Harry Briggs, Jr. of Briggs v. Elliott dies

(Source: Briggs Family/Samuels Funeral Home)
(Source: Briggs Family/Samuels Funeral Home)

CLARENDON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Harry Briggs, Jr. was the boy at the center of a lawsuit in South Carolina fighting discrimination that eventually led to the US Supreme Court ruling that outlawed segregation in public schools.

According to a funeral home in Manning, Harry Briggs, Jr. died in New York City on August 9 at the age of 75. 

His parents, Harry and Eliza Briggs, signed a petition in 1949 seeking equal treatment for black students in Clarendon County. Harry Jr.'s signature was third on that petition. He was just 8 years old at the time.

Their fight for civil rights initially started in 1947, when his parents asked the school board to provide a bus for black students to attend public school.

Black children in the Summerton area had to walk up to nine miles a day each way to school, while white children rode school buses.

Briggs versus Elliott was the first of five cases fighting discrimination against blacks. The cases were combined and eventually led to the landmark 1954 decision by the high court declaring segregation in public schools unconstitutional.  

After graduating from Scott's Branch High School in Summerton, Harry migrated to New York City. He worked for Madison Square Garden and the Jacob Jarvis Center in Manhattan, N.Y. until his retirement.

He never returned to live in the town or county that forced the Briggs family to flee for their own safety more than 50 years ago, according to his obituary.

Those wanting to pay respects to the Briggs family may do so either at the wake or funeral. 

Harry Briggs, Jr. - Wake Service
Thursday, Aug. 18, 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Samuels Funeral Home 
114 North Church Street, Manning

Harry Briggs, Jr. - Funeral Service 
Friday, August 19, 1 p.m.
Clarendon School District No.1 Resource Center
(Old Scott's Branch School, on former B.O. Butler Street) 
1154 Fourth Street, Summerton

Copyright 2016 WCSC. All Rights Reserved.