South Carolina Plan

4/3/1944–1947

On April 3, 1944, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Smith v. Allwright that the white primary in Texas was unconstitutional, stating that when primaries are an integral part of the state election machinery by law or when primaries predetermine the outcome of general elections, they are considered elections under the U.S. Constitution and the right to participate in them is protected by federal law.

In response to the Smith decision, South Carolina governor Olin Johnston called a special session of the General Assembly on April 12, 1944. Johnston urged the legislature to repeal all primary laws from the statute books in order to maintain white supremacy in the state’s primaries. His reasoning was that if political parties were considered private organizations as opposed to public entities, then their primaries would not be subject to federal law. The General Assembly responded by passing 147 bills in six days separating party primaries from the control of state government. The legislators also approved a resolution proposing an amendment to the state constitution that would delete a section stating that the General Assembly would provide for the regulation of party primary elections. That amendment was approved by the voters in the fall elections and ratified by the legislature in 1945. When the state Democratic convention convened, it adopted a new set of rules for the conduct of primaries that excluded African Americans from voting. This exclusion of African Americans from the Democratic primary would continue until it was ruled unconstitutional by the Elmore v. Rice decision of Judge J. Waties Waring in 1947.

Lander, Ernest McPherson. A History of South Carolina, 1865–1960. 2d ed. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1970.

Underwood, James L. The Constitution of South Carolina. Vol. 4, The Struggle for Political Equality. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1994.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title South Carolina Plan
  • Coverage 4/3/1944–1947
  • Author
  • Keywords Smith v. Allwright, urged the legislature to repeal all primary laws from the statute books in order to maintain white supremacy in the state’s primaries, exclusion of African Americans from the Democratic primary would continue until it was ruled unconstitutional by the Elmore v. Rice decision of Judge J. Waties Waring in 1947
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date September 27, 2022
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 24, 2022
Go to Top