Walter Bristow, former SC lawmaker, judge dies

From Staff ReportsNovember 30, 2013 


— Walter James Bristow Jr., an attorney who represented Richland County in the state Senate from 1958 through the 1970s and also served as a circuit judge, died at his home in Columbia Saturday. He was 89.

Among his accomplishments as a Democratic legislator, Bristow sponsored bills to establish Midlands Technical College, Columbia Metropolitan Airport, the State Museum and Riverbanks Zoo. He is also credited with helping establish then-Richland Memorial Hospital, the Family Court system and the state Commission for the Blind.

The first Order of the Cypress was presented by Friends of the Congaree Swamp to Bristow in 1999. The award recognized his defense of preservation of the swamp during Senate debate in 1976 as he filibustered for three days.

He was a founding partner in the law firm of Marchant Bristow and Bates in Columbia.

A lifelong Democrat, Bristow’s legislative service began in 1956 with election to the S.C. House. He was elected to the Senate in 1958 and served 18 years.

Born in Columbia Oct. 14, 1924, he was the oldest child of the late Dr. Walter James Bristow Sr. and Caroline Belser Melton. He attended Columbia city schools, graduating from Dreher High in 1941.

He was enrolled at Virginia Military Institute from 1941-43, when he, with his entire class, entered active duty in the Army. He served in the European theater of World War II as a platoon sergeant, receiving stars for the battles of Central Europe and Rhineland.

He continued his military service with the S.C. Army National Guard, retiring in 1979 as deputy commander of the State Area Command with the rank of brigadier general.

After discharge from the Army, he earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina, a law degree cum laude from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and a master of laws degree from Harvard University.

A memorial service for Bristow will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Eastminster Presbyterian Church, 3200 Trenholm Road, followed by interment at Elmwood Cemetery.

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