Former S.C. Chief Justice David Harwell died Wednesday at the age of 83.
Harwell was an associate justice on the state’s highest court from 1980-1991 and chief justice from 1991-1994.
As chief justice, Harwell tried to get the court system out of what he called the “yellow-pad-and-pencil days,” current Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal recalled Wednesday.
Harwell initiated the move toward digitizing and automating court records, Toal said. She also described Harwell as a dear friend and great leader.
“David was an intellectual giant,” Toal said, adding he could read and absorb the toughest legal problems.
Former Supreme Court Associate Justice James Moore said Harwell helped enact the move to allow cameras in courtrooms. Harwell’s predecessors had balked at the idea, fearing cameras could poison the conduct of a trial.
Moore remembered Harwell holding forums across the state to get feedback on ways to improve the court system. “It exhibited his desire to have input from the people that work in the judicial system, rather than just autocratically imposing his views.”
For seven years, Harwell also was 12th Circuit judge in Florence and Marion counties. He was a member of the S.C. House of Representatives for a decade.
Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, described Harwell as a tremendous statesman and terrific jurist.
A public visitation will be held Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Rankin-Harwell House (The Columns), 5001 Rankin Plantation Road, in Florence.