As South Carolina’s first assistant attorney general, Sapp developed a reputation for writing legal opinions with clarity, force, and thoroughness.
Legislator, U.S. district attorney, education advocate. Sapp was born in Lancaster County on February 11, 1886, the son of Daniel F. Sapp and Mittie Fulp. Proud of his rural roots from Sapp’s Crossings in Lancaster County, Claud Sapp championed progressive causes in the first half of the twentieth century that he envisioned would improve the lives of ordinary white South Carolinians. Gifted with a strong, analytical mind, Sapp earned his A.B. degree from Wofford College in 1907 and graduated from the University of South Carolina Law School in 1911, the same year he was admitted to the South Carolina Bar. He began his law career in Lancaster, serving as city attorney and later as county attorney. Sapp represented Lancaster County in the state House of Representatives in the 1913–1914 term. In 1916 he married Mary Davis of Lancaster. The marriage produced two sons. Shortly after their wedding, the couple moved to Columbia, where Sapp became assistant attorney general, an office he held until 1919. As South Carolina’s first assistant attorney general, Sapp developed a reputation for writing legal opinions with clarity, force, and thoroughness.
After World War I, Sapp returned to the State House, this time representing Richland County from 1921 to 1924. As a progressive leader, Sapp envisioned a prosperous South Carolina that would educate its citizens, modernize its infrastructure, and integrate itself more fully into the economic mainstream of the nation. He tirelessly advocated for improved public education and generous public spending to broaden educational opportunities for South Carolina’s rural white population. When he became chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, Sapp used his influence to pass the 6–0–1 Law, landmark legislation that dramatically increased state spending on and responsibility for education. When Sapp encountered resistance from those who preferred local funding or lower taxes, he regularly repeated his mantra: “Tax property wherever you find it to educate children wherever they may be.” Sapp also worked to build roads and create a tax structure that would enhance state revenue and tax wealth fairly.
Sapp’s political activity continued through leadership in the Democratic Party, which gained him state and national attention. Sapp chaired the South Carolina Democratic Executive Committee from 1930 to 1934. Throughout the 1930s he served as a strong and loyal supporter of Franklin Roosevelt and garnered support among South Carolinians for Roosevelt’s New Deal policies. In 1934 Roosevelt appointed Sapp as United States district attorney for the Eastern District of South Carolina, a position he held for the remainder of his life. From 1911 to 1947 Sapp practiced law both as a prosecutor and as a criminal defense attorney. Contemporaries readily acknowledged his zeal, persuasive powers, and disarming wit. After twelve years as U.S. district attorney, Sapp died on February 3, 1947, in Columbia from a heart condition. He was buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Columbia.
“Claud N. Sapp Dies, Rites to Be Held Today.” Columbia State, February 4, 1947, pp. 1, 9.
History of the Bar of Richland County 1790–1948. Columbia, S.C.: Sloane, 1948.