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Byrnes, James Francislocked

(02 May 1882–09 April 1972)
  • David L. Anderson


Byrnes, James Francis (02 May 1882–09 April 1972), U.S. senator and secretary of state, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of James Francis Byrnes, a Charleston city clerk, and Elizabeth McSweeney, a dressmaker. His father died before Byrnes was born, and at age fourteen Byrnes left school to help support his family. While working as a messenger in a law office, he took shorthand lessons and qualified as a court stenographer. To obtain the court position he had to misrepresent his year of birth as 1879, and he used that date the rest of his life. Under the tutelage and surrogate fatherhood of two judges, he was schooled in literature and history and read law. He passed the South Carolina bar exam in 1903 and began practice in Aiken, but he also continued to work as court stenographer. Born an Irish Catholic, Byrnes formally converted to the Episcopal church upon his 1906 marriage to Maude Busch. They had no children....

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