JAMES FRANCIS BYRNES was born in Charleston, South Carolina. Although he was forced to leave school at the age of fourteen due to family finances, he studied law while working as a court reporter and began a long and distinguished career in public service in the judicial, legislative, and executive branches of both the state and federal governments. He was a Second Circuit Court Solicitor from 1908 to 1910, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1911 to 1925, a member of the U.S Senate from 1931 to 1941, a member of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1941 and 1942, director of Economic Stabilization of the United States from 1942 to 1943, Director of the U.S. War Mobilization Board from 1943 to 1945, U.S. Secretary of State from 1945 to 1947, and Senior Delegate to the United Nations General Assembly in 1946. Byrnes accompanied President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Yalta Conference and President Harry S. Truman to the Pottsdam Conference. After winning South Carolina’s Democratic gubernatorial primary in 1950, he was unopposed in the general election. While governor, he instituted a $75-million program to upgrade black schools, funded by a three-percent sales tax. It was during Byrnes’ gubernatorial administration that the Supreme Court ruled in Brown vs. Board of Education that school segregation was unconstitutional.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. G. New York: James T. White & Company.