Littlejohn was serving his seventeenth year as circuit court judge when a vacancy occurred on the supreme court with the death of Chief Justice Claude A. Taylor in January 1966.
Attorney, legislator, jurist. Littlejohn was born on July 22, 1913, in Pacolet, the youngest of eight children born to Cameron and Lady Sarah Littlejohn. He entered Wofford College in 1930, where he spent three years before transferring to the University of South Carolina School of Law, receiving the LL.B. degree in 1936. Littlejohn was admitted to the practice of law in the same year. Shortly after opening his practice in Spartanburg, he announced plans to run for the General Assembly. Elected in 1936, he served three terms from 1937 until 1943.
Littlejohn resigned his seat in the House in the summer of 1943 to enter the U.S. Army, and he served until 1946. After the Japanese surrender in August 1945, he was sent to the Philippines, where he helped prosecute Japanese war criminals. Upon his return home, Littlejohn regained his seat in the House of Representatives, and a year later he successfully ran for Speaker of the House, a race that he won by seventeen votes over Thomas H. Pope, Jr. Littlejohn was reelected as Speaker in 1949.
Littlejohn’s second term was brief. In February 1949, less than a month after his reelection as Speaker, the General Assembly elected him to the resident judgeship of the Seventh Judicial Circuit, a position he assumed in December 1949. It marked the beginning of a thirty-nine-year judicial career that would see him rise to the position of chief justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court. Littlejohn was serving his seventeenth year as circuit court judge when a vacancy occurred on the supreme court with the death of Chief Justice Claude A. Taylor in January 1966. Littlejohn declared his candidacy for the vacant associate justice position, but so did three other powerful South Carolina political figures: Judge Julius B. (Bubba) Ness, state senator Rembert Dennis, and former governor George Bell Timmerman. There ensued a vigorous contest among the four candidates, in which none could obtain the required majority vote in weekly ballots that extended through the entire 1966 session of the General Assembly.
The election was settled when the legislature reconvened in 1967 with an unusually large number of freshmen senators and House members. Dennis and Timmerman dropped out, and Littlejohn defeated Ness by forty-one votes, bolstered by the support he received from forty-seven freshmen. During his service as associate justice, Littlejohn advocated judicial reform, worked to strengthen admission standards for new attorneys and judges to practice law in the state, and expressed concern about sentencing disparities among judges.
With the retirement of Chief Justice Woodrow Lewis in 1984, Littlejohn ran for and was elected to that position. Although he would serve just sixteen months as chief justice until his retirement, he left a notable impact on the state’s court system, particularly in settling the long-standing fight between the legislative and judicial branches over rule-making authority. Under the compromise reached during Littlejohn’s tenure, the legislature was granted veto power over court rules with a three-fifths majority of the General Assembly.
Prior to and after his retirement, Littlejohn pursued a writing career and produced three books–Laugh with the Judge (1974), Littlejohn’s Half-Century on the Bench and Bar (1987), and Littlejohn’s Political Memoirs (1989). For years he also contributed a regular column to the State Bar Association’s newsletter, several of which were published in national journals.
Littlejohn, C. Bruce. Papers. Modern Political Collections, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia.