Charleston in Charleston County, South Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)
Jonathan Jasper Wright
“First African American Supreme Court Justice In The United States”
Born in Luzerne County Pennsylvania - Son of Runaway Slaves - Grew up in Springfield, Pennsylvania and was privately tutored and mentored by a Presbyterian minister who was active in the anti-slavery movement.
Educated in Common Schools of Pennsylvania and Lancasterian Academy, Ithaca, N.Y. Read Law in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania for years in local law office and the office of a judge, and was later admitted to the practice of law in August of 1866, making him the first black attorney in Pennsylvania.
Came to Beaufort, S.C. in 1865, hired by the American Missionary Association to teach black Federal troops, and later was a legal advisor for Freedman's Bureau. Wright viewed this responsibility as one to "vindicate the cause of the downtrodden", and as such, quickly acquired a following among the newly freed slaves.
He was a delegate to the Colored People's Convention at Zion Church in Charleston, and was elected to the Union Republican Party's State Central Committee, and a delegate to the South Carolina State Constitutional Convention in 1867. As a passionate advocate for public education and consensus among peoples of different backgrounds, he was primarily responsible for the Convention creating the State's Public School System.
Elected to the S.C. Senate in April 1868
Elected to the S.C. Supreme Court as Associate Justice on February 1, 1870, and served until December 1,1877, where he authored some 90 decisions that influenced the direction of the Court. Many of these decisions are still relied upon to this day as legal precedents.
Wright's resignation in 1877 from the Court came about after he refused to recognize the disputed election of Wade Hampton as Governor, which he said he could not do and "honor my judicial trust."
Wright set up law offices at 84 Queen Street in Charleston, and began training law students officially registered at the Law Department of Claflin College.
Wright died on February 19, 1895 after a long battle with tuberculosis, and was buried in Calvary Episcopal Church Cemetery on February 21, 1885, just one block from his residence at 69 Line Street.
In February, 1998, the South Carolina Supreme Court hung a portrait of Wright in the lobby of the Supreme Court Building in honor of his distinguished service to the Court and the citizens of South Carolina.
This plaque is erected in the memory of Justice Jonathan
Location. 32° 47.637′ N, 79° 56.746′ W. Marker is in Charleston, South Carolina, in Charleston County. Marker is on Line Street near Percy Street, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Located at the Calvary Episcopal Church. Marker is at or near this postal address: 106 Line Street, Charleston SC 29403, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Calvary Episcopal Church (here, next to this marker); a different marker also named Calvary Episcopal Church (a few steps from this marker); Cannon Street Y (approx. ¼ mile away); United Order of Tents Building (approx. 0.3 miles away); Septima P. Clark Expressway (approx. half a mile away); Burke High School (approx. half a mile away); a different marker also named Burke High School (approx. half a mile away); Hampton Park Terrace (approx. half a mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Charleston.
Also see . . . BlackPast.org ; Jonathan Jasper Wright. Wright’s first known political (Submitted on January 29, 2012, by Mike Stroud of Bluffton, South Carolina.)
Categories. • African Americans • Civil Rights •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on January 29, 2012, by Mike Stroud of Bluffton, South Carolina. This page has been viewed 716 times since then and 30 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on January 30, 2012, by Mike Stroud of Bluffton, South Carolina.