February 2007

George A. Elmore

Civil rights pioneer

“He filed the successful lawsuit that established the legal precedent that allowed African Americans the right to vote in the Democratic Primary in South Carolina.”

George A. Elmore was a civil rights pioneer who won the right for African Americans to vote in the Democratic primary. In 1946 he challenged the Democratic Party for the right to vote in its all white primary. He filed a lawsuit in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of South Carolina in a landmark case known as Elmore v. Rice. His legal team, led by Thurgood Marshall, who subsequently became a United States Supreme Court Justice, also included Robert L. Carter and Harold R. Boulware.

Elmore’s successful lawsuit established a legal precedent in 1947. United States District Judge Waites Waring ruled that the Democratic Party of South Carolina could no longer exclude qualified Negroes from participating in primary elections. The case is cited in the United States District for the Eastern District of South Carolina, Columbia Division (72 F. Supp. 516; 1947 U.S. Dist.—July 12, 1947).

A businessman and photographer, George Elmore was born on March 31, 1905 in Holly Hill, South Carolina, and grew up and completed his public school education in Harleyville. He moved to Columbia in 1922, met and married the former Laura Belle Delaney. The Elmore family was subjected to violent reactions by the Ku Klux Klan and endured economic hardship as a result of the lawsuit. Mr. Elmore died on February 25, 1959. His wife died on June 19, 1993. The family donated all documents and memorabilia related to George Elmore’s life and the historical civil rights case to the University of South Carolina.