In Memoriam: Sarah Leverette (1919-2018)

Sarah Leverette

Sarah Leverette

Sarah Leverette has always been a friend to SCPC and was a regular attendee at our various events.  Even as recently as August 6th, we saw her at the opening of our Richard W. Riley collection, an occasion that featured Riley’s good friend former president Bill Clinton.

At a time when few women sought a career outside of the home, Ms. Leverette earned her law degree and worked as an attorney, USC law librarian from 1947 to 1972, workers’ compensation commissioner, legal consultant, and, after “retirement,” a realtor.  As a young woman, she joined the Civil Air Patrol and ultimately achieved the rank of Lt. Colonel.  An active member of a number of organizations, she was well known for her leadership in the League of Women Voters.

Leverette was born on December 30, 1919 in Iva, South Carolina, to Captain Stephen Ernest Leverette and Allie E. (McGee) Leverette.  She earned her associate’s degree at Anderson College in 1938 and her bachelor’s degree at the University of South Carolina in 1940.  She went on to study at USC’s School of Law, graduating magna cum laude in 1943, one of the law school’s first female graduates.  She was admitted to the South Carolina Bar that same year, the 35th woman ever so admitted.

Leverette and Toal

Sarah with SC Chief Justice Jean Toal

In 1947, Leverette began her longtime career as a librarian at the University of South Carolina School of Law, where she assisted students with research and taught legal writing and workers’ compensation law.  During her time at the law school, she also served on the board of the South Carolina State Employees Association.  In 1967, Governor Robert E. McNair appointed her to a committee tasked with revising South Carolina’s state constitution of 1895.  Governor John C. West later appointed her to the South Carolina Constitutional Revision Committee, where she was involved in writing the procedural outline for amending the South Carolina Constitution.

In 1972, after twenty-five years on the faculty at USC, Leverette retired from the law library.  That same year, West appointed her to the South Carolina Industrial Commission, now known as the Workers’ Compensation Commission.  She served for six years, including a term as chair from 1976 to 1977.  After her term ended in 1978, she remained at the Commission as a consultant until 1985.

Leverette and Hollings

Sarah with Senator Fritz Hollings

Speaking in 2002, Leverette explained her lifelong dedication to an active life, “I do not believe in retirement as a way of life….I soon discovered that retirement was the most boring state of existence imaginable.”  She took on a new career as a realtor with Russell & Jeffcoat, Inc., as well as continuing her active work with groups such as the South Carolina Women Lawyers’ Association (SCWLA) and the American Association of University Women (AAUW).

The Leverette collection at SCPC consists of 17 linear feet of material.  She was a powerful and popular orator, and a rich body of speech texts presents her thoughts on a wide variety of subjects.  The collection also contains extensive records reflecting her leadership in the League of Women Voters.

Through her example, she inspired people to lead active lives and to strive to improve their world and their community.  We will miss the indefatigable Sarah Leverette.

Contributed by Herb Hartsook

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