South Carolina Supreme Court Justices

Ammiel Jenkins Willard
Date Born: June 21, 1822

[No known picture]

 Date Died: May 5, 1900

Place Born: Albany, NY

Place Buried: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA


Chief Justice 1877 - 1880
Associate Justice 1868 - 1877

Ammiel Jenkins Willard was born on June 21, 1822 in Albany, NY. He studied law under Willis Hall, the Attorney-General of New York, before being made Assistant Counsel of New York City in 1848.

In 1849, Ammiel Jenkins Willard formed a partnership with Peter B. Sweeney, a noted politician at that time, and later with James S. Morrell, who became a Supreme Court Judge in the state of New York.

He married Cornelia Platt.

Ammiel Jenkins Willard came to South Carolina during the Civil War as a Lieutenant Colonel in the 35th Colored Troops in the Union Army. In November of 1864, his regiment took part in the Battle of Honey Hill. In 1866, he was serving on a military commission in Charleston, SC and was involved in the prosecution of three residents of Anderson, SC for the murder of a Union soldier; the case brought attention to him even though the defendants were later released.

When the SC Supreme Court was reconstituted in 1868 under the Reconstruction government, Ammiel Jenkins Willard was made an Associate Justice along with Solomon Lafayette Hoge and Chief Justice Franklin J. Moses, Sr. Because Chief Justice Moses suffered poor health, much of the operation of the court fell on Willard.

On May 15, 1877, Ammiel Jenkins Willard was elected Chief Justice of the SC Supreme Court by the SC General Assembly, replacing Franklin J. Moses, Sr. who had died on March 6, 1877.

Ammiel Jenkins Willard claimed that, when he was elected in May of 1877, the General Assembly had had no choice but to elect him to a full six-year term as set in the state constitution. His opposition, however, argued that he had been elected to fill only the unexpired portion of Chief Justice Moses's own six-year term. At what would have been the expiration of Chief Justice Moses's own six-year term, the Republican opposition convinced Governor William Dunlap Simpson to resign on September 1, 1880, and they elected him to assume the position of Chief Justice. The dispute was heard by the SC Supreme Court's other two Associate Justices and one Trial Judge sitting by designation who decided on October 15, 1880, that Chief Justice Willard's term had been only for the unexpired balance of his predecessor's tenure; thus, former Governor Simpson assumed the office of Chief Justice.

Having lost the Chief Justice office, Ammiel Jenkins Willard moved to Washington, DC in 1884. He died at his home at 1446 Corcoran Street NW, Washington, DC on May 5, 1900, and is buried at Arlington Cemetery.

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