With the death or Miss Cassie Connor, secretary to elder statesman James F. Byrnes for nearly four decades spanning the zenith of his career, Mr. and Mrs. Byrnes suffered a loss like unto that of an only child. Since they had no children of their own, she came to occupy a place as close as blood kin.
Likewise, the state and the nation lost an extraordinarily capable and devoted public servant and humanity is bereft of a benefactress.
Like her employer and his beloved wife, she gave of her time and substance to The Byrnes Foundation for the education of orphans. She was a trustee and a principal administrator of the fund which made college possible for hundreds of young people.
Miss Connor was the perfect secretary and, while she often headed up a large office staff, she personally handled Mr. Byrnes' most important correspondence. She was, however, so much more. She joined Mr. Byrnes' staff as a secretary when he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1931. Before long, she was his personal administrative assistant as well, no matter how many other competent people he had around him.
She was ever at his side during the brilliant and distinguished South Carolinian's tenure in the Senate, the United States Supreme Court, as wartime Director of Economic Stabilization, Director of War Mobilization (when he was usually referred to as the "assistant President"), Secretary of State and Governor of South Carolina.
When Mr. Byrnes left public office at the end of his term as Governor, she assisted in the expansion and operation of the Foundation. which was started with the proceeds of his first book, Speaking Frankly. She assisted with that book and the second, All In One Lifetime, which also added funds to the Foundation.
She had come to know Mr. Byrnes so well and had so completely won his confidence after a few years in his service that she could speak for him without consultation on many matters of importance. With a few words of instruction she could handle the most delicate and difficult of matters. She could be, as situations required, the perfect diplomat and expediter or the polite but sternly unyielding shield against intrusion.
Miss Connor could have made a fine career on her own, for she was personally competent. She chose instead to make a greater career as an aide, confidante and beloved friend to both Mr. and Mrs. Byrnes.
She was, however, quite independent and was a successful businesswoman in her own right. While she shared all but the most private facets of the life of her employers, she and her late sister had full private lives of their own.
In her own right, too, she won with her charm and personality the friendship and affection of the friends of Mr. and Mrs. Byrnes, almost all of whom she came to know. To them "Miss Cassie," as she was called, except when Mr. Byrnes referred to her occasionally as "Cassandra," was a noblewoman and an institution identified with and loved along with Mr. and Mrs. Byrnes.
We shall never forget her, nor look upon her likes again.
The application process for 2019 is closed. Scholarship announcements will be posted to the website in early June. Application packets for 2020 will be available December 2019. Please check back then.
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.
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The James F. Byrnes Foundation
Post Office Box 6781
Columbia, SC 29260-6781
Tel.: (803) 254-9325