Justice Byrnes was born on May 2, 1882, in Charleston, South Carolina, the state where he was raised, spent most of his professional life and from which he would be appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States. He did not graduate from any university, and was the last Justice appointed who did not attend a law school.
Justice Byrnes’ first professional contact with the law lasted from 1900-1908, when he served as the Official Court Reporter of the South Carolina Circuit Court’s Second Judicial Circuit. He then immediately became the Solicitor of the Second Judicial Circuit, serving until 1910. Justice Byrnes soon after embarked on his career in Congress, becoming a member of the United States House of Representatives in 1911. He remained there for fourteen years, and then entered private practice in Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1925. Justice Byrnes returned to Washington following his election to the United States Senate, where he would serve from 1931 until his appointment to the SCUS.
Justice Byrnes was nominated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 12, 1941, to a seat vacated by Justice James Clark McReynolds. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate that day, and received his commission on June 25. His service was terminated on October 3, 1942, due to his resignation.
Justice Byrnes had the second shortest career of any Justice in SCUS history, thanks to his having resigned early to head the wartime Office of Economic Stabilization. As such, he did not have a particularly significant impact on setting either the agenda or the direction of the Supreme Court. Justice Byrnes achieved much greater prominence during his Congressional and post-SCUS careers, the latter of which include service as the U.S. Secretary of State, 1945-1947, and as Governor of his home state of South Carolina, 1951-1955. Justice Byrnes passed away on April 9, 1972, in Columbia, South Carolina.