the Colonel Ordie P. Taylor Humanitarian Award given by the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council (2013); and the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs’ Consumer Spirit Award for Excellence in Consumer Advocacy. In 2018, she was awarded the University of South Carolina School of Law Alumni Council’s “Compleat Lawyer” Award, which recognizes alumni “who have made significant contributions to the legal profession and exemplify the highest standards of professional competence, ethics and integrity.” She passed away in August 2018 at the age of 98.

Physical Location

South Carolina Political Collections (SCPC). Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library, Columbia, SC 29208.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Sarah Leverette

Processing Information

Processed 2013 by Chris Fite; 2014-2015, by Mary Kennington Steele and Dorothy Walker; additions, 2016, by Mae Bradford; additions, 2018, by Mike Berry

Repository Details

Part of the South Carolina Political Collections Repository

Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library
1322 Greene St.
University of South Carolina
Columbia SC 29208 USA

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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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