ROCK HILL, S.C. -- Earnest Finney Jr., South Carolina’s first black Supreme Court Chief Justice, will be laid to rest Saturday.
Finney, 86, died Sunday at his Columbia, South Carolina home.
Before rising to South Carolina’s highest court, Finney was a well-known defense attorney in the Civil Rights movement.
In 1961, he represented the “Friendship Nine," the Rock Hill Civil Rights group who were thrown in jail for demanding service at an all whites lunch counter.
“He was full of life and he understood what was going on,” said David Williamson, a member of a Friendship 9.
“Finney brought the legality to the case because we didn’t break any laws,” said Willie McCleod, another member of the Friendship Nine.
Despite Finney’s passionate defense, the men were found guilty of trespassing. In a pivotal move that changed the impact of the civil rights movement, the Friendship Nine created ‘Jail, no bail’ which means they intentionally decided to do the time instead of paying a fine.
In 2015, a judge vacated the mens’ convictions. By their side again, Earnest Finney, Jr. their defense attorney who had gone on to become the first black Chief Justice in South Carolina.
“He finally reached his destination,” said Willie McLeod. “He finally reached what he was working for.”
Funeral services for Judge Earnest Finney, Jr. will take place 10 a.m. Saturday, December 9 at Claflin University.