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His Greatest Memorial

Jean Elton, former Byrnes Foundation Executive Secretary

Jean EltonOzymandias, in the poem by Shelley, was a powerful king who ruled over a mighty kingdom. To ensure that posterity would remember his great exploits, he had a magnificent statue created in his image with these words carved on the base: "My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!" Many years later, according to the poem, a traveler found the remains of the statue and the inscription and wondered who this Ozymandias was. All that remained were broken pieces of stone and desert sand where his kingdom had been. His attempt to immortalize himself had failed.

Unlike Ozymandias, James F. Byrnes desired no memorial in stone. As Andy Courtney mentioned in his speech at the luncheon, Governor Byrnes said service to people was the only monument he felt worth leaving.

Indeed, he will be memorialized in the history books for his service – service to his state, to his nation, and to his world. His many accomplishments are listed elsewhere on this web site. He will ever stand as one of South Carolina's most famous, most influential sons.

He is remembered by those of you who knew him in a more personal way. According to your own statements, you remember much more than the dollars he gave to help you go to school. You remember his energy, his laughter, his singing, his dancing, his loving, his caring, his giving, his counsel, his decency, his goodness.

His greatest memorial, however, is not in the history books or even in your precious memories for these will fade with time. His greatest memorial is you, the nine hundred or so Byrnes Scholars who have benefited from his generosity. You have made his memory live in at least three ways:

First, you have contributed over $220,000 to the scholarship fund and continue to give, ensuring that what he called "the most rewarding thing I've ever done" will continue long after our lives have ended. Decades from now, new Byrnes Scholars will hear the stories of "Mom" and "Pop" Byrnes and will honor their memories.

Second, you are honoring his memory each day as you give back to society through the work you do. He would have been so proud to read on this web site and others of the successes you've enjoyed, your promotions, your awards, your contributions to your world through your work.

As important as the first two memorials are, probably, the third is most important. That is the way you're emulating Governor Byrnes in your personal lives. When I read all your "extra-curricular" activities, I can see you too – energetic, laughing, singing, dancing, loving, caring, giving, counseling – good, decent people. Many of you are working with children and young people, helping give direction to their lives. Many are volunteering through schools and churches. Several are serving on boards of colleges and universities. At least five of you have started your own scholarship funds. The influence the Byrnes had on you, you're having on others, an awesome thought.

Yes, you are his greatest memorial, a living memorial, one that will live on and on through the lives you've touched.

I didn't have the privilege of knowing Governor and Mrs. Byrnes personally, but I know them through your memories, and I know them through you, and my live has been enriched. Thank you for touching my life.

2017 Application Process Closed

The application process for 2017 is closed. Scholarship announcements will be posted to the website in early June. Application packets for 2018 will be available December 2017. Please check back then.

Donate To The Foundation

In return for their generosity and support, Mom and Pop Byrnes asked only two things from us: become the very best people we could become in life, and make sure their legacy of family continues for those who come after us.

Please consider making a tax deductible contribution to the James F. Byrnes Foundation to secure its ability to invite more deserving young women and men to join the Byrnes family, both now and in the future. The Donate button will take you to the Paypal site where you can use your credit card or Paypal account to make a secure, one-time donation or set up a monthly recurring donation.

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© 1998-2017 Byrnes Scholars. All Rights Reserved.
The James F. Byrnes Foundation
Post Office Box 6781
Columbia, SC 29260-6781
Tel.: (803) 254-9325