There’s never been a Charlestonian in the White House, but one was “Assistant President.” James F. Byrnes, born on King Street in 1882, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 1911. A lawyer by trade, he became a senator in 1931, playing a key role in Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal before a 1941 appointment to the Supreme Court. Sixteen months later, he resigned to take on directorship of the Office of Economic Stabilization and in 1943 was put in charge of War Mobilization, earning that “Assistant President” nickname.
Byrnes was instrumental in reviving Europe after WWII, serving as Secretary of State under Harry Truman (and becoming Time’s Man of the Year in 1947). Elected governor of South Carolina in 1950, he helped open the South for the Republican Party. He died in 1972 and was buried in Columbia, but a monument on Marion Square recalls the most powerful South Carolinian in U.S. politics since John C. Calhoun, whose statue presides over the same park.