A celebration-of-life ceremony will be held at Claflin University for alumnus Ernest A. Finney Jr., who was the first African-American chief justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Finney died Sunday. He was 86.

He will be remembered in Claflin’s James and Dorothy Z. Elmore Chapel from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

Born in 1931 in Smithfield, Va., Finney graduated from Claflin with a bachelor’s degree in 1952. In 1954, he received a law degree from South Carolina State University.

Upon graduation, he taught in Conway's public school system for five years before setting up his law practice in Sumter.

In 1961, Finney represented the Friendship 9, a group of black college students who were arrested for trying to desegregate a lunch counter in Rock Hill. Two years later, Finney was appointed as chairman of the S.C. Commission on Civil Rights.

Finney was elected to the S.C. House of Representatives in 1972 and was the first AfricanAmerican to serve on the House Judiciary Committee since the Reconstruction era. In the House, Finney was a co-founder of the Legislative Black Caucus and served as its first chairman.

The Claflin alumnus was elected as a judge to the S.C. 3rd Circuit Court in July 1976, becoming the Palmetto State's first African-American Circuit Court judge in the process. Nine years later, he was appointed to the S.C. Supreme Court, later becoming the chief justice. He held that position until he retired in March 2000.

In 2002, he was the interim president of South Carolina State University, a post which he held for one year.

Finney served on Claflin's Board of Trustees for two decades and was elected as its chairman in 1986. In 2003, the university granted him the status of trustee emeritus.

The Finney remembrance schedule includes:

• 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday -- Lying in repose at the South Carolina Supreme Court, 1231 Gervais St., Columbia.

• 3-7 p.m. Thursday – Public viewing, Palmer Memorial Chapel, 1200 Fontaine Place, Columbia.

• 4-5 p.m. Friday -- Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. Omega ceremony, Morris College, Neal-Jones Auditorium, 100 West College St., Sumter

• 4-7 p.m. Friday – Visitation, Morris College, Neal-Jones Auditorium.

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