Wake held for late Chief Justice at Morris College

SUMTER COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Friends, family, and members of the public gathered in Sumter on Friday to remember former South Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Ernest Finney at a wake which was held at Morris College.

People across the state came to honor the legacy of the late Chief Justice. He died this week at the age of 86, but it's clear his name will live on.

Ernest Finney was the state's first African-American to serve as the chief justice on the state's highest court since reconstruction. Finney was also a former legislator elected in 1972.

Thursday's ceremony included a tribute by the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, musical performances, as well as a video of a poem read aloud by his daughter, award-winning poet, Nikki Finney.

Willie Bethune told WIS that Justice Finney had been a mentor to him over the last 40 years.

"He was there for those whose voices had been muted over the years from racial pressure and all kinds of injustice," Bethune said. "Ernest Finney stood for the little man. Everybody was somebody around him. He was just an extraordinary individual."

Those in attendance included Mayor Steve Benjamin, Congressman Jim Clyburn, and Senator Thomas McElveen.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at Claflin University and that is also open to the public.

Governor Henry McMaster ordered all flags be flown at half-staff in honor of the Justice Finney.

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