Memory Hold The Door
The Honorable James Woodrow Lewis (1912–1999)
James Woodrow Lewis was born on March 8, 1912, in the Swift Creek community of Darlington County. His father was a farmer and a merchant, but James developed an interest in the law at an early age. He entered law school in 1931 but had to withdraw after one year due to the Great Depression.
James returned to Swift Creek to run a crossroads country store owned by his father, and continued to study law under Darlington attorney L.M. Lawson. He passed the bar exam and was admitted to practice on December 6, 1935. At the age of 22 he was elected to the state legislature and two years later was re-elected. Although legislators were exempt from the draft, he resigned in midterm to enter the miltary during World War II.
James Lewis’ 39-year judical career began when he was elected to fill the term of Circuit Court Judge E.C. Dennis. After 16 years as a circuit judge he was elected as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. He was elected Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1975 and served continuously until his retirement in 1984.
Justice Lewis was active in and respected by his community. He helped found the Darlington County Bank and served on its Board of Directors for many years. He was a founding member of the Darlington County Rotary Club. He also served as a member of the State Highway Commission from 1936–1940. He was devoted to his family and to the Swift Creek community where he lived, especially the Swift Creek Baptist Church where he taught Sunday School for several decades.