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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Strom Thurmond, July 20, 1978. Interview A-0334. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Learning the law in his father's firm under his guidance

Thurmond studied and practiced law through the assistance of his father. He defended cases on his father's behalf before he even passed the bar exam.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Strom Thurmond, July 20, 1978. Interview A-0334. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JAMES G. BANKS:
Good. Can you describe when you were studying for law. You didn't go to law school did you?
STROM THURMOND:
No, I studied under my father.
JAMES G. BANKS:
How did you do that, he would just tell you what to read?
STROM THURMOND:
Well the Supreme Court proscribed; the other courts would have to read them. So I got those books, my father had most of 'em, so I got those books and read 'em. Then, if I came across something that I didn't quickly understand, instead of having to go and look it up and wasting time, I'd just ask him and he could answer like that. (snaps his fingers) See, I had a three year law course in one year.
JAMES G. BANKS:
But you read three years . . .
STROM THURMOND:
Well, I'd hang around the court room a lot. And I had been before I took the bar; I furnished my own office as Superintendent of Education. I moved down next to his law office, right next door to before I was admitted to the bar. In fact I tried three cases before I was admitted to the bar.
JAMES G. BANKS:
You could do that?
STROM THURMOND:
Well, I had to get permission.
JAMES G. BANKS:
From the judge.
STROM THURMOND:
Yeah. He had a heart attack and couldn't argue a case in the Supreme Court. And Chief Justice Blease gave him permission for me to argue the case for him. It was a case about illegitimates, with so, I won the case.
JAMES G. BANKS:
You won the case?
STROM THURMOND:
Yeah. That was before I was admitted to the bar. Let's see, I was admitted in 1930, so this must have been about 1929 I guess.
JAMES G. BANKS:
How was that test administered, to the bar?
STROM THURMOND:
Well you stand three days. You have three different examiners;each one examines you for a day on certain subjects and the other ones on other subjects.
JAMES G. BANKS:
Was this an oral exam?
STROM THURMOND:
No, it was written. And the next case was in the Surrogate Court, that's the highest trial court in the common. A man was killed at a railroad crossing, pressed a charge. My father had the case, and he had another heart attack and couldn't try that. So I tried that particular one too. I had learned to try cases pretty well from just watching him try cases, see, over the years. In the third case; I started at the Supreme Court and came on down. The third case was in Greenville; the man was charged with having a hog with cholera; in the Magistrate's Court. So I went up to defend him, didn't charge him anything;he was from Edgefield and a friend of mine. Well he didn't know if he had cholera, but he did have cholera, so the veterinarian said.
JAMES G. BANKS:
Oh, who had this disease.
STROM THURMOND:
A fellow Wood was charged with selling hogs with cholera. That's against the law you see. Except what the law says, who knowingly does. Well, he said he didn't know and argued before the jury. I remember Dr. Barnett who was the father of some Barnett boys in Greenville, a good friend of mine now, was a veterinarian. He testified that they had cholera. And I remember I had taught agriculture and I knew something about those things. And I had good many bulletins from Clemson on various subjects. I asked him if he was familiar with a certain man who taught at Clemson and who was an expert on this subject. He said, yeah. I said, would you mind taking this bulletin here and read what it says about hog cholera. And I had marked the portions and its says the only way you can definitely if a hog has cholera; 'course there are other symptoms; the only way you can definitely tell for sure, is to make a post mortem. So I had him read that to the jury. And then I said, now did you make a post mortem. He said, No. I said, well then you couldn't definitely tell then. At any rate, we cleared the man.