- Byrnes, James Francis
- (1882-1972)Born in Charleston, South Carolina, James F. Byrnes left school early, lied about his age (claiming to have been born in 1879), and was employed as a court stenographer. He passed the South Carolina bar exam in 1903. Byrnes was elected to the House of Representatives in 1911 and served until 1924. He failed to win election to the Senate in 1924, but he was successful in 1930 and was reelected in 1936. An old friend of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s, he helped see much of the early New Deal legislation through Congress. However, by 1937 he believed the worst of the Great Depression was over and became increasingly conservative. Nonetheless, in 1941 Roosevelt appointed him to the Supreme Court, but he resigned in 1942 to head the Office of Economic Stabilization, later the Office of War Mobilization. This office was effectively the most powerful of all the war agencies, and Byrnes was regarded by some as “assistant” president. It was widely accepted that he would be Roosevelt’s running mate in 1944, but his segregationist background was seen as a handicap, and instead the position of vice president went to Harry S. Truman. Nevertheless, Byrnes was involved in major decision making at home and abroad, and he accompanied Roosevelt to the Yalta Conference. In 1945, Truman made Byrnes secretary of state. Although not afraid of hard decisions (he supported the use of the atomic bomb), Byrnes was accused by Republican critics of being “soft” on the Soviet Union, and he resigned in 1947. He was governor of South Carolina from 1951 to 1955 and led the massive resistance to school desegregation after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision. In 1952, he declared his support for Dwight D. Eisenhower and in 1960 abandoned his Democratic affiliation to support Richard M. Nixon and in 1964 Barry Goldwater, neither of whom were
Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . Neil A. Wynn . 2015.