Byrnes, James F. (1879–1972)

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BYRNES, JAMES F. (1879–1972)

Few members of the United States Supreme Court in this century have led more varied political lives than James F. Byrnes of South Carolina, who served as congressman,United States senator, and governor of his state, czar of production during world war ii, and secretary of state. In these other roles, Byrnes left a larger historical legacy than he did on the Court, where he remained for only the October 1941 term.

He wrote sixteen opinions for the Court, never dissented, and did not write a concurring opinion. As a Justice, he is remembered chiefly for his opinion in edwards v. california (1942), where he and four others invalidated as a burden on interstate commerce a California "anti-Okie" law that made it a misdemeanor to bring into the state indigent nonresidents. Initially, Byrnes had been inclined to strike down the law as a violation of the privileges and immunities clause of the fourteenth amendment (a position held by four other Justices), but he finally rejected this approach under pressure from Chief Justice harlan fiske stone and Justice felix frank-furter. Although he also wrote for the Court in Taylor v. Georgia (1942), where the Justices voided that state's debt-peonage law, Byrnes did not usually exhibit great sensitivity to the claims of civil liberties, or to the complaints of convicted felons and working-class people.

Michael E. Parrish


Byrnes, James 1958 All in One Lifetime. New York: Harper & Row.

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Byrnes, James F. (1879–1972)

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